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Culture

Opinion: The Pope's High Price for Reintegration

The current scandal over Pope Benedict's decision to rehabilitate a Holocaust denier into the Church shows that the price for Catholic unity might be too high to pay, says DW's Clemens Finzer.

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"Ut omnes unum sint" -- so that all may be one -- but at what price? It seemed as if Pope Benedict XVI had chosen a good moment to extend his hand to the Society of Saint Pius X. It would have been hard to find a more symbolic time than the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. But Benedict neglected to note the spirit of the society and its followers.

Leading SSPX brothers have clearly distanced themselves from the remarks of Bishop Richard Williamson, who denied the existence of gas chambers and reduced the number of Jews killed by the Nazis from six million to 300,000. But just last year, Williamson was a well-regarded guest of SSPX brothers and frequently visited their congregations and their training center in the central Bavarian town of Zaitzkofen. He ordained priests, confirmed believers all over Germany and published articles in the congregation's monthly magazine. It's hard to believe church officials when they now claim that they didn't know about this man's convictions.

One can guess that it was known to an extent that makes people uncomfortable now. SSPX brothers basically have the same, anti-Semitic view. On the society's Web site one can read sentences such as: "Now the Vatican is frantically looking for solutions to kow-tow in front of the mighty Jewish power centers that even force popes on their knees."

Again and again, the society has emphasized that Jews couldn't possibly be the "older brothers in faith." Referring to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, society followers say that "they are guilty of deicide as long as they do not distance themselves from the guilt of their forefathers by acknowledging Christ's divinity and getting baptized." As long as Rome continues to stick to dialog and reconciliation with other religions, a rapprochement is impossible, they say. The pope is very well aware of this opposition to the core messages of the Second Vatican Council.

Where to go from here? The followers of the SSPX brothers show no remorse and don't really seem to be ready to reintegrate; instead, they even issue demands. During his general audience on Wednesday, Benedict might have called on the followers of the Pius society to follow his sign of reconciliation with the necessary steps on their side. But the pope is bound to have to wait a very long time for that to happen.

Anyone who has preached and lived a partially inhumane doctrine for the past 20 years will not come around in a day. The pope's wish that all may become one -- "ut omnes unum sint" -- clearly also applies to the reintegration of the Pius society. But not at any price.

Clemens Finzer covers religion for DW-RADIO (win)

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