As criticism mounted of Pope Benedict's decision to lift the excommunication on four SSPX bishops, Vatican Cardinal Walter Kasper slammed Holocaust denying comments by rehabilitated Bishop Richard Williamson as "stupid" and "unacceptable".
AKI reports that in an interview with Italian daily La Repubblica, Kasper, who is also the liaison for Vatican-Jewish relations said of Williamson's statements: "These are unacceptable words. To deny the Holocaust is stupid and is a position that has nothing to do with the Catholic Church."
La Repubblica quoted Rome's chief rabbi, Riccardo Di Segni, as saying it was the Lefebvre movement, not just Williamson that is problematic.
British born Williamson has made a number of statements denying the full extent of the Holocaust. In a recent television interview he said the "historical evidence" was against six million Jews having died in the Nazi gas chambers.
In an apparent defence of his rehabilitation of the four schismatic bishops, the Pope in his televised Angelus address on Sunday, said "courageous gestures of reconciliation are needed between us Christians."
Cardinal Kasper also praised the Pope's move describing it as "a gesture to favour the reconstruction of a united Church."
"I understand that Williamson's comments may cast a shadow over relations with the Jewish community, but I am sure that dialogue will continue.
"We have good relations," he said. "Events in Gaza have complicated things," he added, referring to Israel's recent military offensive in the coastal strip, which killed 1,300 Palestinians and injured over 5,000.
But The New York Times noted that Cardinal Walter Kasper, the director of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the liaison for Vatican-Jewish relations, said that he had not been consulted over the lifting of the excommunications.
"It was a decision of the pope," the cardinal said in a telephone interview.
Breaking News: "Gesture of Mercy"
In an editorial this Sunday, the L'Osservatore Romano underscored that the decision by Pope Benedict to life the excommunications of four bishops ordained by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre is a "gesture of mercy" that should encourage the members of the Society of St Pius X to embrace the Second Vatican Council, which "half a century after its announcement is sill alive in the Church."
"A gesture," the article explains, "that would have pleased John XXIII and his successors, in a pure offer that Benedict XVI, the Pope of peace, has wished to make public coinciding with the anniversary of the announcement of Vatican II, with the clear intention of seeing the painful fracture soon healed, an intention that will not be clouded by the unacceptable negative opinions and attitudes towards Judaism of some members of the community to which the Bishop of Rome has extended a hand."
Vatican: Cardinal slams bishop for Holocaust denial (ADN Kronos)
Healing Schism, Pope Risks Another (New York Times)
Jews outraged by Holocaust-denying bishop (Associated Press)
Bishop Fellay salutes 'benevolent and courageous' Pope Benedict (UK Telegraph)
Vatican daily explains link between lifting of excommunications and anniversary of Vatican II (Catholic News Agency)
Lefebvre movement: Long, troubledhistory with Judaism (National Catholic Reporter)