February 09, 2009

Holocaust-denying bishop removed from seminary post

Ultra-conservative Society of St Pius X relieves British-born Richard Williamson of duties at seminary in Argentina

A Roman Catholic bishop who said he does not believe the Nazis murdered millions of Jewish people in gas chambers has been removed from his seminary. Richard Williamsom caused outrage with his remarks, which surfaced shortly after the Vatican's decision to welcome him back into the Catholic church last week.

The Diarios y Noticias news agency reported today that the ultra-conservative Society of St Pius X was relieving the British-born Williamson of his post as the director of its seminary in La Reja, Argentina.

Williamson is reported to have claimed in a television interview last month that historical evidence was "hugely against six million having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler ... I believe there were no gas chambers". He added: "I think that 200,000 to 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps, but none of them by gas chambers."

In a statement, Father Christian Bouchacourt, the head of the Latin American chapter of the Society of St Pius X, said Williamson had been relieved as the head of the seminary on the outskirts of the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires. "Monsignor Williamson's statements do not in any way reflect the position of our congregation," the statement, reported by Reuters, said.

The row led the Vatican to order Williamson to recant his views last week. It issued a statement saying the bishop must accept the widely accepted historical truth that millions of Jews had been killed by the Nazis.

"Bishop Williamson, in order to be admitted to the episcopal functions of the church, must in an absolutely unequivocal and public way distance himself from his positions regarding the Shoah [Holocaust]," the statement said.

Pope Benedict XVI faced anger in his homeland of Germany and severe criticism from Jewish groups over his decision to lift an excommunication of the bishop. Williamson's excommunication was lifted along with those of three other bishops ordained without Vatican permission by the renegade French archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.

The Vatican said the Pope did not know about Williamson's views on the Holocaust when he agreed to lift the excommunication. The pontiff's actions led to him being criticised by the German chancellor, Angela Merkel.


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