Keen to disfuse controversy over a Holocaust-denying bishop, Pope Benedict XVI has said that the Catholic Church was commited to stamping out anti-Semitism.
He also confirmed that he was planning to visit Israel in May – the first official trip by a pope since John Paul II nine years ago. Pope Benedict condemned the bishop’s comments as “intolerable” – a move welcomed by Israel. Avner Shavlev, Zad Vashem Chairman said: “This message is a clear message to humanity and to the followers of the Church. And we should remember it.” “And I hope that the pope will state and eleborate about this message while he is coming to Yad Vashem in the near visits to Israel and Jerusalem,” he added. The furore erupted after Benedict lifted the excommunication of Bishop Richard Williamson, who denied that gas chambers were used to kill Jews during the Second World War and questioned the death toll. The pope made his comments at a meeting with about 60 American Jewish leaders on Thursday – his first since the uproar kicked off in late January. Yigal Palmor, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman said: “The Vatican needed to do something, not only to distance itself from this man and his views, which the Vatican has done, but also to take further steps in order to make things very very clear, in order to make it clear that these views are completely disavowed and seen as illegitimate” Williamson has apologised for causing the pope distress, but has not retracted his comments, as demanded by Benedict. He said he would change his opinion when he has examined the evidence, but that it will take time.