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Enough is Enough

tt/dpa/afpMarch 1, 2009

The head of the ultra-conservative Catholic community that Bishop Richard Williamson is a member of said the Holocaust-denying clergyman should stop making public statements which have damaged the order's reputation.

an SSPX priest during mass
The Society of St. Pius X is aware of the damage caused by Williamson's viewsImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

In an interview with the German weekly Der Spiegel, Bernard Fellay, head of the Saint Pius X Society (SSPX), reacted to the uproar over comments Williamson made that no Jews died in Nazi gas chambers during World War II.

A man places a candle on the sign reading "Auschwitz"
Williamson does not believe that the Holocaust took placeImage: AP

"If he's silent, if he stays out of sight, that would really be better for everyone," Fellay said in the interview to appear on Monday. "I hope that he drops out of public life for a long while."

Williamson would be excluded from the community "if he starts again to deny the Holocaust," he added. "He has hurt us and damaged our reputation. We are definitely distancing ourselves from him," Fellay said.

In a letter to the Vatican released Thursday, Williamson apologized for his recent comments about the Holocaust -- but did not say whether he's changed his views or that his comments had been erroneous.

A step in the right direction?

The Vatican turned down the apology. Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said on Friday that Williamson "doesn't seem to have respected the conditions" set forth by the Vatican under which the bishop was to "distance himself unequivocally and publicly" from his positions concerning the Holocaust if he wanted to be admitted as a prelate in the church.

The Seminary of the Society of St. Pius X,
Williamson ran an SSPX seminary in La Reja, ArgentinaImage: AP

Fellay, however, considered the letter a "major step in the right direction" and that, in his view, it was unlikely that the Vatican would excommunicate Williamson again.

In Berlin, the President of Germany's Central Council of Jews, Charlotte Knobloch said on Friday she was "appalled" by Williamson's latest remarks, while the council's secretary general, Stephan Kramer, said that the cleric's apology was "completely irrelevant."

"He is sorry about the pain, but has taken back nothing of substance," Kramer said. "I believe the apology is a diversion tactic to get rid of the pressure and the limelight," allowing the brotherhood to continue preaching their "antidemocratic, unconstitutional, misogynist, antisemitic values."

Back in Britain

Williamson being escorted out of Heathrow airport by police and security officers
After being ousted by Argentina, Williamson returned to EnglandImage: AP

The Argentine government asked the bishop to leave the South American country -- where he ran an SSPX seminary 40 kilometers (25 miles) west of Buenos Aires -- because his remarks on the Holocaust were seen as "deeply offensive to Argentine society, the Jewish people and humanity."

Williamson returned to Britain where he is believed to be staying with fellow priests at the offices of the Society of Saint Pius X in the leafy southwest London suburb of Wimbledon.

Fellay and Williamson were among four excommunicated bishops that Pope Benedict XVI rehabilitated last month in an attempt to heal a decades-old split with traditionalists who did not accept the reforms of the Second Vatican Council of the early 1960s.

The Vatican has said Pope Benedict hadn't been aware of Williamson's denial of the Holocaust when he revoked his excommunication.

Williamson, 68, told a Swedish television crew last month that "not one Jew was killed by the gas chambers. It was all lies, lies, lies."

He also said he did not believe that any more than 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps, when historians put the figure at 6 million.