The Catholic leadership in Regensburg has banned right-wing bishop and Holocaust denier Richard Williamson, whose excommunication was recently revoked by Pope Benedict XVI, from entering its churches.
Holocaust-denier Williamson is persona non grata in Regensburg
Gerhard Ludwig Mueller, the Catholic bishop of the German city of Regensburg, said Wednesday that Williamson would not be allowed to set foot in his cathedral or on any other church property.
Williamson was one of four clerics who were rehabilitated into the Catholic Church on Saturday, Jan. 24, following their excommunication in 1988. 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.
Williamson's rehabilitation has provoked a storm of outrage because he denies the existence of the Nazi gas chambers and claims that "only 200,000 to 300,000" Jews died in concentration camps instead of some six million.
Such denial of the Holocaust is both "inhuman" and "sacrilegious," Mueller said.
The diocese released its response a day after a Holocaust memorial service in Regensburg, which is also the home base of Pope Benedict.
Aides: Ban is more symbolic
Aides conceded that Mueller's ban was more symbolic than disciplinary, since Mueller has no control over the SSPX or its training center at Zaitzkofen, near Regensburg.
British Bishop Richard Williamson
Public prosecutors have opened an inquiry against Williamson over his denial of the Holocaust during an interview recorded with Swedish television last week at Zaitzkofen. Holocaust denial is a crime in Germany.
The German Conference of Catholic Bishops has also rejected Williamson's remarks. In Rome, Pope Benedict XVI expressed "solidarity" Wednesday with the Jewish people and said the reality of the Holocaust cannot be cancelled through any form of denial.
On Wednesday, the Israeli Chief Rabbi officially broke off ties with the Vatican in protest at the decision to lift the excommunication on Williamson.
The SSPX publicly dissociated itself on Tuesday from Williamson.
Historical research using population data suggests between 5 million and 6 million European Jews were killed by privation and violence during World War II. The Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem estimates it has names of up to 4 million Jewish victims.