After the Holocaust
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|Eduardo Szklarz and Martin Barillas||February 23rd 2009|
Cutting Edge Correspondents
|Catholic Bishop Richard Williamson|
Argentina has decided to expel dissident Catholic bishop Richard Williamson, a British subject, from its country. Williamson, whom the Vatican considers illegitimately consecrated as bishop, belongs to a breakaway group known as the Society of St. Piux X (SSPX) founded by excommunicated Bishop Marcel Lefebvre. The controversial bishop has been subjected to worldwide denunciations because of his public negation of the Holocaust. As of February 19, he was given 10 days to leave Argentina, according to a measure adopted by the country’s Ministry of Interior and approved by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
The text of Argentina's decision affirms that Williamson “has repeatedly concealed the true motive for his residence in the country, having declared to be an administrative employee of the civil association known as “Tradition,” when in reality his true activity was that of a priest and director of the Lefebvrite seminary that the Society of St. Pius X maintains in the locality of Moreno.” Moreno is a rural community outside of Buenos Aires.
“Therefore,” continues the text of the government's decision, “he is expelled for having obscured his identity and the reason for his entry into Argentina.” Williamson “said that he had entered as an administrative employee, while he actually had religious responsibilities not recognized by the country,” explained a government spokesman.
A spokesman for the seminary, where Williamson worked, declared to the press that the bishop had left but would not reveal his whereabouts.
A complementary argument for the expulsion, claims the government, is the political profile that Williamson defined for himself by his anti-Semitic statements spoken to a Swedish television network. During that January 2009 interview, Williamson said "I think that 200,000 to 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps but none of them by gas chambers," adding "There was not one Jew killed by the gas chambers. It was all lies, lies, lies."
“Manifestations such as these profoundly offend Argentine society, the Jewish people, and all of humanity, by attempting to deny an established historical truth,” declared the Argentine government in a statement. Minister of Interior Florencio Randazzo added that the “continued irregular presence in the country of a person that has aggrieved all humanity and the Jewish people is intolerable.”
Williamson, 68, belongs to the Society of St. Pius X – a group founded by French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre that rejected the teachings of the Second Vatican Council. Lefebvre and several of his followers were excommunicated by Pope John Paul II in 1988 after he illegitimately consecrated four bishops, including Williamson. On January 24, 2008, the Vatican announced that it was taking the first steps towards re-admitting Williamson and the others – such as SSPX leader Bishop Bernard Fellay – into full communion with the church. This came just two days after Williamson made his remarks on Swedish television questioning the historicity of the Holocaust.
Williamson’s expulsion was applauded by organizations within Argentina’s sizeable Jewish community, such as the Delegation of Israeli-Argentine Associations (DAIA) and the Israeli-Argentine Mutual Association. “We celebrate the decision of the national government because it is unacceptable to deny the Holocaust in a country that participates in the International Task Force that is investigating the Holocaust,” said DAIA president Aldo Donzis. Williamson has been before Argentine justice for abetting a crime, according to a complaint filed by the National Institute Against Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Racism. Rabbi Daniel Goldman, a child of Holocaust survivors who sought Argentine government action against Williamson, said that "actions such as these clearly show that our people and our leadership refuse to live alongside a lie."
Argentina’s foreign ministry denied that Williamson’s expulsion entailed any sort of diplomatic impasse with the Vatican, given that Williamson had been excommunicated before his arrival in country in 2003. Indeed, Vatican spokesman Rev. Franco Lombardi offered “no comment” to questions about any imbroglio with Argentina.
However, the flap over Williamson’s remarks and the lifting of the ban of excommunication that followed, did cause a strain in the Vatican’s relations with other countries. Cardinal Karl Lehmann of Germany, said on February 16 that it was "almost ridiculous" that Williamson has said he needs time to review evidence about whether the Holocaust took place. At the same time, German Chancellor Angela Merkel demanded an explanation from the Pope.
Denunciations have reverberated among Jewish and human rights associations in France, Israel, and the United States. The Pope himself has demanded that Williamson retract his statements. But Williamson has thus far refused to do so, saying only, as he told the German weekly Der Spiegel, that he will study the “historical evidence” for the Holocaust before eating his words.
Eduardo Szklarz heads The Cutting Edge News Desk for South America and Cutting Edge Senior Correspodent Martin Barillas is editor of www.speroforum.com.