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Vatican urges Holocaust denier to recant -

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Reporter: Michael Edwards

BRENDAN TREMBATH: The Pope has ordered a Catholic Bishop to back away from a claim that Jews did
not die in gas chambers during the Second World War.

Bishop Richard Williamson from Britain has been in the bad books before. He was excommunicated in
1988 after being ordained by a breakaway French Archbishop. Bishop Williamson's excommunication was
later lifted by Pope Benedict XVI, but the Vatican says this took place before his holocaust
denials were made public.

Senior members of the Catholic Church, including Cardinal George Pell, say the situation has been
handled badly.

Michael Edwards has this report.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: Richard Williamson was excommunicated from the Catholic Church when the
controversial French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre ordained him as a Bishop in 1988.

Archbishop Lefebvre and his followers call themselves the Society of St Pius X. They want a return
to the church's traditional teachings and practices which they believe have been abandoned in the
wake of the Second Vatican Council.

Many religious experts say the group is anti-Semitic. Richard Williamson seemed to back this view
up in an interview on Swedish television in November last year.

RICHARD WILLIAMSON: I believe that the historical evidence, the historical evidence is strongly
against, is hugely against six-million Jews having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a
deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler.

INTERVIEWER: But you say not one Jew was killed.

RICHARD WILLIAMSON: In gas chambers.

INTERVIEWER: So there was no gas chambers?

RICHARD WILLIAMSON: I believe there were no gas chambers, yes.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: This interview was aired around the same time Pope Benedict XVI lifted Richard
Williamson's excommunication. The move was widely interpreted as an attempt by the Vatican to
prevent a further split between the mainstream church and traditionalists and it's been roundly
criticised for doing so.

Pope Benedict says he wasn't aware of Richard Williamson's views when he made his decision.
Catholic commentator Paul Collins is sceptical about this.

PAUL COLLINS: The Swedish television station broadcast the interview virtually on the day that the
excommunication was lifted but it absolutely beggars belief that the Vatican did not know that
Williamson held these, what are essentially mad, anti-Semitic and other mad views for that matter.

To pretend that they didn't know that shows them either to be completely incompetent or to be
speaking with a forked tongue it seems to me.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: The German Chancellor Angela Merkel says there should be no tolerance of Holocaust
deniers. The Vatican has now issued a statement saying Richard Williamson must recant his views if
he wants to return to the Church.

Australian Cardinal George Pell says the Vatican has handled the situation badly. He's told Radio
National's Breakfast program that Richard Williamson's views are wrong and he must change them.

GEORGE PELL: There's no reunion yet with the Levebvrists. If there's going to be, they will have to
accept the teachings of the Second Vatican Council which include the council teaching on religious
freedom, that the state cannot coerce belief, and also the condemnation of anti-Semitism.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: At this stage Richard Williamson has apologised for the controversy but not for
his beliefs.

Jewish groups says the Vatican must act decisively to avoid inflaming tensions. Vic Alhadeff is
from the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies.

VIC ALHADEFF: There have been very warm relations between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people
for 45 years. There's a strong relationship of candid dialogue where differences of the past have
been healed and this has been very positive for all of 45 years.

And so what we would like to happen now is for the church to counsel the Bishop to turn himself
around, to decisively repudiate the fact that he denies the Holocaust and to reject his past views
so that there is no doubt that there is a change of heart.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Vic Alhadeff from the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies ending Michael
Edwards' report.