Vatican rejects bishop apology for Holocaust remarks

The Vatican dismissed as insufficient Bishop Richard Williamson’s apology for making comments minimizing the Holocaust.

Williamson expressed regret for making the remarks but did not recant his views.

"The Holy Father and my Superior, Bishop Bernard Fellay, have requested that I reconsider the remarks I made on Swedish television four months ago, because their consequences have been so heavy," Williamson said in a statement published Thursday by the Zenit Catholic News Agency.

Pope Benedict XVI sparked a furor last month when he reinstated Williamson and three other excommunicated bishops, all members of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X, just days after Williamson told Swedish TV that he believed "that the historical evidence is hugely against 6 million Jews having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler." He said no more than a few hundred Jews died in Europe during World War II.

This week, Williamson expressed regret for making the remarks.

"Observing these consequences I can truthfully say that I regret having made such remarks, and that if I had known beforehand the full harm and hurt to which they would give rise, especially to the Church, but also to survivors and relatives of victims of injustice under the Third Reich, I would not have made them," he said.

Williamson concluded, "To all souls that took honest scandal from what I said, before God I apologize. As the Holy Father has said, every act of injust violence against one man hurts all mankind."

The Vatican said Williamson’s apology "does not seem to respect the conditions" for readmission into the Catholic Church as a clergyman, a Vatican spokesman said Friday, because it does not apologize for the Holocaust denial itself.

The founding chairman of the International Network of Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, Menachem Rosensaft, also called Williamson’s apology unacceptable.

“Williamson’s disingenuous apology cannot close the book on this chapter,” Rosensaft told JTA. “Williamson in no way recanted his denial of the Holocaust. Instead, he merely expressed regret that his public expression of his noxious views called attention to Pope Benedict XVI’s ill-advised attempt to rehabilitate him."

Williamson left Argentina this week after authorities there expelled him for violating the conditions of his work visa. He returned to his native Britain; the London Times this week published an email exchange between Williamson and David Irving, a Briton who has served prison time in Austria for his own Holocaust denial. Irving advised Williamson on legal strategies to avoid arrest upon his return. Britain does not ban Holocaust denial, but under European Union agreements it may extradite deniers to countries where they may face charges.

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