WASHINGTON (JTA) — A top U.S. Roman Catholic clergyman described the Holocaust denial of a rehabilitated bishop as "deeply offensive."
Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued Tuesday’s statement in the wake of Pope Benedict XVI’s removal last month of the excommunication of four conservative bishops, including Richard Williamson of Britain.
Williamson has said that accounts of 6 million Jewish deaths during the Holocaust are vastly exaggerated.
"No Catholic, whether layperson, priest or bishop, can ever negate the memory of the Shoah, just as no Catholic should ever tolerate expressions of anti-Semitism and religious bigotry," George said in the statement, which expressed sympathy for the "understandable outrage from within the Jewish community."
George did not directly address Jewish anger with the pope for rehabilitating Williamson. Instead he described the lifting of excommunication as "an act of mercy and personal concern" by the pope, but added that it was a "first step."
George warned, "If these bishops are to exercise their ministry as true teachers and pastors of the Catholic Church, they, like all Catholic bishops, will have to give their assent to all that the Church professes, including the teachings of the Second Vatican Council."
Vatican II removed from Jews the guilt that the Catholic Church had assigned them for Jesus’ execution.