VARIOUS/FILE: Merkel challenges Pope over Holocaust denial but despite statement from Vatican Benedict does not...
- Title: VARIOUS/FILE: Merkel challenges Pope over Holocaust denial but despite statement from Vatican Benedict does not mention matter in general audience
- Date: 5th February 2009
- Summary: ECONE, SWITZERLAND (FILE - 1988) (REUTERS) FRENCH ARCHBISHOP MARCEL LEFEBVRE SPEAKING INTO MICROPHONE FOUR BISHOPS AWAITING CONSECRATION: RICHARD WILLIAMSON, BERNARD TISSIER DE MALLERAIS, ALFONSO DE GALERRETA AND BERNARD FELLAY
- Reuters ID: LVA1S6Q0QRBD401UQ1DR8UQFGK15
- Duration: 00:00:15
- Aspect Ratio:
- Topics: International Relations,Religion
- Story Text: German Chancellor Angela Merkel, using unusually strong words, calls on Pope Benedict to make clear he will not tolerate any denial of the Holocaust, but Benedict does not mention the issue in his general audience relying only on a Vatican statement to reinforce earlier remarks.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday (February 3) called on Bavarian-born Pope Benedict to make clear he did not tolerate any denial of the Holocaust. Her unusually strong words drew a quick, sharp statement from the Vatican but no mention of the matter by the Pope on Wednesday (February 4).
Merkel, who said she did not usually comment on internal church matters, was responding to the outcry over the pope's rehabilitation of four traditional Catholic bishops, including one who denies the extent of the Holocaust.
"I think it is a fundamental question if, through a decision by the Vatican, the impression arises that the Holocaust can be denied, and that it concerns fundamental questions about the handling of Judaism as a whole.
This is why this cannot be without consequences," said Merkel, daughter of a Protestant pastor, at a news conference with the Kazakh president.
"I don't think there has been sufficient clarification about this so far. However as a Protestant I am very encouraged by the fact that many people from the Catholic church have clearly called for clarification in some form. I think this is very encouraging," said Merkel.
The pope caused the furore in January with his lifting of the excommunications of four bishops who were thrown out of the Roman Catholic Church in 1988 for being ordained without Vatican permission.
British-born Bishop Richard Williamson told a Swedish broadcaster in November, in an interview broadcast in January, that he believed there were no gas chambers and no more than 300,000 Jews perished in concentration camps.
Holocaust denial is a crime in Germany and state prosecutors in the southern city of Regensburg are investigating Williamson for incitement.
German neo-Nazi websites and blogs have published contributions supporting Williamson's stand.
An estimated six million European Jews were killed by the Nazis.
The four bishops lead the ultra-conservative Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), which has about 600,000 members and rejects modernisation of Roman Catholic worship and doctrine.
The Vatican said the excommunications were lifted after the bishops affirmed their willingness to accept Church teachings and papal authority.
In healing a 20-year-old schism that had wounded the Catholic Church, the decree sparked one of the most serious crises in Catholic-Jewish relations in 50 years.
This began when the late French archbishop Marcel Lefebvre illegally consecrated the four bishops in 1988 in defiance of the then pope, John Paul II.
The Vatican, however, quickly hit back at Merkel, saying the pope's position on the Holocaust and Holocaust denial "could not be any clearer".
In a statement, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said the pope's thoughts on the Holocaust had been expressed "very clearly" in his speech at the Cologne synagogue in August 2005, at Auschwitz in 2006, and at his general audience last week, where his words were "unequivocal".
"The condemnation of declarations which deny the Holocaust could not have been any clearer," it said.
Last week Germany's Central Council of Jews broke off ties with the Catholic Church to protest against the pope's move.
Pope Benedict reaffirmed his "full and unquestionable solidarity with Jews" on January 28, making an attempt to relieve tensions with Jewish people after a Catholic bishop denied the holocaust.
Speaking at his Wednesday audience, the German-born pope said the attempt to exterminate the Jews in the Holocaust should remain a warning for all people.
Recalling his own visit to the Auschwitz death camp in 2006, Benedict condemned the "pitiless killing of millions of Jews, innocent victims of blind racial and religious hate".
Pope Benedict said: "I renew with affection the expression of my full and unquestionable solidarity with our (Jewish) brothers."
The pope, who did not mention Williamson by name, said the Holocaust should remain for all a "warning against denial and reductionism".
He said he hoped the lifting of the excommunications would:
"......... be followed by their willingness to take the steps necessary for them to be able to realise a full communion with the church, showing in this way, true loyalty to the church, a true recognition of the teaching and authority of the pope and the second Vatican council."
Williamson's comments caused a storm of criticism from Jews, who say it set back Catholic-Jewish dialogue by half a century.
It is highly unusual for the Vatican to engage in a tit for tat with heads of government over papal comments.
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