A British bishop whose denial of the Holocaust embroiled the pope in controversy left Argentina on Tuesday after the government ordered him out, calling his statements “an insult” to humanity.
A local TV station showed Richard Williamson angrily pushing the reporter as he hurried to catch his flight to London.
Argentina’s government on Thursday ordered the traditionalist Catholic bishop to leave the country or face expulsion for failing to declare a job change as required by immigration law. The order also cited his denials of the Holocaust.
Pope Benedict XVI sought last month to help heal a rift with ultra-traditionalists by lifting a 20-year-old excommunication decree imposed on Williamson and three other bishops who had been consecrated without Vatican approval.
The pope’s action immediately caused an uproar among Jewish groups. Swedish state TV last month broadcast a November interview in which the British bishop asserted that no Jews were gassed during the Holocaust and only 200,000 to 300,000 were killed, not 6 million.
The Anti-Defamation League also found records of embarrassing speeches and letters by Williamson when he was based earlier at a seminary in Winona, Minnesota.
He was quoted in one 1989 speech as saying that “Jews made up the Holocaust, Protestants get their orders from the devil and the Vatican has sold its soul to liberalism.”
He was quoted as asserting that “the Jews created the Holocaust so we would prostrate ourselves on our knees before them and approve of their new state of Israel.”
The pope has since insisted that Williamson recant before he can be recognized as a Roman Catholic bishop. Williamson apologized to the pope for stirring controversy, but has not disavowed his comments.
Williamson’s conservative Society of Saint Pius X, however, did distance itself from Williamson’s views, and removed him as head of its seminary near Buenos Aires.
Argentina, which has Latin America’s largest Jewish population, announced that Williamson departed on a flight to London on Tuesday. Images broadcast on Buenos Aires’ Todo Noticias TV showed Williamson — wearing a baseball cap, a black fleece jacket and dark sunglasses — hurrying through the airport as TV reporter Norberto Dupesso moved alongside to ask a question.
Williamson, his lips tightly pursed in a grimace, raised his hand centimeters from the reporter’s face, then pushed past, shoving him into a pole with his shoulder.
Two men accompanying the bishop then grabbed Dupesso by his shoulders and held him back while Williamson hurried away.