(Zenit.org).- Bishop Richard Williamson, formerly excommunicated member of the Society of St. Pius X, apologized today for statements in which he denied the extent of the Holocaust.
In a statement published on his return to London on Wednesday after being expelled by the government of Argentina, the prelate explained that “the Holy Father and my superior, Bishop Bernard Fellay, have requested that I reconsider the remarks I made on Swedish television four months ago, because their consequences have been so heavy.”
The bishop, along with three other Lefebvrite prelates, had their 20-year excommunication lifted at the end of January, in the framework of Benedict XVI’s continuing efforts to heal the schism between the society and the Church. Around the same time, the bishop appeared on public television and made reductionist statements about the Jewish Holocaust that gave rise to extensive controversy.
Bishop Williamson continued, “Observing these consequences I can truthfully say that I regret having made such remarks, and that if I had known beforehand the full harm and hurt to which they would give rise, especially to the Church, but also to survivors and relatives of victims of injustice under the Third Reich, I would not have made them.”
The prelate said that on Swedish television he only gave the “opinion […] of a non-historian,” a perspective “formed 20 years ago on the basis of evidence then available, and rarely expressed in public since.”
However, he recognized, “the events of recent weeks and the advice of senior members of the Society of St. Pius X have persuaded me of my responsibility for much distress caused.”
He added, “To all souls that took honest scandal from what I said, before God I apologize.”
Bishop Williamson concluded, “As the Holy Father has said, every act of unjust violence against one man hurts all mankind.”
On Feb. 12 Benedict XVI, reiterating again the Church’s view of the Holocaust, affirmed that “it is clear that every negation or minimization of this terrible crime is intolerable and at the same time unacceptable.”
In response to the apology:
Some Jewish groups expressed disappointment at his statement. Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, said it was “not the kind of an apology that would end this matter” because it failed to address the central issue.
“The one thing he doesn’t say, and the main thing, is that the Holocaust occurred, that it is not a fabrication, that it is not a lie,” Hier said in a telephone interview. “You want to make an apology, you have to affirm the Holocaust.”