The bishop whose recent rehabilitation by Pope Benedict XVI provoked global outrage has apologized for remarks in which he denied the Holocaust, a Catholic news agency reported on Thursday.
Bishop Richard Williamson was one of four traditionalist bishops whose excommunications Benedict revoked last month. In an interview broadcast on Swedish TV before that, Williamson denied the existence of the Nazi gas chambers and the scope of the Holocaust.
In a statement published by the Zenit news agency on Thursday, Williamson said: “I can truthfully say that I regret having made such remarks, and that if I had known beforehand the full harm and hurt to which they would give rise, especially to the church, but also to survivors and relatives of victims of injustice under the Third Reich, I would not have made them.”
“To all souls that took honest scandal from what I said, before God I apologize,” he said.
His statement did not address the content of his televised remarks, in which he said that no more than 300,000 people died in the Holocaust and none in gas chambers. In recent weeks, he has said he needed more time to study documentation about the Holocaust.
In his statement on Thursday, he said that the views he expressed on Swedish television were those of “a non-historian,” and that his perspective was formed “20 years ago on the basis of evidence then available, and rarely expressed in public since.”
Some outside observers said they were not convinced by Williamson’s statement.
“He does everything except confront the central issue of this whole crisis,” said Rabbi Marvin Hier, the founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. “Has he changed his mind about the Holocaust, and does he believe that the Holocaust is a historic fact?”