A bishop recently rehabilitated by Pope Benedict XVI said he want to "examine the evidence" of the Holocaust before possibly recanting his statement that no Jews died in Nazi gas chambers, a German newsmagazine reported.
Even as Vatican officials were working to control the damage caused by Pope Benedict XVI's decision to rehabilitate a Richard Williamson, a bishop who denied the Holocaust in an interview, with papal meetings and inter-faith dialogue, Williamson told Germany's Der Spiegel news weekly he needed time to scrutinize data surrounding the Holocaust.
"If I find proof I would rectify (earlier statements) ... but all that will take time," Williamson was quoted as saying by magazine on Saturday, Feb. 7. "I ask everyone to believe me that I did not deliberately say something false. I was, on the basis of my research in the 1980s, convinced of the accuracy of my comments. Now I must examine everything again and look at the evidence,"
Benedict called on Williamson to retract statements he made about the Holocaust
The pope had demanded Williamson unequivocally distance himself statements he made in an interview with Swedish television in which he said only up to 300,000 Jews were murdered in Nazi concentration camps. Historians put the figure at 6 million.
Williamson has apologized to the pope "for the unnecessary distress" he has caused him but has not apologized to Jews. The Vatican has said Benedict was not aware of the statements Williamson made two days before the excommunication was lifted.
Italian priest also denies extent of Holocaust
The ultra-traditionalist Roman Catholic group Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), of which Williamson is a member, has expelled an Italian priest who said he believed gas chambers at Nazi death camps were only used to "disinfect" inmates.
SSPX's Italian branch said Father Floriano Abrahamowicz was expelled for "serious disciplinary reasons," the ANSA news agency reported citing a SSPX statement issued Friday.
Abrahamowicz made the remarks while defending Williamson.
Inter-faith dialogue to continue
The pope has expressed his solidarity with Jews since lifting the excommunications
Israel's chief Rabbinate is resuming dialogue with the Vatican after ties were put on ice following the pope's decision to lift the excommunication of Williamson and three other priests of the ultra-traditionalist Society of St Pius X (SSPX), Reuters news agency reported Saturday.
The Rabbinate pulled out of a meeting with Vatican officials scheduled for the beginning of March amid an international outcry over the bishops' rehabilitation. The meeting will now take place in late February or mid-March and will most likely include a papal audience.
Benedict is also scheduled to meet with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (CPMAJO) on Thursday to make amends, Retuers reported. Both the meetings, however, were planned before Williamson's statement to Der Spiegel.
The head of the German Bishops Council, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, renewed his call for Williamson to be, once again, excommunicated from the Catholic Church, calling the British-born Williamson "irresponsible.""I do not see any room for him in the Catholic Church," Zollitsch told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper, in an article to be published on Sunday.