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Germany

Jewish Leader Calls Off Talks With Church in Holocaust-Denier Row

The president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Charlotte Knobloch, has called off talks with the Catholic Church after Pope Benedict rehabilitated a bishop who denies the Holocaust, causing an uproar.

Charlotte Knobloch, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany

Knobloch has echoed the outrage expressed by Jewish leaders around the world

In an interview with German newspaper Rheinische Post, Knobloch expressed outrage at the pope's move, saying she could not continue talks with representatives from the Roman Catholic Church after such a scandal.

"I wish there's a howl of protest in the church against the pope's move," Knobloch told the paper. "Under the circumstances, I certainly can't at the moment continue talks with the church," she said, adding however that the severance of talks was temporary.

Jews angered by rehabilitation of Holocaust-denier

Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday revoked the 1988 excommunication of four traditionalist Catholic bishops including one who denies the Holocaust. The four men ran the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), an ultra-traditionalist Catholic group that broke with Rome over reforms introduced in the 1960s through the Second Vatican Council.

British Bishop Richard Williamson

Williamson's controversial comments have caused an uproar

The rehabilitation of British-born Richard Williamson who has made statements denying the full extent of the Holocaust of European Jews has caused uproar among Jewish leaders and progressive Catholics, many of whom said it threatened 50 years of Christian-Jewish dialogue.

Williamson told Swedish television in an interview broadcast a week ago: "I believe there were no gas chambers" and that no more than 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps, rather than 6 million.

In Germany where Holocaust denial is a crime, public prosecutors have opened an investigation against Williamson, who made the remarks to the Swedish journalists during a visit to Germany.

Williamson himself seems to have realized that he was opening himself up for prosecution.

"Be careful, I beg of you, this is against the law in Germany," Williamson told the reporter at the end of the interview. "You could have me thrown in prison before I leave Germany. I hope that's not your intention."

The German Conference of Catholic Bishops has strongly rejected Williamson's remarks.

The Catholic bishop of the southern German city of Regensburg, which is also the home of base of Pope Benedict, said Wednesday that Williamson would not be allowed to set foot in his cathedral or on any other church property.

Pope seeks to heal rift

Since the uproar caused by his decision to welcome Williamson back into the Catholic fold, Pope Benedict has sought to heal the rift with Jews.

Speaking at his weekly audience, he said the attempt to exterminate Jews in the Holocaust should remain a warning to all humanity.

Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict has sought to reach out to Jews following the controversy

Recalling his visit to the Auschwitz death camp in 2006, Benedict condemned the "pitiless killing of millions of Jews, innocent victims of blind racial and religious hatred."

But Knobloch on Thursday said she didn't believe the pope's move had been a spontaneous one.

"The Pope is one of the most educated and intelligent persons the Catholic Church has. He means every word that he says and each one is well-grounded," she told the paper.

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