The dissident Catholic bishop Richard Williamson, who caused an outcry in 2009 after publicly denying the Holocaust in a TV interview whilst being readmitted into the fold of the Catholic Church by the Vatican, has publicly criticized Pope Benedict XVI for absolving Jews of age-old charges of ‘deicide’. In his weekly web blog ‘Eleison Comments’, Williamson – one of four bishops of the ultra-conservative Catholic breakaway group Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) – writes that “the killing of Jesus was truly ‘deicide’” and that “only the Jews (leaders and people) were the prime agents of the deicide because it is obvious from the Gospels that the Gentile most involved, Pontius Pilate, would never have condemned Jesus to death had not the Jewish leaders roused the Jewish people to clamour for his crucifixion.”
Reiterating the century-old belief in Christian circles that even today’s Jews are to be held responsible for the death of Jesus, Williamson writes: “But [19th century Pope] Leo XIII is by no means alone in observing such a continuity amongst Jews down the centuries. Do they themselves not lay claim today to the land of Palestine on the grounds that it is theirs by right from the God of the Old Testament? Has there ever been a race-people-nation on the face of the earth more proudly self-identifying as identical down the ages? Originally raised by God to cradle the Messiah, alas, when he came they refused, collectively to recognize him.”
Earlier this year, Pope Benedict XVI made it clear that the Jews could not be held responsible collectively and eternally for the death of Jesus, whom Christians regard as the Messiah and God’s son.
Williamson, who after his Holocaust denial was asked in 2009 by the Vatican to recant in order to exercise episcopal functions and has been sidelined even by the leadership of the SSPX, ends his column by saying that the Jews “until they convert at the end of the world, as the Church has always taught they will do [...] they seem bound to choose to go on acting, collectively, as enemies of the true Messiah.”
Earlier this month, the English bishop in his blog endorsed conspiracy theories which allege that the September 2001 attacks were orchestrated by the US authorities.
Williamson's long record of extremist outbursts
Since the 1980s, the 71-year-old has regularly attacked Jews and questioned the Holocaust. Citing the discredited Leuchter report, Williamson denied that millions of Jews were murdered in Nazi concentration camps. During his interview with Swedish television, recorded in November 2008, he stated: "I believe that the historical evidence is strongly against, is hugely against six million Jews having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler." He added: "I think that 200,000 to 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps, but none of them in gas chambers.”
According to ‘Wikipedia’, Williamson also holds strong views regarding gender roles and dress. He opposes women wearing trousers or shorts, attending college or university, or having a career, and has urged greater "manliness" in men. His SSPX brotherhood is currently engaged in reconciliation negotiations with the Vatican which center on the recognition of reforms by the Catholic Church’s Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, which the SSPX strongly opposes.
European rabbis call on Vatican to stop talks with Williamson's group
In a first reaction, the president of the Conference of European Rabbis, Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt (pictured right), called on Pope Benedict XVI to halt the Vatican talks with "extremist" Catholic groups such as the SSPX. "Comments like these take us back decades to the dark days before there was a meaningful and mutually respectful dialogue between Jews and Roman Catholics,” the CER president, who is chief rabbi of Moscow, declared, adding: "There must be no rapprochement within the Catholic Church for those of its flock who seek to preach words of hate."
He pointed out that Williamson was not the only one in the brotherhood who accuses Jews of deicide. Last month, another senior SSPX cleric, Abbot Régis de Cacqueray, the superior of the French Province of the Pius Brotherhood, also accused Jews of killing God's son. “Pope Benedict has shown a commitment to fostering a spirit of positive dialogue with Jews both before and during his papacy. But he must clearly show that there is no room in the Catholic Church for purveyors of hate."