In an apparent bid to temper tensions ahead of Pope Benedict's planned May visit to the Holy Land, Vatican nuncio, Archbishop Antonio Franco has said that Holocaust deniers could not be considered Catholic.
Archbishop Franco was seemingly referring to Pope Benedict's reinstatement of SSPX Bishop Williamson, who has denied the full extent of the Holocaust and says there were no gas chambers, Haaretz reports.
Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev expressed satisfaction at Archbishop Frank's comment, saying the conference was a step toward "building trust and creating dialogue, in the wake of the latest crisis with the Vatican."
Archbishop Franco was speaking at a conference held by both Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and the Vatican on the actions of Pope Pius XII during the Holocaust.
The joint conference was an effort to clear the air between Yad Vashem and the Vatican following another incident that strained relations two years ago.
Israeli and Vatican historians met for the first time on Sunday to discuss the current state of research into Pope Pius XII and his Holocaust era conduct, Haaretz says.
"The complex historical issues that will arise during the workshop touch on basic human values, and questions of morality," said Yad Vashem director Avner Shalev in an earlier statement. "Serious academic research, whose goal is to uncover the truth, must rest on documentation."
Israel has encouraged the Vatican to open its wartime archives to allow researchers to look for concrete examples of Pius' actions. But the Vatican has denied access to major parts of its archives, including wartime papers.
Shalev said on Sunday he was pleased to learn that Benedict instructed the archive to speed up the process of cataloging the material and hoped it could now be completed in three to four years.
Archbishop Franco, said the workshop marked a new phase in relationships and a rebuilding of trust.
"I think it can be clear that one cannot be a Catholic if he denies the Shoah," Archbishop Franco said, using the Hebrew term for the Holocaust.
Vatican envoy: Holocaust deniers can't be considered Catholic (Haaretz)
Israeli, Vatican historians meet to discuss wartime pope (Haaretz)