Pope Benedict has lifted the excommunications of four rebel bishops, despite an outcry from Jews over comments made by one of them about the Holocaust.
They were expelled from the Catholic Church after being consecrated without papal permission by the late French Archbishop Michel Lefebvre. He had set up his own sect opposed to the liberalising reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. The Pope had outlined healing the breach with the sect as priority of his papacy. But Jewish group’s have said the olive branch should not have been offered to Bishop Richard Williamson who, in a recent interview, said there was no evidence that Jews had been deliberately gassed by the Nazis. The Vatican distanced itself from the remark. A spokesman said: “The declarations of Bishop Willimason cannot by shared in any way, and are not shared by the Pope, but they have nothing to do with the issue of the excommunications.” The Simon Wiesanthal Center said it understood the Pope’s desire to for Catholic unity, but that Williamson’s re-integration risked harming the Church’s relations with Jews.