Roman Catholic Church is "committed" to rejecting anti-Semitism, the pope says
By GABE PRESSMAN - AP
Pope Benedict XVI has spoken out forcefully against Holocaust denial.
He told a group of American Jewish leaders Thursday that the Roman Catholic Church was "profoundly and irrevocably committed" to rejecting anti-Semitism. As for Holocaust denial, the Pope called that "intolerable and altogether unacceptable" and affirmed that the Holocaust was ''a crime against God and humanity."
That this statement was necessary at all is the result of the rantings of one man, Bishop Richard Williamson. "I believe there were no gas chambers," Bishop Williamson told a television interviewer. "I don't think six million Jews were gassed."
Williamson is one of a small group of bishops who were excommunicated after they rejected the reforms the church made in the meeting called Vatican II in the mid-1960s. In an effort at reconciliation, the pope recently rescinded the excommunications. But, now, the Vatican says, Williamson must rescind his statements before he can serve as a clergyman.
What an affront Williamson's remarks are to the millions who died in the gas chambers and to their descendants! Somebody should buy him a plane ticket to Poland. All he has to do is visit the Auschwitz concentration camp near Krakow to view gas chambers and ovens. I visited that place for the first time right after World War II. Then, and now, it contains within its stark barracks buildings mountains of human hair that the Nazis shaved off victims' heads to be shipped back to Germany to be made into mattresses. Also, thousands of shoes, taken from the victims before they were gassed. I held a baby's shoe in my hands at this monument to inhumanity. I saw the ovens in which the bodies were cremated and the ashes. I saw the containers of the deadly gas used to kill the victims. The Polish government has preserved all of this to remind the world of what happened.
Malcolm Hoenlein, a leader of the group of American Jewish leaders who met with the Pope, said: "The Pope's statement is really important,'' but "this is not a one-shot deal. We hope there would be an ongoing addressing of this inside the church and outside the church to show that this is reprehensible."
Deborah Lipstadt, author of "Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory," says: "Williamson's claims are so ludicrous it's almost laughable....Holocaust denial is a form of anti-Semitism. Essentially what it is arguing is the Jews made this up to get the sympathy of the world and maybe to get money.''
But, of course, it is not laughable. It is sad that 65 years after the crimes of Adolph Hitler became known, there are still nay sayers and anti-Semites who deny the truth. By his words, Pope Benedict has shown that he is more than an advocate for the Jewish people. He is an advocate for compassion, for all humanity, for truth.