Vatican: Pope Didn’t Know About Williamson’s Comments

SSPX Bishop Richard Williamson
SSPX Bishop Richard Williamson (photo: CNS/Reuters)

The Vatican’s press office spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, has responded to allegations by a Swedish television channel that the Vatican knew of Bishop Richard Williamson’s Holocaust-denying comments to the channel before the excommunication of the Society of St. Pius X bishop was lifted in January.

Although he didn’t address how much knowledge Vatican officials had prior to the lifting of the excommunications of Bishop Williamson and the schismatic society’s three other bishops, Father Lombardi said it was “absolutely baseless to say or even insinuate that the Pope had been informed earlier of the positions of Williamson.”

Father Lombardi added, “This has been clearly denied in the note of the Secretary of State on Feb. 4. It also shows most clearly in the radical dissociation of the Pope and the Catholic Church regarding any anti-Semitic or Holocaust denying position.”

Pope Benedict XVI lifted the excommunications of the SSPX bishops earlier this year in a move aimed at helping reconcile the Society with the Church. The Pope said later he was unaware of Bishop Williamson’s anti-Semitic views, including his denial of the extent of the Holocaust made late last year in an interview for Swedish television that aired shortly before the excommunications were lifted in January of this year. 

In a program broadcast today, the Swedish channel SVT claims the Vatican was informed of Bishop Williamson’s Holocaust-denial shortly after it recorded the interview with him last November.

Said Father Lombardi about the matter, “In the Pope’s letter to bishops on March 10 this year, he put an end to this whole issue and there is no reason to reopen it.”

The Holy Father “has explained the meaning of the remission of excommunication as a gesture to promote the unity of the Church and at the same time showed accusations addressed to him of disrespect to the Jewish people to be totally unfounded,” Father Lombardi said. “He has also recognized with simplicity the limits of the Vatican’s internal and external communications, and has provided a new status of the Commission Ecclesia Dei in order to guarantee a better and safer way to proceed in matters related to relations with traditionalists.”

Father Lombardi added that to “revive the Williamson case cannot serve anything but to create confusion for no reason.”

According to an Associated Press report, the Swedish TV program doesn’t suggest Benedict knew about the remarks before he lifted the excommunications. Instead, it singles out Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, who had been leading efforts to bring reconciliation with the Society of St. Pius X, as having knowledge before the excommunications occurred.

Associated Press, which viewed an advance screening of the new STV program, reports that it claims Sweden’s Catholic diocese informed the apostolic nuncio to Sweden about Bishop Williamson’s remarks and that the nuncio in turn informed Vatican officials, including Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos.