Vatican Clarifies Position on Holocaust

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Writer

In response to continuing accusations of anti-Semitism directed toward Pope Benedict XVI and the Catholic Church as a result of his reinstatement of a former schismatic bishop who denies the holocaust, the Vatican has issued a strong statement detailing the Pope’s long-standing position on this tragic event.

The flap arose over comments made by Bishop Richard Williamson, a member of the formerly exiled order of St. Pius X, that history does not support the belief that more than six million Jews died in gas chambers in the holocaust. Williamson said there were no such gas chambers and put the number of Jews murdered at somewhere around 300,000.

When Pope Benedict XVI recently restored Williamson and three other formerly schismatic bishops to the Church, accusations of anti-Semitism quickly followed.

On Feb. 3, the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., released the following statement to the media. 

“With reference to the latest requests for clarification concerning the position of the Pope and the Catholic Church on the subject of the Holocaust, it should be borne in mind that the Pope’s ideas on this matter were very clearly expressed at the synagogue of Cologne, Germany, on 19 August 2005, at the concentration camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau on 28 May 2006, in the general audience of 31 May 2006 and, more recently, at the end of his general audience of 28 January this year, with unambiguous words of which we highlight the following: ‘As I once again affectionately express my full and indisputable solidarity with our Brothers and Sisters who received the First Covenant, I trust that the memory of the Shoah (holocaust) will induce humankind to reflect upon the unpredictable power of evil when it conquers the heart of man. May the Shoah be for everyone an admonition against oblivion, negation and reductionism. . .

“The condemnation of Holocaust denial could not have been clearer, and from the context it is obvious that this also referred to the views of Msgr. Williamson and to all similar views. On the same occasion the Pope also clearly explained the purpose of the remission of the excommunication, which has nothing to do with legitimising Holocaust denial – something that, as we have explained, he clearly condemns.”

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