Jewish leaders have asked the Pope to make Catholic schools teach Holocaust Studies to safeguard against potential anti-semitism in future generations. Their dialogue had been interrupted by the case of the Catholic bishop Richard Williamson, who denied the extent of the holocaust.
The Pope wrote to all his bishops, talking of the “hostility and hatred” directed towards him for reinstating four traditionalists – including Williamson – who had made his controversial comments just days before.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said: “The Pope has defined the Williamson case as unforeseeable. The fact that it overlapped with his gesture on excommunication runs the risk of completely changing the sense of his decision.”
Williamson said he believes there were no Nazi gas chambers. The Pope’s letter admitted mishandling the affair, and said that problems could have been predicted had the Vatican made more use of the internet to check background material.
There was no mention in the letter of a case in Brazil, where a Roman Catholic bishop excommunicated several people for being connected with an abortion on a nine-year-old girl.
It is suspected the girl became pregnant after being raped by her step-father.