Argentina orders Holocaust-denying bishop out

The traditionalist bishop whose denials of the Holocaust embarrassed the Vatican was ordered Thursday to leave Argentina within 10 days, AP reported.

The Interior Ministry said it had ordered Richard Williamson out of Argentina because he had failed to declare his true job as director of a seminary on immigration forms and because his comments on the Holocaust "profoundly insult Argentine society, the Jewish community and all of humanity by denying a historic truth."

Williamson's views created an uproar last month when Pope Benedict XVI lifted his excommunication and that of three other bishops consecrated by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre as part of a process meant to heal a rift with ultraconservatives.

The flap led the Vatican to demand that the British clergyman recant before he can be admitted as a bishop in the Roman Catholic Church. It also prompted the Society of St. Pius X, founded by Lefebvre, to dismiss Williamson as director of the La Reja seminary in Argentina and to distance itself from his views.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the Vatican had no comment on the Argentine action.

Although Williamson has been in Argentina since 2003, the government's secretary for religious affairs, Guillermo Oliveri, said immigration officials only realized he had made an undeclared change of jobs when the controversy hit the press.

But Oliveri made clear the Holocaust uproar played a key part: "I absolutely agree with the expulsion of a man residing in our country following his statements (denying) one of the greatest human tragedies."

Argentina's Jewish community, estimated at more than 200,000 residents, is the largest in Latin America and was besieged by terrorist attacks in the 1990s, when a bomb flattened the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, killing 29, and an explosives-packed van later exploded outside the Argentine Israeli Mutual Association building, killing 85.

It was not clear when or where Williamson would go. A person who answered the phone at the Society of St. Pius X said Williamson was still in the country, then hung up.

In an interview broadcast Jan. 21, Williamson told Swedish state TV that no Jews were gassed during the Holocaust and only 200,000 to 300,000 were killed, not 6 million.

He also questioned the Holocaust while serving as rector of the St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Winona, Minn., between 1988 and 2003.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, Williamson declared in a 1989 speech that "Jews made up the Holocaust, Protestants get their orders from the devil and the Vatican has sold its soul to liberalism."

"There was not one Jew killed in the gas chambers. It was all lies, lies, lies," Williamson said in the speech at Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes church in Sherbrooke, Quebec, the Jewish group said in a report posted on the Internet.

He was quoted as asserting that "the Jews created the Holocaust so we would prostrate ourselves on our knees before them and approve of their new state of Israel."

The remarks caused an especially strong reaction among Argentina's Jewish community, one of the world's largest.

"We celebrate the government's decision to expel (Williamson) because denial of the Holocaust is unacceptable," Aldo Donzis, president of the Argentine Delegation of Israeli Associations told the AJN news service in Buenos Aires.

Williamson's statements "also affect the coexistence and social peace that our country needs so much," said Julio Schlosser, director of the Argentine Israeli Mutual Association.

The head of Williamson's Swiss-based society, Monsignor Bernard Fellay, said in an interview published Monday that his British colleague should be given time to reconsider his denials that the Holocaust occurred, at least on a massive scale.

"He's working on the issue and he is responsible," Fellay said in an interview with the Swiss daily Le Nouvelliste. "But we have to give him time because he wants to study seriously so that he can give a sincere and true response."

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