Bishop Williamson was one of four traditionalist bishops to have his excommunication lifted Saturday, just days after he was shown in a Swedish state TV interview saying that historical evidence is hugely against six million Jews having been deliberately gassed by the Nazis during the Holocaust.
The four bishops were excommunicated 20 years ago after they were consecrated by the late ultraconservative Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre without papal consent - a move the Vatican said at the time was an act of schism.
“Even if the revocation of the excommunication is unrelated to Williamson’s comments regarding the Holocaust, what kind of message is this sending regarding the Church’s attitude toward the Holocaust?” Yad Vashem wrote. “Although we understand that Williamson’s statements do not represent the Church’s stance, we continue to hope that the Church will vigorously condemn these unacceptable and odious comments.”
Jewish groups denounced the Vatican for having embraced a Holocaust denier and warned that the pope’s decision would have serious implications for Catholic-Jewish relations as well as the pontiff’s planned visit to the Holy Land later this year.
“I do not see how business can proceed as usual,” said Rabbi David Rosen, Jerusalem-based head of interrelgious affairs at the American Jewish Committee and a key Vatican-Jewish negotiator late last week.