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Holocaust-denying bishop refuses to recant without 'evidence'

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Holocaust-denying bishop refuses to recant without 'evidence'
Pope Benedict is in damage-control mode due to Williamson's comments. Photo: DPA
14:28 CET+01:00
A Catholic bishop rehabilitated by the pope who denies the Holocaust has refused to recant his statements until he sees "evidence," he said in an interview published on Saturday. The issue has sparked a storm of outrage towards the Catholic Church and hurt relations with Jewish groups.

In the interview with the newsmagazine Der Spiegel, British Bishop Richard Williamson said he would not take back his statements about the Holocaust – he says the Nazis did not have gas chambers and only 300,000 Jews died in concentration camps – until he had examined the historical evidence.

"And if I find this evidence, I will correct myself. But that will take some time," said the bishop, who is a member of the ultraconservative St. Pius X Society.

Williamson set off the current scandal when he told a Swedish television team his views on the Holocaust. It sparked a firestorm of controversy, souring relations between the Vatican and Jewish groups and leading to a rare public rebuke of the pontiff by a leading politician, German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

In the interview, Williamson said he was amazed at all the attention his words had received in Germany, saying he believed he was being used as an instrument to harm the priesthood and the pope.

"Apparently, German left-wing Catholicism has not forgiven Ratzinger for becoming pope," he said, referring to Pope Benedict XVI, Bavarian-born Joseph Ratzinger.

Williamson continued his criticism of the Second Vatican Council, saying it had "led to the theological chaos that we have today." The traditionalist St. Pius X Society strictly rejects the 1960's Catholic Church reforms.

According to several media reports, the controversy is causing increasing numbers of German Catholics to leave the Church.

"The wave has already begun," said Father Eberhard von Gemmingen, head of the German service of Vatican Radio, in an interview published Saturday in the Passauer Neue Presse. He described the relationship between the pope and German Catholics as "a little damaged."

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