A bishop whose excommunication was recently lifted by the Pope has written a letter to a leading cardinal expressing his regret for the “unnecessary distress and problems” he had caused by making “imprudent” remarks allegedly denying the Holocaust.
The bishop quoted the Prophet Jonah who told shipmates “throw me into the sea” to halt a tempest.
Bishop Richard Williamson is one of the four bishops leading the traditionalist group Society of St. Pius X (SSPX). The bishops’ 1988 excommunications were lifted last week by Pope Benedict in an effort to advance Church unity.
Speaking in a November 2008 interview with Swedish public television, Bishop Williamson had denied that six million Jews were killed in the Nazi genocide. He also denied the existence of Nazi gas chambers and claimed only two to three hundred thousand Jews were murdered.
His remarks were broadcast last week, causing international uproar.
In a Friday post on his blog “Dinoscopus” Bishop Williamson published a letter he sent to Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, president of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” tasked with reconciling the SSPX to the Catholic Church.
“Amidst this tremendous media storm stirred up by imprudent remarks of mine on Swedish television, I beg of you to accept, only as is properly respectful, my sincere regrets for having caused to yourself and to the Holy Father so much unnecessary distress and problems,” he wrote. Bishop Williamson, however, did not renounce his position on the Holocaust.
“For me, all that matters is the Truth Incarnate, and the interests of His one true Church, through which alone we can save our souls and give eternal glory, in our little way, to Almighty God,” he wrote.
He then quoted a passage from the Book of Jonah in which Jonah urges his shipmates to take him up and “throw me into the sea.”
“Then the sea will quiet down for you; for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you,” the bishop’s quotation of Jonah continued.
“Please also accept, and convey to the Holy Father, my sincere personal thanks for the document signed last Wednesday and made public on Saturday,” Bishop Williamson’s letter concluded, promising he will “most humbly” offer a Mass for both the cardinal and Pope Benedict.
Father Federico Lombardi, Director of the Holy See Press Office, spoke out against Holocaust denial in a Friday statement to Vatican Radio.
“Those who deny the Holocaust do not know anything either about the mystery of God or the Cross of Christ,” he said, according to SIR News. “The denial is all the more worrying when it comes from the mouth of a priest or of a bishop, namely a Christian minister, whether they are united with the Catholic Church or not.”
Father Lombardi called Pope Benedict’s Wednesday remarks on the Holocaust “a profound reflection” which recalls his speech at the Auschwitz concentration camp.
“Not only had he condemned every form of forgetting and denial of the extermination of six millions of Jews, but he had also stressed that these events are posing dramatic questions to the conscience of all human beings and believers.”
“It is the faith in the very existence of God that is challenged by this appalling manifestation of the power of evil,” Father Lombardi continued, saying the “ultimate answer” of the Christian faith is “the passion of the Son of God.”
These are “most profound and crucial questions,” Fr. Lombardi said. “We cannot and must not avoid them, and even less deny them. Otherwise our faith is deceptive and empty.”
According to Vatican Radio, Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, has sent a letter to the Chief Rabbinate of Israel asking that the Catholic-Jewish scheduled for March in Rome not be postponed because of Bishop Williamson’s statements.