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Ultra-conservative Catholic group bans Holocaust denier

British-born bishop Richard Williamson has been excluded from the Catholic Pius Society. The action against the man who made headlines three years ago for denying the Holocaust was taken for "disobedience."

Richard Williamson was banned on Wednesday for lack of respect and continuous disobedience, according to a statement from the Society of Saint Pius X's headquarters in Switzerland.

Details were not given by the Society of Saint Pius X, but the German Theologian Bernd Hagenkord said the decision came as no surprise, as Williamson had refused to stop criticizing his superiors in messages on the Internet.

72-year old bishop Richard Williamson had continued to voice his opinions in forums on the internet. He was especially critical of his ultraconservative group's attempts to build bridges with the Vatican.

Richard Williamson at Heathrow ariport, London, upon his return to Europe 25.02.2009 Foto: David Dyson dpa (zu dpa 1530 vom 20.06.2011) +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++

Richard Williamson has denied the Holocaust for many years

The traditionalist Society of Saint Pius X is a Catholic splinter group which sprung up in the 1960s following disagreements over supposedly liberal changes proposed by the Vatican.

The German Pope Benedict XVI triggered outrage when he started talks with the group aimed at mending fences.

In 2009, Benedict lifted the excommunication ban on four bishops of the Society of Pius X, who had been illegally ordained outside of the Church. The four included the Holocaust denier Richard Williamson, who lived in Argentina at the time, from where he was later expelled.

Williamson had given an interview just days before his excommunication was lifted. In it he reiterated his denial of the Holocast. He said there had been no gas chambers and that no more than 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps, rather than the six million accepted by most historians. The interview, which was broadcast on Swedish television, showed the bishop saying "it was all lies, lies, lies."

The interview and the ill timed moves by the Vatican triggered a storm of protest, most especially coming from Germany. It is against German law to deny the holocaust.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel responded to the interview at the time by calling on Pope Benedict XVI to "clarify unambiguously that there can be no denial" of the fact that six million Jews died under the Nazi regime.

The Vatican said eventually it had not been aware of Williamson's views on the Holocaust, but critics pointed out that this was hard to believe at a time when so much material was on the internet.

A German court found Williamson guilty of incitement to racial hatred and ordered the bishop to pay a fine. Court cases based on his repeated anti-Semitic remarks continue.

rg/hc (KNA, EPD, AFPD)

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