Germany's Chancellor Merkel Questions Pope Over Holocaust Deniers
Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel said the Vatican had not done enough to explain why it had lifted the excommunication of Holocaust denier Bishop Richard Williamson and three other like-minded members of the Pius X brotherhood. It is a story that continues to pop up, as the Vatican first excommunicated them over 20 years ago under Pope John Paul II.
"In my opinion these clarifications are not yet sufficient," Mrs Merkel said.
A row erupted last month after Pope Benedict XVI lifted the excommunication of Bishop Richard Williamson, who had said no Nazi gas chambers existed.
Pope Benedict has distanced himself from those beliefs and expressed "full and indisputable solidarity" with Jews.
"This should not be allowed to pass without consequences," Mrs Merkel said at a news conference in Berlin.
"This is not just a matter, in my opinion, for the Christian, Catholic and Jewish communities in Germany but the Pope and the Vatican should clarify unambiguously that there can be no denial," she said.
Pope Benedict XVI has been under fire ever since the controversial decision to welcome Bishop Williamson and the other excommunicated priests back to the church was made in late January 2009. Bishop Williamson has not issued an apology to the Jewish community nor has he publicly changed his stand on the historical truth of the Nazi Holocaust.
To add to the Vatican's growing image crisis, a priest in a small Italian village came out with shocking statements that some say speaks to the quiet acceptance of antisemitism in the Catholic Church. Father Floriano Abrahamowicz stirred up further controversy for saying that the gas chambers existed to 'disinfect' and not kill the Nazi concentration camp prisoners.
The outrageous comments made by Williamson 20 years ago and Abrahmowicz last week have prompted the Vatican to issue a statement about Pope Benedict XVI's stand on the Holocaust. Pope Benedict XVI is German born and sometimes referred to a the Panzerkardinal or Panzer Pope, a moniker the Vatican hopes to banish once and for all.
"The pope's thinking on the subject of the Holocaust has been expressed very clearly," said Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi.
He cited the German-born pope's visit to a synagogue during his first visit to Germany as pope in 2005, a visit to Auschwitz in 2006 and his remarks during last week's general audience.
"I hope that the memory of the Shoah leads humanity to reflect on the unpredictable power of evil when it conquers the heart of men," Lombardi quoted the pope as saying. "May the Shoah be a warning for all against oblivion, against denial or reductionism."
Lombardi said that during the audience "the pope himself clearly explained the purpose of lifting the excommunication, which has nothing to do with any legitimization of positions denying the Holocaust, which were clearly condemned" by Benedict.