Pope sacks officials over Holocaust-denier

By Jessica Elgot, July 10, 2009
Follow Jessica on Twitter

Pope Benedict XVI has sacked two Vatican officials and abolished their department after they persuaded him to reverse the excommunication of a Holocaust-denying British bishop.

Bishop Richard Williamson has repeatedly and publicly denied the existence of Nazi gas chambers and has claimed that no more than 300,000 Jews perished in the Holocaust.

In January, Pope Benedict was persuaded to lift the excommunication of Bishop Williamson who was expelled from the Church by Pope John Paul II for internal Church reasons unrelated to the bishop’s Holocaust beliefs.
But the Pope has always insisted that he was never told that Bishop Williamson, who now lives in Wimbledon, South London, had denied the Holocaust.

Now the Pope has sacked Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, head of the Ecclesia Dei commission, who recommended the reversal, and abolished the commission entirely. He also sacked Cardinal Castrillon's deputy, Italian Monsignor Camille Perl.

Cardinal Castrillon, 80, was once considered by the Vatican as a possible successor to John Paul II.

Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust welcomed the Pope’s decision.

She said: “The actions taken by the Pope to remove the two Vatican officials responsible for the rehabilitation of Bishop Williamson highlights the seriousness of this incident and we are pleased that the grave dangers of Holocaust denial have been recognised and steps taken to ensure that this mistake can never be repeated." 

The German-born Pope Benedict XVI has previously apologised to Jewish leaders for the reinstatement of Bishop Williamson and attempted to make amends for his mistake by visiting the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Israel in May.

Last updated: 2:28pm, August 11 2009