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German Jewish leaders decry bishop’s pardon

BERLIN (JTA ) — Pope Benedict XVI’s pardon of a Holocaust-denying bishop is a "slap in the face for the Jewish community," German Jewish leaders said.

The leaders said a German-born pope should have been more understanding. They said it was another step backward in Jewish-Catholic relations in Germany.

Speaking to Reuters, Dieter Graumann, a vice president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said he felt "deep shock" at the Jan. 24 decision by Pope Benedict to rehabilitate four ultra-conservative bishops after they agreed to submit to papal authority.

One of the four, Richard Williamson of the United Kingdom, has said publicly that no more than 300,000 Jews were killed in the Holocaust. He also denies there were any gas chambers.

Reputable historians confirm, and Nazi documents have shown, that approximately 6 million Jews were murdered in what the perpetrators called the "Final Solution."

The pope’s decision to embrace a "clearly anti-Semitic" bishop "contaminates" the entire Catholic Church, said Rabbi David Rosen, head of the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations, according to the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper.

Graumann told Reuters that the decision was "a provocation, and I’m worried that dialogue between Jews and Catholics will now be frozen to some extent, that the process of reconciliation that has advanced so much over the past 50 years will be interrupted, if not aborted."

Last year, Central Council President  Charlotte Knobloch insisted the Vatican drop references to conversion of Jews from its Good Friday prayer after the pope decided to bring back the Latin, or Tridentine, Mass. The Church did not withdraw the amended prayer.

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