Bishop convicted of Holocaust denial

REGENSBURG, Germany: Renegade British Catholic bishop Richard Williamson was fined 10,000 euros by a German court on Friday for Holocaust denial in a case that has deeply embarrassed the Vatican. The court in this southern German city convicted Williamson, 70, of inciting racial hatred for stating in a television interview aired in January 2009 that only “200,000 to 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps”. He also denied the Nazis had used gas chambers.

“The statements by the accused represent a denial of the actions taken under the National Socialist regime,” said presiding judge Karin Frahm. “Bishop Williamson must have assumed that his remarks would draw attention. Williamson knowingly accepted that attention.”

The high-profile proceedings opened on Friday without Williamson after his breakaway ultra-conservative Catholic fraternity ordered him not to testify, but he acknowledged the offending comments in a statement read in court. Williamson gave the interview to a Swedish television crew in Regensburg so Frahm ruled that Germany’s strict laws against disputing the Nazis’ slaughter of six million Jews during World War II applied to him.

He was fined 12,000 euros earlier this year over the same case but refused to pay, prompting the new trial. The Saint Pius X Society, a Swiss-based Catholic fraternity, appointed Williamson a bishop without the pope’s blessing after it broke away from Rome over the Vatican II reforms introduced in 1965.

Among the reforms rejected by the organisation was a declaration, Nostra Aetate, which ended a Church doctrine by which the Jews were held responsible for killing Jesus Christ. Pope Benedict XVI unleashed a deluge of criticism last year for reversing the excommunication of Williamson and three other Saint Pius X Society bishops in a bid to bridge the rift with the fraternity.

Saturday, April 17, 2010