Germany's Central Council of Jews is breaking off contact with the Catholic Church due to Pope Benedict's rehabilitation of a bishop who has denied the scale of the Holocaust, its president said on Thursday.
Last weekend, the pope lifted the excommunication of four traditional Catholic bishops, including British-born Richard Williamson who has made statements denying the full extent of the Holocaust of European Jews.
Williamson told Swedish television in an interview broadcast a week ago he believed there were no gas chambers and no more than 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps, rather than the six million widely accepted by historians.
"Under these conditions, there will certainly be no talks between myself and the church for time being - I stress the words 'for the time being,'" Charlotte Knobloch, president of the Council of Jews, said in the Rheinische Post newspaper.
"I would like an outcry in the church against such actions from the pope," she said.
German-born Benedict, who has visited the Auschwitz death camp to remember its victims, has tried to heal the rift he has caused with Jews by condemning the Holocaust anew and saying it should remain a warning to all humanity.
In Italy, a priest who is a regional leader of the same ultra-traditionalist group as Williamson, made headlines on Thursday by telling a local newspaper "gas chambers existed at least for disinfecting" inmates but he wasn't sure if they were used to kill them.
The priest, Floriano Abrahamowicz, defended Williamson and said while it was "impossible for a Christian to be an anti-Semite," the whole Williamson affair was part of a "very powerful campaign against the Vatican".
He told the La Tribuna newspaper in the northeastern city of Treviso that Williamson had been "imprudent to get into technical matters" about whether people had died by gassing or not. +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
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