BERLIN – A German court said on Wednesday it had summoned traditionalist Catholic bishop Richard Williamson to face charges he denied the Holocaust, an offense punishable by up to five years in jail.

In comments broadcast on Swedish television last January, Williamson said he believed no more than 300,000 Jews perished in the Holocaust and that there were no gas chambers.

The consensus among historians is the Nazis killed some six million Jews in the Holocaust.

The district court in the southern city of Regensburg has set a hearing for April 16, because Williamson had appealed against a 12,000 euro fine for incitement that was summarily handed down last year for his remarks.

The court has now summoned Williamson, 69, to face questioning in person, court spokesman Thomas Frick said.

Authorities cannot force him to attend, but if Williamson is not represented at the hearing, then the appeal against the fine will be thrown out, Frick added.

“Then the fine becomes legally binding,” he said.

Williamson’s remarks broadcast on the television station were made near to Regensburg, within the court’s jurisdiction.

British-born Williamson belongs to an ultra-traditionalist Catholic splinter group, the Society of Saint Pius X .

The Pope caused outrage among Jewish groups last year when he lifted excommunications on four SSPX bishops, including Williamson, at about the same time that Williamson denied Jews had died in Nazi gas chambers.

Williamson later offered an apology for his comments though the Vatican rejected this, saying it did not go far enough.

SSPX, which opposes the way the Catholic Church has evolved over the last 40 years, rejects the Second Vatican Council’s decision to stop calling Jews killers of Jesus Christ and to seek good ties with Protestants, Jews, Muslims and other faiths.

January 27 is international Holocaust remembrance day.