Forgiveness sought for Holocaust-denying bishop
The Associated Press Published: January 27, 2009

VATICAN CITY: An ultraconservative society recently rehabilitated by Pope Benedict XVI silenced one of its bishops on Tuesday and distanced itself from his claim that no Jews were gassed during World War II.

Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X, also asked for forgiveness from the pope for the “dramatic consequences” of Bishop Richard Williamson’s comments.

The Vatican press office issued Fellay’s statement as part of its own efforts to quell an outcry among Jews that Benedict had removed Williamson’s 20-year-old excommunication, despite his views on the Holocaust.

Fellay said he has forbidden Williamson from speaking publicly about any historical or political questions and that his views “don’t reflect in any way the position of the society.” Fellay himself referred to the “genocide of Jews” by Nazis.

“We ask forgiveness of the Supreme Pontiff and all the men of good will for the dramatic consequences of this act,” Fellay said.

Today in Europe
Chefs from around the globe go for goldGroup says it doesn’t share views of Holocaust denierSturm und drang about pint-size neighborsBenedict rehabilitated Williamson, Fellay and two other members of the society last week as part of his efforts to bring the traditionalist society, which opposes many of the liberalizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council, back into the Vatican’s fold.

Jewish groups denounced Benedict for embracing Williamson, who denied during an interview broadcast last week on Swedish state TV that 6 million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. He said only about 200,000 or 300,000 were killed.

The Vatican has stressed that removing the excommunication by no means implied the Vatican shared Williamson’s views. But amid increasing outcry from Jewish groups, it intensified its defense of Benedict’s record denouncing anti-Semitism and the Holocaust.

On Tuesday, Vatican Radio aired a lengthy program to mark Holocaust remembrance day, recalling Benedict’s 2006 visit to Auschwitz, his 2005 visit to the main synagogue in Cologne, Germany, and other remarks in which he has denounced the “insane, racist ideology” that produced the Holocaust.

Video clips of those remarks were posted on Vatican links on the Holy See’s new YouTube channel,

“Let today’s humanity never forget Auschwitz and the other ‘factories of death’ in which the Nazi regime tried to eliminate God and take his place!” Benedict said during his general audience May 31, 2006, just after returning to Rome from a visit to Auschwitz.

Vatican Radio also ran an interview with an Auschwitz survivor.

On Monday, the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, ran a front-page article saying Williamson’s views were “unacceptable” and violated Church teaching. It reaffirmed that Benedict deplored all forms of anti-Semitism and that all Roman Catholics must do the same.

The American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants said the Vatican’s attempts to reject Williamson’s views were necessary but insufficient. The group’s vice president, Elan Steinberg, urged the Vatican to further address what he called its “moral failure” in rehabilitating Williamson.

“At a minimum, the Vatican should now demand that Williamson repudiate his heinous views,” Steinberg said.

Williamson, Fellay and the two other bishops were excommunicated 20 years ago after they were consecrated by the late ultraconservative Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre without papal consent