Saturday, February 28, 2009

Vatican Wants More From Bishop Williamson

Says Apology Is Insufficient
VATICAN CITY, FEB. 27, 2009 (Zenit.org).- A Vatican spokesman says an apology from formerly excommunicated Society of St. Pius X Bishop Richard Williamson is not enough.The Lefebvrite prelate released a statement Thursday regarding his declarations aired in January about the Holocaust. The prelate denied the gassing of 6 million Jews in an interview that aired on Swedish television at about the same time as he and three other Lefebvrite bishops had their 20-year excommunication lifted. The lifting of the excommunication is unrelated to the bishop's interview and occurred in the context of Benedict XVI's efforts to heal the schism with the Society of St. Pius X.

Still, the coincidental concurrence of the interview and the lifting of the canonical penalty was viewed as an affront to Jewish-Catholic relations in some circles. It led to Vatican officials -- including Benedict XVI -- making repeated clarifications about the Church's respect for the Jews and its commitment to dialogue with Christians' "elder brothers."

In his statement Thursday, Bishop Williamson said that observing the consequences of his interview, "I can truthfully say that I regret having made such remarks, and that if I had known beforehand the full harm and hurt to which they would give rise, especially to the Church, but also to survivors and relatives of victims of injustice under the Third Reich, I would not have made them. [] To all souls that took honest scandal from what I said, before God I apologize."

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, said in a verbal statement today that the apology is lacking. He told journalists that the statement "does not seem to respect the conditions established in the Feb. 4 note from the [Vatican] Secretariat of State, which stated that [Bishop Williamson] must distance himself in an absolute, unequivocal and public way from his positions regarding the Shoah."

The spokesman also noted that the prelate's declaration was not a letter directed to the Holy Father or to the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, which oversees the Church's efforts to heal the schism with the Society of St. Pius X.

Keeping things clear
Bishop Williamson's personal views of the Holocaust are unrelated to the larger issue of the Society of St. Pius X and that group's lack of full communion with the Church.
Bishop Williamson is in the same canonical position as the other three prelates of the society, including its superior-general Bishop Bernard Fellay.

As ZENIT reported Thursday, citing canon lawyer Peter Vere, the prelates' ordination 20 years ago was illicit, but nonetheless valid. In other words, it is unlawful because it was against the wishes of the Pope, but effective. This applies equally to Bishop Williamson and to the other three.

The lawyer explained, "Bishop Williamson is not a Catholic bishop in that his episcopal consecration was carried out without papal mandate. [] However, the episcopal consecration was valid -- that is, effective. So he is in fact a bishop with episcopal powers, meaning he can validly -- but unlawfully -- ordain, confirm, celebrate Mass, and validly -- but unlawfully -- perform any other episcopal function."

The lifting of the excommunication, Vere affirmed, does not make the ordination of the four prelates lawful.

The Vatican Secretariat of State note from Feb. 4 clarified the position of the society in relation to the lifting of the excommunication: "The remission of the excommunication has freed the four bishops from a very serious canonical penalty, but it has not changed the juridical status of the Society of St. Pius X, which presently does not enjoy any canonical recognition by the Catholic Church. The four bishops, even though they have been released from excommunication, have no canonical function in the Church and do not licitly exercise any ministry within it.

"A full recognition of the Second Vatican Council and the magisterium of Popes John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II and Benedict XVI himself is an indispensable condition for any future recognition of the Society of St. Pius X."

And those conditions do not promise to soon be met. According to the Italian ANSA news agency today, quoting the Swiss daily Le Courier from Thursday, Bishop Fellay says Vatican II has brought "only damages" to the Church.

"The aftermath of the Council has been to empty seminaries, nunneries and churches," he said.
Bishop Williamson, with his views on the Holocaust, faces a challenge above those of his order at large. In a separate section, the Secretariat of State note went on to speak of Bishop Williamson's positions on the Holocaust, saying they are "absolutely unacceptable and firmly rejected by the Holy Father."

In addition to the requirements extended to all the prelates of the Society of St. Pius X, the Vatican added that for Bishop Williamson "to be admitted to function as a bishop within the Church, [he] must also distance himself in an absolutely unequivocal and public way from his positions regarding the Shoah, which were unknown to the Holy Father at the time of the remission of the excommunication."

Missing the mark
The Vatican spokesman was not the only one who found Bishop Williamson's apology Thursday lacking. Jewish groups from various countries have also expressed their dissatisfaction. Dieter Graumann, vice-president of the Central Council for Jews in Germany, told the Handelsblatt newspaper that the prelate's statement "leads one to the conclusion that he still believes in the Holocaust-denial."

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Claiming Bragging Rights

I could not resist posting this news article. I don't know Heidi Sierras personally but she lives just some 10 miles up the road from me. What a delight to know that someone so near will be so beautifully honored.

California woman selected for Easter baptism by Pope Benedict XVI in Rome
By Sue NowickiMcClatchy-Tribune Information Services

MODESTO, Calif. — Heidi Sierras won't be hiding colored eggs on Easter for her four children this year. Instead, the 29-year-old Ceres, Calif., woman will be in Rome to be baptized by Pope Benedict XVI.

"It's hard to put into words. It's almost like I'm going to be baptized by Jesus himself," she said. "It's an incredible feeling."

Each year, the pope chooses seven people representing the world's continents for the baptism service that takes place in St. Peter's Basilica on the Saturday evening before Easter Sunday.
Sierras, who worships at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Modesto, Calif., will represent North America. About 40 people, including the Rev. Joseph Illo and Stacy Phillips, Sierras' instructor in the Catholic faith, will travel to Rome to share in her baptism and to receive Holy Communion from the pope.

"It will be fabulous," said Illo. "I've lived in Rome for two years as a seminarian, so I've been at a lot of papal Masses and served at papal Masses, but this is quite different. This is like an affirmation of my work as a priest to have one of the people that I've helped come to her faith being baptized by the one we believe is the vicar of Christ on Earth."

In the Catholic tradition, an adult who wants to become a Catholic goes through a class called Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. It usually lasts about a year but can run for two years, depending on the parish and individual. At the end of the class, during the Easter vigil on the evening before Easter, RCIA "graduates" receive three sacraments — baptism, first communion and confirmation.

The rules are a little different for those raised Catholic but who missed confirmation or baptism, as well as those who were baptized in a Protestant church.

Sierras said she didn't go to church as a child. Her husband, Dan, grew up Catholic but after marriage didn't attend services regularly.

"We'd at least go on Christmas and Easter with the family," Sierras said.

About three years ago, he began going more often and she went with him. When she began asking questions about the faith, he encouraged her to sign up for RCIA to learn the answers. She did and was scheduled to be baptized at St. Joseph's last Easter.

But a Filipino woman in the church, who sometimes spends a month in Rome, knew a Filipino nun there, who knew an Italian nun, who knows the pope. Through that connection, the word filtered back to St. Joseph's that a North American spot was open for baptism by the pope in 2009. The participant would have to stay in RCIA for an additional year and be sure that he or she wanted to become Catholic.

Phillips approached Sierras to find out if she was interested. She was. Letters went to and from Rome. After an initial acceptance last spring, more letters and documents were exchanged. The choice was confirmed.

Sierras watched the Easter vigil service on the Eternal Word Television Network last year.
"It's incredible," she said. "I feel like, 'Why me?' I felt undeserving. But how could I say no to that? It's an incredible opportunity."

The Sierrases have four children — Ethan, 11; Kayla, 8; Logan, 3; and Eleanor, 1 month. The couple will take the older two children with them and leave the younger two with relatives.
"My husband is beside himself (with anticipation)," Sierras said. "My daughter was supposed to receive her first communion with the rest of her class in May. But they've arranged for her to receive her first communion this weekend so she can receive communion from the pope when we go."

Dan Sierras, who attended a Catholic church in Tracy, Calif., as a youngster and teenager, said he is thrilled about the honor.

"To say I'm excited would be an understatement," he said. "It's unbelievable that she's going to be baptized by the pope, considering there are only seven people selected in the world. I'm extremely happy because it's a true blessing, what she's going to experience.

"It is exciting to think that I'll (also) be receiving communion from the pope, but to be honest, I'm really more excited for Heidi and the sacraments that she'll be receiving."

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Excommunication and Nancy Pelosi

The whole world knows by now of Nancy Pelosi's private visit with Holy Father. And as usual, the subject of excommunication came up in the media and the cyberworld at large. Too many people have the wrong idea about WHO does the excommunicating; whose responsibitiy and authority it is to excommunicate.

A recent email from a friend provided the following points below to counter the opinion-making that is going around.


1) It is not the Pope's job to excommunicate Pelosi; it is the responsibility of HER local bishop. If he has not done this then I sincerely hope that he will soon. In regards, to other bishops it is their responsibility to catechise the people in their dioceses concerning this issue and to not admit her to communion if she happens to travel there.

2) The Vatican issued a press release saying what the Pope told Pelosi. It is quite clear that the Pope made sure to let her know in no uncertain terms that her interpretation of Church teaching concerning abortion and other life issues is absolutely wrong.

3) When Pelosi spoke out in August concerning the Church's teaching on abortion she was publicly corrected by many of the US bishops.

There is no cause for confusion here in regards to the statements given by the Pope and bishops here in the USA. Those Catholics who are confused about this issue are confused because they are not well catechised and do not have a good and right understanding of the Church and her teachings. And that is a separate issue; one which I work very hard to correct.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Rediscover Confession, Urges Pope

Calls It Sacrament of Forgiveness

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 15, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Sin is what puts distance between the believer and God, and it's the sacrament of confession that brings the two back together, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope said this today in a Gospel reflection on Mark's account of the healed leper, which he delivered before praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.In the Gospel account, recalls the Pontiff, the leper "gets on his knees and says: 'If you wish, you can make me clean!'

Jesus, moved, stretches out his hand, touches him and says: 'I do wish it. Be made clean!'"

"According to the ancient Jewish law," the Holy Father explained, "leprosy was not only considered a sickness but the gravest form of 'impurity."

He continued: "Leprosy thus constituted a kind of religious and civil death, and its healing was a kind of resurrection. We might see in leprosy a symbol of sin, which is the true impurity of heart, distancing us from God."

It is not, in effect, physical malady that distances us from him, as the ancient norms supposed, but sin, the spiritual and moral evil."

Benedict XVI reflected: "The sins we commit distance us from God, and, if they are not humbly confessed, trusting in the divine mercy, they will finally bring about the death of the soul. This miracle thus has powerful symbolic value."

In the Sacrament of Penance Christ crucified and risen, through his ministers, purifies us with his infinite mercy, restores us to communion with the heavenly Father and our brothers, and makes a gift of his love, joy and peace to us."

"Dear brothers and sisters," he concluded, "let us invoke the Virgin Mary, whom God preserved from every stain of sin, that she help us to avoid sin and to have frequent recourse to the sacrament of confession, the sacrament of forgiveness, whose value and importance for our Christian life needs to be rediscovered today."

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Pope Takes on Holocaust Deniers

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.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Holocaust-Denying Lefebvrite Relieved of Duties

Here's the latest news concerning Bishop Williamson. I believe this was a good action on the part of the SSPX and I hope that it is a wake-up call for him.

ZENIT, The world seen from RomeNews Agency
==================================================

Will No Longer Direct Society Seminary in Argentina
BUENOS AIRES, FEB. 9, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The Society of St. Pius X bishop who denies that 6 million Jews were gassed in Nazi concentration camps has been removed of his duties as rector of the group's Argentinean seminary.

The 68-year-old British Bishop Richard Williamson is no longer the director of the seminary in La Reja, according to the Argentinean daily La Nacion. The newspaper reported receiving the news via a Sunday e-mail from the Society of St. Pius X South America director, Father Christian Bouchacourt.

Father Bouchacourt said the bishop had been relieved of his post in recent days. And the South American director echoed the declarations made by the society's superior-general, Bishop Bernard Fellay, who said the prelate's positions "do not reflect in any way the position of our society." Bishop Fellay also stated that "a Catholic bishop cannot speak with ecclesial authority if it is not a question of faith and morals."

Intra-organizational
Regardless of his past or present position in the Society of St. Pius X, Bishop Williamson and the other three bishops who had their excommunication lifted do not licitly exercise any ministry in the Catholic Church.

As the Vatican Secretariat of State clarified in a note last Wednesday: "The lifting of the excommunication has freed the four bishops from a most grave canonical penalty, but it has not changed in any way the juridical situation of the Fraternity of St. Pius X, which for the moment does not enjoy any canonical recognition in the Catholic Church.

"Neither do the four bishops, though liberated from the excommunication, have a canonical function in the Church and they do not licitly exercise a ministry in it."

Monday, February 09, 2009

Jewish group optimistic about Vatican-Jewish ties
The Associated Press
Posted: Monday, Feb. 09, 2009

VATICAN CITY Representatives of the World Jewish Congress say they are optimistic about Vatican-Jewish ties after meeting with top Vatican officials following a dispute over a Holocaust-denying bishop.

Jewish groups had expressed outrage last month after Pope Benedict XVI lifted the excommunication of Bishop Richard Williamson, who had claimed that no Jews were gassed during the Holocaust.

But last week, they applauded after the Vatican demanded that Williamson recant before being admitted as a bishop into the church.

On Monday, the World Jewish Congress' deputy secretary-general, Maram Stern, and Richard Prasquier, president of the French Jewish umbrella group CRIF, met with Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Vatican official responsible for relations with Jews.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Pope attempts to reach out to traditional Catholics

Pope Benedict's decision to bring back to the fold four bishops from a schismatic religious order was an attempt to reach out to a growing element of the Church that longs for a more traditional practice of Catholicism, especially in the heart of worship -- the mass, writes Charles Lewis.

In the storm following the Pope's decision to lift the excommunication of four bishops-- triggered by the revelation that Richard Williamson, one of the bishops from the Priestly Society of St. Pius X, was a Holocaust denier and 9/11 conspiracy theorist -- a profound message about the future of Catholicism was obscured. "This does have broader significance for Benedict's vision of the 21st century Catholicism as a ‘creative minority'," said John Allen, Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter and author of numerous books on the papacy.

"[He wants] a distinct presence on the landscape that can infuse badly needed values into the broader cultural bloodstream. To do that, Benedict believes that Catholics must be clear about their own identity, so fostering a strong sense of Catholic identity is job number one of his pontificate.

"His authorization for wider celebration of the Latin Mass is one expression of this effort, because that rite has been such a classic carrier of traditional Catholic identity over the centuries."

For those who identify with the traditional movement in the Church, Vatican II made a huge error in making the Latin Mass seem out of touch and even reactionary. Though the Latin rite was never outright banned, it eventually became necessary to get special permission for its use.
In 2007, Pope Benedict lifted any restrictions on the Latin Mass and since then the return of the old rite has been growing. It is estimated that about seven million Catholics worldwide now use the Latin rite, and most of those are not schismatics.

To those outside the Church, the language and style of worship might appear a minor matter, an issue of style over substance. For Catholics, though, the mass is the epitome of worship and the most important of sacraments. And anything that might diminish the holiness of the mass, diminishes the connection to God and strikes at the heart of the Church.

"Latin was the language of the liturgy for well over 1,500 years," said Fr. Howard Venette, a member of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter in Toronto, a group in full communion with Rome. "Latin raises the liturgy to something above street level. And it adds to historicity and the nature of the mass as an expression of the Church's prayer, not just the individual in the pew. And it unites us to the mystery."

He said even the form of the service has been misunderstood. The Latin rite is usually described as the priest conducting the service with his back to the congregation.

"It's not my back to the people, it's everyone facing God together."

Christopher Bellitto, a professor of Church history at Keane University in Union, N.J., said to understand Pope Benedict's mission it has to be contrasted to the papacy of John Paul II.
"The Italians have an expression: fat pope; skinny pope," he said.

John Paul II ran a big, dramatic papacy that evangelized to the world and helped bring about the fall of communism in Eastern Europe; Pope Benedict's papacy has a narrower focus but is still having a huge impact.

"He's clearly made a decision that he would rather concentrate on shoring up Catholic identity rather than worrying about offending dialogue partners outside of Catholicism. I don't think he meant to show disrespect to Muslims, Protestants or Jews [during his papacy]. But look at it from his perspective: He is head of the Catholic church. So if he decides he's going to spend his time on Catholicism within, that's his right."

Others believe that part of Pope Benedict's strategy in reaching out to the Priestly Society of St. Pius X was to make sure that those who are attracted to elements of the traditionalist movement, do not bring their faith to schismatics.

David Gibson, author of The Rule of Benedict, said the Pope was not only attempting to draw schismatics back but was also saying to traditionalists they could be in communion with the Catholic Church and still have a Latin Mass.

"It was a way to draw people away from the schismatic groups. Why would you go to this schismatic group if you could have the main thing you want in the Catholic Church?"

Mr. Gibson believes that Pope Benedict is trying to reorient the Church in the wake of Vatican II toward a greater reverence for older tradition. But that does not mean that the Pope Benedict in any way rejects the massive reforms of the Second Vatican Council. In fact, the four bishops whose excommunication was lifted will still not be able to exercise their offices until they accept Vatican II.

"Pope Benedict is a man of the church, he respects real tradition. For him they cannot dismiss Vatican II. You can interpret in different ways. But you can't outright reject it."


National Post

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Law and Spirit

I've been discussing the latest Washington efforts to get the rampant abuse of power by corporation in check with my son. The major question we have been discussing is - Are the caps on executive income useful? Yes, but only to the degree of attacking symptoms, not problems

I think a recent email from him to me speaks succinctly to the depth and complexity of the problem AND to the fact that solutions are not being considered from the perspective of the spiritual malaise that afflicts large portions of our governing society. His email follows here and references Holy Father as well.
******************************************************


I, of course, think it is wrong for executives to abuse their position and power the way that they do, but I'm not convinced it is for the state to put a cap on anyone's pay, regardless of how just or unjust the pay is. It goes against the very idea of freedom. What would have been better would be to put laws in place that require company execs to ensure the security of their employs, not just themselves.

I think that the bailouts were wrong. Hence, what I meant earlier by trying to right a wrong with a wrong.

I'll give an example of the symptoms vs. problems issue: An international lawyer had a case against Brazil because Brazil failed to protect a woman from spousal abuse when she had clearly sought that help. Now Brazil, because of the case, will pay more attention and more strictly enforce its domestic violence laws. Let's say that Brazil does such a good job of this that their domestic violence crime rate is drastically reduced. Sure this is a good thing, but it doesn't mean that people's hearts have been changed. It simply means that people are afraid to break the law because of the consequences. This is not a society of love, but one of fear. Incidentally, this lawyer was saying this in relation to the importance of Benedict's Deus Caritas Est.

The point is this: because our government is unwillingly to look at the problems of our country from any other perspective other than secular they are impotent to truly do anything. This is why I generally do not get excited about politics simply because a certain candidate happens to be "pro-life". The vast majority of politicians see things above all else from a political point of view. At the root of our problems they can do absolutely nothing because of this. What I have said applies to every single issue that comes up in politics.

So there it is. Peace and God bless you.

In Christ through Mary,
Quanah

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Pope Didn't Know Shoah Views of Lefebvrite Bishop

Vatican Clarifies Position on Lifted Bans and Holocaust
VATICAN CITY, FEB. 4, 2009 (Zenit.org).-

Benedict XVI did not know Bishop Richard Williamson's position as a denier of the Holocaust when he lifted the prelate's excommunication in order to facilitate dialogue with the Lefebvrites, affirmed the Vatican.
A statement issued today by the Vatican Secretariat of State addressed the recent decree by which "the excommunication of four prelates of the Fraternity of St. Pius X were lifted." It also looked at the "reductionist declarations on the Shoah from Bishop Williamson of that same fraternity."

The Vatican statement clarified that the decree lifting the excommunication came in response to repeated petitions from the superior-general of the Fraternity of St. Pius X, and the Holy Father's desire to "remove an impediment that adversely affected the opening of a door to dialogue."

It added: "Now [the Pope] expects that the same willingness be expressed by the four bishops, in total adhesion to the doctrine and discipline of the Church."

The statement clarified: "The lifting of the excommunication has freed the four bishops from a most grave canonical penalty, but it has not changed in any way the juridical situation of the Fraternity of St. Pius X, which for the moment does not enjoy any canonical recognition in the Catholic Church."

Neither do the four bishops, though liberated from the excommunication, have a canonical function in the Church and they do not licitly exercise a ministry in it."

The statement pointed out some requirements for the official recognition of the Fraternity of St. Pius X, and underlined the commitment of the Holy See in resolving the problems that caused a fracture.

The statement went on to reiterate the Pope's firm rejection of Bishop Williamson's opinion on the Shoah, stating that the prelate would have to "distance himself in an absolutely unmistakable and public way from his position" in order to be reinstated to episcopal service. It further recorded that the prelate's viewpoint on the Shoah "was unknown to the Holy Father in the moment of the lifting of the excommunication."

The Pontiff's own words from last week were repeated, when the Holy Father "reaffirmed his full and indisputable solidarity with our brother recipients of the First Covenant, and affirmed that the memory of that terrible genocide should induce 'humanity to reflect on the unpredictable power of evil when it conquers the human heart.'"

Please note links at the end of this post

Vatican responds in row over Holocaust
Published Date: 04 February 2009
By Ethan McNern

POPE Benedict has hit back in unusually strong terms at allegations that he holds any sympathy with Holocaust deniers.

Statements issued yesterday were prompted by comments from the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, who was reacting to the outcry over the Pope's rehabilitation of four traditional Catholic bishops, including one who denies the extent of the Holocaust.

. . .She said: "It is a fundamental question if, through a decision by the Vatican, the impression arises that the Holocaust can be denied."This is about the Pope and the Vatican making very clear that there can be no (Holocaust] denial and that there must be positive relations with Judaism," said Merkel.


Ms. Merkel said that the Vatican had not yet given such clarifications.The German-born Pope has caused a furore with his lifting of the excommunications, including that of Richard Williamson, a Briton who denies there were gas chambers and says no more than 300,000 Jews died in concentration camps. An estimated six million European Jews were murdered by the Nazis.


The Vatican quickly hit back, however, saying the Pope's position on the Holocaust and Holocaust denial "could not be any clearer".


In a statement, the Vatican's spokesman, Federico Lombardi, said the Pope's thoughts on the Holocaust had been expressed "very clearly" in his speech at the Cologne synagogue in August 2005, and at Auschwitz in 2006 and last week, where his words were "unequivocal".

Mr Lombardi said: "The condemnation of declarations which deny the Holocaust could not have been any clearer."

Monday, February 02, 2009