I’m not sure if Pope Benedict XVI had already planned to issue this directive when he moved to “rehabilitate” a Holocaust-denying bishop who had been excommunicated two decades ago or if this is a reaction to international outcry, but today the Vatican told Bishop Richard Williamson he must recant his positions on the Holocaust.
From the NYT:
A statement issued on Wednesday by the Vatican Secretariat of State said that Bishop Williamson “must absolutely, unequivocally and publicly distance himself from his positions on the Shoah,” or Holocaust, which it said were “unknown to the Holy Father at the time he revoked the excommunication.”
The unsigned statement seemed a clear indication that the Vatican was facing an internal and external political crisis.
The day before, in a rare case of a head of state criticizing the pope, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on the pope to clarify his position on the Holocaust, saying his previous remarks had not been “sufficient.”
The statement from the Secretariat of State noted Benedict’s remarks last week in which he expressed his “full and unequivocal solidarity” with Jews and condemned all Holocaust denial, yet it went far beyond the pope’s earlier remarks in which he had never mentioned Bishop Williamson by name.
For a refresher on Williamson’s most recent remarks, Swedish television aired these remarks days before his excommunication was lifted:
“I believe there were no gas chambers ... I think that two to three hundred thousand Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps ... but none of them by gas chambers.”