Bishop Richard Williamson, one of four Society of St. Pius X bishops whose excommunications were lifted by Pope Benedict XVI last Saturday, apologized in a letter to the Vatican today for the "distress" caused by his "imprudent remarks" denying that the Holocaust ever happened. Bishop Williamson, who has said that he does not believe 6 million Jews were deliberately gassed by Adolf Hitler, stirred up controversy this week, among the international Jewish community in particular, adding fuel to an already smoldering fire over the reversal of the excommunications by Pope John Paul II of the four illicitly-ordained bishops in 1988.
The bishops were consecrated in an unsanctioned ceremony by Archbishop Marcel Lefebrve, founder of the Society St Pius X, whose ultra-traditionalist members take issue with the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.
Pope Benedict XVI addressed the Holocaust controversy during his Wednesday audience this week, saying:
"In these days in which we remember the Shoah, my memory turns to the images taken in during my repeated visits to Auschwitz, one of the concentration camps in which was carried out the brutal massacre of millions of Jews, innocent victims of a blind racial and religious hate. As I renew with affection the expression of my total and indisputable solidarity with our brother recipients of the First Covenant, I hope that the memory of the Shoah moves humanity to reflect on the unpredictable power of evil when it conquers the human heart.
May the Shoah be for everyone a warning against forgetting, against negating or reductionism, because violence committed against even one human being is violence against all. No man is an island, a well-known poet has written. May the Shoah teach especially, as much the old generations as the new ones, that only the tiring path of listening and dialogue, of love and pardon, leads peoples, cultures and religions of the world to the desired encounter of fraternity and peace in the world. May violence never again humiliate the dignity of man!"