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Vatican calls on bishop to recant

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NEW YORK (JTA) — The Vatican has called on a Holocaust-denying bishop to recant his views.

In a statement Wednesday, the Vatican secretariat of state said Bishop Richard Williamson “must absolutely, unequivocally and publicly distance himself from his positions on the Shoah,” The New York Times reported.

Williamson, a member of a schismatic Catholic sect, said in a recent television interview that he doubted the existence of Nazi gas chambers and believed that only a few hundred thousand Jews lost their lives during the Holocaust. Williamson’s views generated a crisis for the church after Pope Benedict XVI revoked a longstanding excommunication order against Williamson and three other bishops last month.

The statement comes as more voices were added to the chorus of criticism that has greeted Benedict’s decision to pursue greater unity within the church by moving towards a rapprochement with the renegade sect.

The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, said Tuesday that Williamson’s views were "utterly false," according to the Catholic News Service. And on Wednesday, the World Jewish Congress weighed in, saying the pope’s decision was "badly advised" and welcoming the Vatican’s insistence that Williamson recant.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry released a statement saying that the Jewish state viewed the reinstatment "with regret and concern."

The statement continued: "The reinstatement of a Holocaust denier by the Holy See offends every Jew, in Israel and around the world, and humiliates the memory of all Holocaust victims and survivors. We expect the Holy See to decisively renounce all Holocaust deniers in general, wherever they may be, and Bishop Williamson in particular.

"We view the recent remarks made by the Holy See and senior Vatican officials admonishing the manifestation of Holocaust denial as the first step in the right direction, and expect more explicit and unequivocal decisions and statements on this issue."  

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