27 October 2009
A German court has fined the ultra-conservative bishop Richard Williamson after finding him guilty of denying the Holocaust. In an interview with Swedish television in late 2008, which was recorded in Germany Williamson had claimed that fewer than 300,000 Jews died in the Nazi death camps. The broadcasting of the interview in January 2009 led to a major embarrassment for the Vatican, who announced only a few days later that it was lift the excommunication of the four bishops of the Society of St. Pius X, which rejects the key reforms of the Second Vatican Council.
The court in the Bavarian city of Regensburg sent a notice to Williamson’s lawyer to inform him that it was fining the British bishop for incitement. The court has given Williamson the option to pay the fine or take the case further, which would mean a full trial. The exact fine will depend on Williamson’s income, but could be a maximum of €12,000 (US$ 18,000). Holocaust denial is punishable under German law.
Meanwhile, Vatican officials have begun a series of talks with SPPX leaders to discuss healing the deep theological divide. The SSPX, founded by the arch-conservative Catholic Bishop Marcel Lefebvre, split from Rome in 1989. Pope John Paul II excommunicated Williamson and three other leaders in 1989 after Lefebvre had ordained them as bishops of his separatist church in 1989. The talks between the Vatican and the SSPX are expected to last months, if not years.
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