Pope Rejects Holocaust Denial

Benedict bows at Vienna's Holocaust memorial in Sept. 2007
Benedict bows at Vienna's Holocaust memorial in Sept. 2007 (photo: CNS/Reuters)

From Catholic News Service:

VATICAN CITY — The positions of a traditionalist bishop who has minimized the full extent of the Holocaust “are strongly rejected by the Holy Father,” the Vatican said Feb. 4.

In addition, said the statement from the Vatican Secretariat of State, Pope Benedict XVI did not know about the controversial statements by British-born Bishop Richard Williamson when he lifted the excommunication of him and three other traditionalist bishops ordained illicitly in 1988.

In order to function as a bishop, Bishop Williamson must distance himself from his previous statements in “an absolutely, unequivocal and public manner,” the Vatican said.

In a statement meant to deflect increasing public outcry over the papal decree lifting the excommunication, the Vatican said the action did not change the juridical status of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X, which still has no canonical recognition in the Catholic Church.

The society was founded by French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who also incurred automatic excommunication when he ordained the four bishops against papal orders. The society has not accepted the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council and its concepts of religious freedom and ecumenism.

The statement from the Secretariat of State said the four bishops do not have a canonical function in the Church and “do not licitly exercise a ministry in the Church.” It said the society would have to recognize the teachings of Vatican II to be in full communion.

“The positions of Bishop Williamson on the Holocaust are absolutely unacceptable and are strongly rejected by the Holy Father,” the statement said.

The Secretariat of State statement —  like a statement the previous day from the Vatican press spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi —  reiterated the German-born Pope’s remarks at his Jan. 28 audience, in which he recalled the suffering of Jews during World War II and said the Holocaust should stand as a “warning to everyone against forgetting, denying or minimizing” evil.

Father Lombardi said the Pope’s words at the general audience were “unequivocal.”