VATICAN CITY: August 15, 2009. (AP) An apology from a bishop who denied the Holocaust wasn't good enough, the Vatican said yesterday, adding that he must repudiate his views if he wants to be a Roman Catholic clergyman.
The statement by Bishop Richard Williamson “doesn't appear to respect the conditions” the Vatican set out for him, said Rev. Federico Lombardi, a spokesman for the Pope.
In an interview broadcast last month on Swedish state television and in previous letters and speeches, Bishop Williamson denied that six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, saying about 200,000 or 300,000 were murdered. He said none was gassed.
Bishop Williamson apologized for his remarks on Thursday upon his arrival in his native Britain after being ordered to leave Argentina. He said he would never have made them if he had known “the full harm and hurt to which they would give rise.”
But he didn't say he had been wrong or that he no longer believed what he had said.
Yesterday, German Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries said Germany could issue a European-wide arrest warrant on hate-crimes charges for Bishop Williamson since the Swedish TV interview was conducted in Germany.
State prosecutors in Regensburg, Germany, have opened a preliminary investigation into whether Bishop Williamson broke German laws against Holocaust denial.
His remarks prompted widespread outrage among Jewish groups and others. They also embarrassed the Vatican since they were broadcast only days before the Holy See announced it was lifting Bishop Williamson's excommunication and that of three other bishops.
The four, members of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X, had been excommunicated after being consecrated as bishops without papal consent in 1988.
Bowing to the criticism, the Vatican on Feb. 4 demanded that Bishop Williamson “absolutely and unequivocally distance himself from his remarks about the Shoah if he is to be admitted to episcopal functions in the church.” Shoah is the Hebrew term for the Holocaust.
The German-born Pope Benedict XVI also met with Jewish leaders at the Vatican and told them it was unacceptable for anyone – particularly a clergyman – to deny or minimize the Holocaust.
In his statement yesterday, Father Lombardi noted that Bishop Williamson's comments were not addressed to the Pope.
Rather, Bishop Williamson issued a statement that was carried by the Zenit Catholic news agency and posted on the society's British website and its news agency.
In it, Bishop Williamson said he was only giving the opinion of a “non-historian” during the Swedish TV interview. He said that opinion was “formed 20 years ago on the basis of evidence then available, and rarely expressed in public since.”
“To all souls that took honest scandal from what I said, before God I apologize.”
Jewish groups were not impressed.
“This is another sham statement that doesn't recant any of his earlier remarks about the Holocaust,” said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League and a Holocaust survivor. “Bishop Williamson must unequivocally acknowledge the full extent of the Holocaust and recognize the fact of the existence of the gas chambers.”
The American Jewish Committee praised the Vatican for demanding more.
“Until he explicitly says otherwise, he remains in the camp of the Holocaust deniers,” said American Jewish Congress executive director David Harris. “He is not fooling anyone, least of all the Vatican.”