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Bishops criticise Vatican in Williamson affair

The pope's recent moves towards reconciliation with a breakaway faction of the church were badly handled, Swiss bishops said on Thursday.

Pope Benedict XVI's new policy towards the dissident Society of Saint Pius X was discussed at the two-day assembly of the Swiss Bishops Conference in Chur. The meeting was also attended by the Vatican's top diplomat, or nuncio, in Switzerland, Archbishop Francesco Canalini.

"The lifting of the excommunication of the four bishops [who were ordained by the seminary head without Vatican permission] was evidently not prepared sufficiently carefully, and there were serious shortcomings in the way the Roman Curia [the Vatican administration] informed the bishops, the faithful and the public," according to a statement issued at the end of the assembly.

The pope lifted the excommunication at the end of January. However, it was subsequently revealed that one of the bishops, Richard Williamson, had made statements denying the full extent of the Nazi holocaust. The Vatican responded that it had not known Williamson's views beforehand.

At the time, the Swiss bishops said the Pope's decision "extended a hand towards [internal] reconciliation".

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