Nearly two decades after four ultra-traditional bishops were excommunicated for resisting the Catholic Church's landmark Vatican II reforms, Pope Benedict has re-instated the bishops in an attempt to heal the decades-old schism in modern Catholicism. The decision, however, has so far had the opposite effect, angering many Catholics and Jews who view the bishops' refusal to begin interfaith dialogue as prejudiced and anti-Semitic.
Most controversial of all, Benedict will re-instate Richard Williamson, an English bishop who has previously written that women should not be allowed to attend universities, and more recently denied that the Holocaust occurred.
"I believe that the historical evidence . . . is hugely against 6 million Jews having been deliberately gassed," Williamson said in an interview with a Swedish television station earlier this month. "I believe there were no gas chambers."
Benedict made his first official remarks about the controversy this morning in his weekly Vatican address amidst calls from the Jerusalem Post for the suspension of communications between the Vatican and Jewish groups. According to the Associated Press, Benedict said that he has "full and indisputable" solidarity with Jews and enforced his position against Holocaust deniers, saying that the Holocaust should "prompt humanity to reflect on the unpredictable power of evil when it conquers the hearts of men."
The other three bishops who had their excommunications reversed were Bishop Bernard Fellay, Alfonso de Galarreta and Bernard Tissier de Mallerais.
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