Jewish officials in Israel and abroad are outraged that Pope Benedict XVI has decided to lift the excommunication of a British bishop who denies that Jews were killed in Nazi gas chambers.
Rabbi David Rosen of the American Jewish Committee called the move by the Roman Catholic Church “shameful.”
By “welcoming an open holocaust denier into the Catholic Church without any recantation on his part, the Vatican has made a mockery of John Paul II‘s moving and impressive repudiation and condemnation of anti-Semitism,” he said.
Abraham Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League, also expressed disappointment at the pope’s decision.
“The decree sends a terrible message to Catholics around the world that there is room in the church for those who would undermine the church’s teaching and would foster disdain and contempt for other religions, particularly Judaism,” he said. “Given the centuries-long history of anti-Semitism in the church, this is a most troubling setback.”
“While there are still hundreds of thousands of living Holocaust survivors amongst us who carry the scars of the Holocaust in them, to accept back a Holocaust-denying bishop raises questions if the Vatican under Pope XVI has learned the lesson of the Holocaust,” said Amos Hermon, who heads the Task Force Against Anti-Semitism at Israel’s Jewish Agency.
The pope has twice visited synagogues, in the U.S. and his home country Germany, but recently stated, according to The Times, that dialogue between Christians, Jews and Muslims “in the strict sense of the word” was “not possible.”
After his 14th birthday in 1941, Benedict — then called Joseph Ratzinger — was forced along with the rest of his class in Bavaria, southern Germany, to join the Hitler Youth. However his biographer John Allen Jr., said Ratzinger’s family was strongly anti-Nazi.