German Jewish leader assails pope over peace with rebel bishops
A German Jewish leader has attacked Pope
Benedict XVI for re-admitting four rebel bishops to the Catholic Church, saying
it would push Catholic-Jewish relations "back to the Stone Age."
Benedict revoked on Saturday the 1988 excommunication of the four clerics, who led a breakaway, ultra-traditionalist Catholic group which accents prayer in Latin and opposition to Jewish beliefs, dpa reported.
One of the four, Richard Williamson, faces a criminal investigation in Germany for allegedly denying the Holocaust.
Dieter Graumann, deputy chairman of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, called the Vatican move "an utterly unbelievable provocation." His remarks were published Sunday on the website of the business newspaper Handelsblatt.
"The course of reconciliation between Jews and Catholics, which has come a long way, has been set back by decades, almost to the stone age of ecclesiastical anti-Semitism, by this decree," he said.
"It is especially painful, astonishing and worthy of condemnation that it is a German pope who is starting a new ice age between Jews and the Catholic Church," he added.
The four bishops and their supporters belong to the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) bishops who broke with Rome over Church reforms introduced in the 1960s by the Second Vatican Council.
Williamson, the British SSPX leader, faces an inquiry over his remarks to a television interviewer as he visited an SSPX seminary in the German city of Regensburg. The interview was broadcast in Sweden.
He claimed "historical facts" indicated the Nazi gas chambers had never existed, and only 200,000 to 300,000 Jews had been killed.
Denying the Holocaust is treated in German law as a crime.
A Vatican spokesman said Saturday that the pope's decree was purely about re-integrating the SSPX group. It was up to "other levels" to try Williamson for his remarks about the Holocaust.
Vatican spokesman Frederico Lombardi said the Vatican completely rejected Williamson's remarks about the Holocaust, but they had nothing to do with his 1988 excommunication. SSPX claims about 600,000 members.
Historical research using population data suggests between 5 million and 6 million European Jews were killed by privation and violence during the Second World War. The Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem estimates it has names of up to 4 million.
Hundreds of thousands of Jews were "exterminated" with gas at Auschwitz death camp.