BERLIN (JTA) — A group of European rabbis has called on the pope to condemn the latest anti-Semitic remarks by a Holocaust-denying Catholic bishop.
The Brussels-based Conference of European Rabbis slammed comments by Catholic Bishop Richard Williamson in which he allegedly blamed Jews for deicide. Williamson, a member of the radical Catholic Pius Brotherhood sect, reportedly made the comments in the latest issue of his newsletter, “The Eleison Comments." He has been living in London.
“Comments like these take us back decades to the dark days before there was a meaningful and mutually respectful dialogue between Jews and Roman Catholics,” conference President Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt of Moscow said in a statement issued Wednesday.
Goldschmidt called for the Church to "suspend negotiations with extremist Catholic tendencies until it is clear that these groups show a clear commitment to tackling anti-Semitism within their ranks."
In his newsletter, Williamson wrote that “only the Jews were the primary agents of the deicide because Pontius Pilate would never have condemned Jesus if the Jews had not asked for blood.”
Williamson was found guilty of Holocaust denial in Germany in 2010 and fined about $14,000. He has previously denied the existence of gas chambers and the murder of 6 million Jews during the Holocaust.
In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI lifted the excommunication against Williamson, but the Vatican also reportedly declared that "in order to be admitted to episcopal functions within the Church, (he) will have to take his distance, in an absolutely unequivocal and public fashion, from his position on the Shoah, which the Holy Father was not aware of when the excommunication was lifted."
During meetings with Pope Benedict in Berlin last month, German Jewish leader Dieter Graumann said that one of the issues that troubled Jewish-Catholic relations was the Church’s refusal to condemn Williamson.
In his statement Wednesday, Goldschmidt said the pope "has shown a commitment to fostering a spirit of positive dialogue with Jews both before and during his papacy. But he must clearly show that there is no room in the Catholic Church for purveyors of hate."