Board outraged at Vatican

By Bernard Josephs, February 19, 2009

The reinstatement by the Pope of a Holocaust-denying bishop has been condemned as an “outrage” by the Board of Deputies.

A resolution passed at Sunday’s meeting reflected communal anger at the lifting of the excommunication of the British-born ultra-traditionalist Bishop Richard Williamson. The clergyman contends that the Holocaust was a Jewish invention and that “only” up to 300,000 Jews were murdered by the Nazis.

The motion was proposed by former board president Lionel Kopelowitz, who said that a text of the resolution would be sent to the Vatican.

By a substantial majority, delegates supported the view that while understanding the desire of the Church to heal internal divisions, the board “expresses its outrage at the decision of the Vatican to lift the excommunication of the so-called Bishop Richard Williamson, a known exponent of Holocaust denial”.

At the same time, it welcomed statements by the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, and by the Vatican calling on Bishop Williamson to renounce his views on the Shoah.

Dr Kopelowitz said the Williamson affair was one of a number of unwelcome developments in Vatican policy. Another was the moves to beatify the wartime Pope Pius, criticised for his silence over the Nazi genocide.

He was supported by Labour MP Louise Ellman, who said: “Jews should not be afraid to speak out, particularly at times of rising antisemitism.”

However, there were dissenting voices, among them Alan Solomon of Watford Synagogue, who said the resolution was “completely out of order”.

Ben Bernstein of Finchley Central Synagogue argued that the motion “does not take into account what has happened in the past few days. The Pope has said it is not a question of Williamson apologising. He has to recant what he said in public.”

Last updated: 10:29am, February 19 2009