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Bishops criticise Holocaust denier

The Roman Catholic Swiss Bishops Conference has condemned remarks denying the extent of the Holocaust by a traditionalist bishop pardoned by Pope Benedict XVI.

Richard Williamson was one of four bishops from the Valais-based Society of St Pius X welcomed back into the Roman Catholic Church after being excommunicated in 1988 for being ordained without Vatican permission.

But he has been strongly criticised by the Swiss Bishops Conference for telling Swedish television the Nazi gas chambers did not exist and saying he believed 300,000 Jews died in Nazi concentration camps, instead of six million as is widely accepted.

The organisation, which had initially welcomed the bishop’s pardoning on Saturday, said the comments were “absurd ramblings”.

In a statement issued on Tuesday the organisation said: “We, the Swiss Bishops, offer our condemnation and ask the members of Jewish communities in Switzerland to forgive the irritations that have arisen in recent days.”

It added that the Catholic Church “could not accept this Holocaust denial under any circumstance” and added that “those who know Benedict XVI and his positive attitude to Judaism know that he will not tolerate the indefensible nonsense” that Williamson had said.

On Wednesday, the pope reaffirmed his “full and unquestionable solidarity with the Jews”.

The four pardoned bishops had been ordained in 1988 by the breakaway French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, of the Society of St Pius X. The ultra-conservative group was founded in 1970 by Lefebvre who rejected the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

The Vatican decree in pardoning the bishops spoke of overcoming the “scandal of divisiveness” and seeking reconciliation with Lefebvre’s conservative order, which rejects modernisations of Roman Catholic worship and doctrine.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR