Pope, German Chancellor Note Agreement on Shoah

Telephone Conversation Shows Common Ground

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 8, 2009 (Zenit.org).- After talking by telephone today, Benedict XVI and the German chancellor say they share a common view of the tragedy of the Holocaust.

Angela Merkel requested to speak with the Pope about the Shoah -- a conversation that is the latest development in ongoing turmoil surrounding Bishop Richard Williamson, a Society of St. Pius X prelate who was shown on television denying the Holocaust at almost the same time as his excommunication was being lifted.

The Pontiff was unaware of the bishop's views on the Holocaust when he decreed the lifting of the excommunication. And the lifting of the excommunication has not affected the status of the Society of St. Pius X, a group which continues without canonical recognition in the Church.

According to a Holy See communiqué, the conversation between the Pope and Merkel developed in "a climate of great respect," in which both the Holy Father and the chancellor "expressed their respective points of view."

This conversation, according to the joint declaration of both spokespersons, Ulrich Wilhem and Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, was "cordial and constructive" and was "marked by the common and deeply held adherence to the Shoah's ever valid warning for humanity."

According to the note, the two leaders spoke of the declarations made by Benedict XVI last Jan. 28 at the general audience, and Merkel's own declarations last week.

At that audience, the Pope affirmed that the Shoah should be "for everyone, a warning against forgetting, against negating or reductionism, because violence committed against even one human being is violence against all."

The Pontiff also stated, "As I renew with affection the expression of my total and indisputable solidarity with our brother recipients of the First Covenant, I hope that the memory of the Shoah moves humanity to reflect on the unpredictable power of evil when it conquers the human heart."

He added: "May the Shoah teach especially, as much the old generations as the new ones, that only the tiring path of listening and dialogue, of love and pardon, leads peoples, cultures and religions of the world to the desired encounter of fraternity and peace in the world."

Reaction

These declarations were considered "insufficient" according to what Merkel declared last Tuesday.

"On the part of the Vatican and the Pope, it has to be left definitively clear that negationism is not permitted and that there should be positive dealings with Judaism," she affirmed.

That same day, Father Lombardi reiterated again on Vatican Radio that the Pope "recognizes and condemns with complete clarity the Holocaust of the Jewish people in the times of Nazism."

And the next day, the Vatican Secretariat of State published a statement affirming that "the viewpoints of Bishop Williamson on the Shoah are absolutely unacceptable and firmly rejected by the Holy Father."

The note also clarified that the four bishops, though liberated from excommunication, do not have a "canonical function in the Church and they do not licitly exercise a ministry in it," and that the Society of St. Pius X continues with the same "juridical situation" and "does not enjoy any canonical recognition in the Catholic Church."

It added that Bishop Williamson, "to be admitted to episcopal functions in the Church, must also distance himself in an absolutely unmistakable and public way from his position on the Shoah."

Last Thursday, Merkel offered a more positive view of the Vatican's repeated declarations: "The attitude of the Vatican leaves it clear that the negation of this tragedy cannot be permitted without expecting consequences."

Persistent

Meanwhile, according to the German press on Saturday, Bishop Williamson refused to retract his views while he "doesn't find the historical proof" to derail his thesis on what happened in the German Nazi camps.

In these declarations, published by the German newspaper Der Spiegel, the bishop further reiterated his criticism of the Second Vatican Council.

In contrast with this posture, last Friday the Society of St. Pius X made public the expulsion of one of its members, the priest Floriano Abrahamowicz, by his Italian superior, Father Davide Pagliarani, "for grave reasons of discipline."

Father Abrahamowicz is known in Italy for his declarations against Vatican II and for his affirmation that the Nazi gas chambers were "only used to disinfect."

A note from the society stated that "the expulsion, though sorrowful, has been necessary to avoid that once again the image of the Society of St. Pius X be distorted, and therefore, its work at the service of the Church be harmed."