Thursday, September 24, 2009

Vatican informed about Williamson

The Vatican was told that ultraorthodox bishop Richard Williamson had denied the Holocaust in a TV interview aired two days before his excommunication was lifted, the Bishop of Stockholm said on Wednesday.

Monsignor Anders Arborelius said he had ''informed'' the Vatican that Williamson had denied the existence of gas chambers during World War II in an interview broadcast by the Swedish TV programme Uppdrag granskning on January 21.

The British-born cleric told the programme that in his view not six million but only 200,000 to 300,000 Jews died in Nazi concentration camps ''and not one of them in a gas chamber''.

In a message posted on the diocese's web site, Msgr Arborelius stressed that ''as customary, we always inform the Vatican of issues relating to the Church and so there was nothing exceptional in this case''.

The comment prompted Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, to reiterate that Pope Benedict XVI was not aware of Williamson's views when the excommunication was lifted.

''It's absolutely groundless to say or even simply to insinuate that the Pope had been told before (his rehabilitation) of Williamson's views''.

Lombardi added that this did not imply that he was denying Arborelius's statement, suggesting that the bishop may have informed other Vatican officials who had not passed on the news to the pope.

Bishop Arborelius will be heard repeating his comment to Uppdrag granskning in a programme to be broadcast Wednesday which will also feature an interview with Cardinal Walter Kasper, head of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity.

According to the conservative Catholic blog Rorate Coeli, Kasper told the programme in an interview taped in July that he had not been consulted on the rehabilitation.

The blog quotes Kaspar as saying that he ''had a general knowledge of the sympathies of Bishop Williamson''.

''He further states in the interview that he thought this was something widely known making it a matter of surprise for him that the Pontifical Comission Ecclesia Dei did not know,'' Rorate Coeli says.

Pope Benedict XVI sparked dismay among Jews and some Catholics on January 24 when he rehabilitated Williamson along with three other bishops from the traditionalist Catholic group St Pius X (SSPX) that split with Rome over the liberal reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

The Vatican was forced to clarify that Benedict was unaware of Williamson's stance at the time of his rehabilitation and, in an unusual personal letter to Catholic bishops in March, the pope admitted his ''mistakes'' in handling the affair, including not checking the Internet where Williamson's comments were posted.

Benedict said he had rehabilitated the clerics as a first step towards bringing the breakaway SSPX back to the Church, stressing that it will only be accepted back into the fold if - during negotiations - it accepts the reforms of the Vatican Council II.

After initial tensions with Jews over Williamson's rehabilitation, the Holy See worked hard to defuse the situation and Jewish leaders said they were satisfied after the pope issued an explicit condemnation of Holocaust denial.

Since then, Benedict has repeatedly denounced the Holocaust, renewing his view that it was the work of a ''godless regime'' and must always be remembered as a universal warning of the sanctity of life.

Taking leave of Israeli President Shimon Peres during a visit to the Holy Land in May, the German pope said: ''That appalling chapter of history must never be forgotten or denied. On the contrary, those dark memories should strengthen our determination to draw closer to one another as branches of the same olive tree, nourished from the same roots and united in brotherly love''.

SSPX is the only group to break away from the 1.1-billion strong Roman Catholic Church since the reforms of the early 1960s.

Talks between the Vatican and the ultratraditionalist Society on formal reunification with the Church will begin in the next few days, the Archbishop of Vienna was quoted as saying Monday.

Cardinal Christoph Shoenborn told the German daily Passauer Nue Presse that the Church would tell the fraternity ''very clearly what is 'not' negotiable''.

In an apostolic letter released in July entitled Ecclesiae Unitatem, Benedict warned the group that a number of doctrinal issues needed to be cleared up, stressing that it could not have ''canonical status'' within the Church until it does. +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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