Holocaust denying Bishop banned from Catholic group
Bishop Richard Williamson
Holocaust denier Bishop Richard Williamson has been expelled from the niche Catholic group of which he was a leading member.
The Society of St Pius X (SSPX) said in a statement that it took the step because Bishop Williamson had "distanced himself from the management and the government of the SSPX for several years" and for "refusing to show due respect and obedience to his lawful superiors".
The SSPX is a breakaway group from the Catholic Church which opposes the Church's modernisation and liberalisation. Recently Pope Benedict attempted to bring the SSPX back into the main Catholic Church.
Negotiations between the two broke down over the SSPX's refusal to accept the legitimacy of the Second Vatican Council which brought in reforms and modernised the Church, especially regarding its recognition of other Christian denominations and Judaism as legitimate faiths.
Bishop Williamson was in the centre of a media storm in 2009 when he denied the existence of the gas chambers in the Holocaust in a television interview, just before the excommunication bans on him and the three other bishops of the SSPX were lifted. When ordered by the Vatican to recant his denial, Williamson apologised for any misunderstanding but came significantly short of retracting his statements.
Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, welcomed Bishop Williamson's expulsion, but said it was "too little, too late."
Mr Lauder added: "This is a decision the SSPX leadership should have taken years ago, when the cleric openly denied the existence of gas chambers. The reasons now given for Williamson's dismissal do not mention the damage this man has caused by spreading invective against Jews and others, be it from the pulpit, via his weekly newsletter and in his statements to the media."