A second German Catholic bishop on Saturday raised unusual criticism of German Pope Benedict XVI for rehabilitating Holocaust denier Bishop Williamson, adding his objections to the pope’s leading the church in an ultraconservative direction.
Bishop Gebhard Fuerst of Rottenburg-Stuttgart criticized as “totally unacceptable” remarks by Bishop Richard Williamson in recent weeks in Germany and Sweden that there was no historical evidence for the Holocaust.
In a public declaration, Fuerst charged that Benedict’s rehabilitation of Williamson had led to “external and internal alienation from the church on the part of many believers, to a betrayal of trust especially among Jewish sisters and brothers in their relationship to the church, and to a considerable disturbance in the Christian-Jewish dialogue.”
To end a schism with ultraconservatives, Rome last week lifted its excommunication of four men who ran the Society of Saint Pius X outside the church for more than 20 years. British-born Williamson, who runs a seminary in Argentina, was one of them.
In related developments on Saturday, Israel’s minister for religious affairs threatened to suspend relationships with the Vatican and the pope named an ultraconservative Austrian priest as bishop in Linz.
Last week, Gerhard Ludwig Mueller, the Catholic bishop of the German city of Regensburg, which is also the pope’s home city, declared Williamson persona-non-grata in his district.
Public prosecutors have opened an inquiry against Williamson over his remarks. Holocaust denial is a crime in Germany.
Bishop Fuerst called the pardoning of Williamson “a heavy burden for me as bishop and as spiritual pastor.”