- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 28, 2009

VATICAN CITY (AP) | An ultraconservative society recently rehabilitated by Pope Benedict XVI silenced one of its bishops Tuesday and distanced itself from his claim that no Jews were gassed during World War II.

Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X, also asked for forgiveness from the pope for the “dramatic consequences” of Bishop Richard Williamson’s comments.

The Vatican press office issued Bishop Fellay’s statement as part of its own efforts to quell an outcry among Jews that Benedict had removed Bishop Williamson’s 20-year-old excommunication, despite his views on the Holocaust.

Bishop Fellay said he has forbidden Bishop Williamson from speaking publicly about any historical or political questions and that his views “don’t reflect in any way the position of the society.” Bishop Fellay himself referred to the “genocide of Jews” by Nazis.

“We ask forgiveness of the supreme pontiff and all the men of good will for the dramatic consequences of this act,” Bishop Fellay said.

Benedict rehabilitated Bishop Williamson, Bishop Fellay and two other members of the society last week as part of his efforts to bring the traditionalist society, which opposes many of the liberalizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council, back into the Vatican’s fold.

Bishops Williamson, Fellay and the two other bishops were excommunicated 20 years ago after they were consecrated by the late ultraconservative Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre without papal consent.

Jewish groups denounced Benedict for embracing Bishop Williamson, who denied during an interview broadcast last week on Swedish state TV that 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust. He said about 200,000 or 300,000 were killed.

The Vatican has stressed that removing the excommunication by no means implied the Vatican shared Bishop Williamson’s views. But amid increasing outcry from Jewish groups, it intensified its defense of Benedict’s record denouncing anti-Semitism and the Holocaust.

On Tuesday, Vatican Radio aired a lengthy program to mark Holocaust remembrance day, recalling Benedict’s 2006 visit to Auschwitz, his 2005 visit to the main synagogue in Cologne, Germany, and other remarks in which he has denounced the “insane, racist ideology” that produced the Holocaust.

Video clips of those remarks were posted on Vatican links on the Holy See’s new YouTube channel, www.youtube.com/vatican. Vatican Radio also ran an interview with an Auschwitz survivor.

On Monday, the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, ran a front-page article saying Bishop Williamson’s views were “unacceptable” and violated church teaching.

The American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants said the Vatican’s attempts to reject Bishop Williamson’s views were necessary but insufficient.

“At a minimum, the Vatican should now demand that Williamson repudiate his heinous views,” said the group’s vice president, Elan Steinberg.

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