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Archbishop calls rehabilitiation of Holocaust denier a 'mistake'

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Archbishop calls rehabilitiation of Holocaust denier a 'mistake'
Steady...steady! Photo: DPA
10:55 CET+01:00
Hamburg's Catholic Archbishop has criticised the Vatican's controversial choice to lift the excommunication of British Bishop Richard Williamson after he publicly denied the Holocaust, daily Hamburger Abendblatt reported on Monday.

“To rehabilitate a Holocaust denier is always a bad decision,” Hamburg Archbischop Werner Thissen told the paper. “It needed to be better researched.”

Meanwhile the city-state's Auxiliary Bishop Hans-Jochen Jaschke called the affair a “sloppy mess,” the paper said.

Last week Pope Benedict XVI created a frenzy of international criticism when he lifted the excommunication of Williamson and three other controversial bishops. German prosecutors have launched a probe against Williamson on suspicion of inciting racial hatred for comments he made on Swedish television by denying the Nazis murdered Jews in gas chambers. He also said that only 200,000 to 300,000 Jews had been killed in the Nazi concentration camps.

The bishops were all members of the "Lefebvrist" fraternity, which rejects the Vatican's teaching on religious freedom and pluralism, including the idea of "Nostra Aetate," which states that Jews are the "older brothers" of Christians.

While Pope Benedict last week expressed "solidarity" with Jews and condemned the denial of the Holocaust, the leader of the world's 1.1 billion Catholics said in separate remarks that he had lifted the four renegade bishops' 1988 excommunication out of "paternal mercy."

The row spurred German Jewish Council leader Charlotte Knobloch to say that she was pulling out of a dialogue with representatives of the Roman Catholic Church last week.

“We hope that we can remove the damage from the world,” Archbischop Thissen told the paper, adding that Williamson's case needs to be re-examined.

But Pope Benedict XVI has fanned the flames of controversy by appointing Austrian priest Gerhard Maria Wagner to the post of Auxillary Bishop for the city of Linz over the weekend. Wagner is known for saying that God had punished the US city of New Orleans with the devastating hurricane “Katrina” in 2005 due to the city's immorality.

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