Vatican Ties With Chief Rabbinate "Fluid"

Sources Confirm Relations Were Never Severed

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By Karna Swanson

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 3, 2009 ( The Vatican’s ties with the Chief Rabbinate of Israel are «fluid,» and a meeting set for March between both parties was never cancelled, according to Vatican sources.

The Associated Press reported last week that the rabbinate had severed ties with the Vatican after relations between the two came to a breaking point in the wake of the Vatican’s announcement Jan. 24 that lifted the excommunication of a holocaust-denying bishop.

Bishop Richard Williamson of the Society of St. Pius X claimed in an interview taped in November for Swedish television that historical evidence denies the gassing of Jews in Nazi concentration camps. He also alleged that no more than 300,000 Jews were killed during World War II.

Bishop Williamson was one of four prelates of the Society of St. Pius X who were illicitly ordained to the episcopate by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1988. The excommunication was also lifted for the other three bishops, and was meant to be a step toward healing the division caused by the ordinations some 20 years ago.

Reports circulating in the press claim the Chief Rabbinate had severed ties last Wednesday with the Vatican, which were established in 2000 when Pope John Paul II visited Israel. The statements were based on a letter sent by the rabbinate that said, «Without a public apology and repudiation of the bishop, it will be difficult to continue the dialogue.»

On that same day Benedict XVI reiterated the position of the Church on the Holocaust by expressing solidarity with Jews and strongly condemning the use of concentration camps during World War II, which he said «carried out the brutal massacre of millions of Jews, innocent victims of a blind racial and religious hate.»

Sources in the Vatican said the Pope’s words «had a strong impact on the environment of the Chief Rabbinate.»

«But everything is fluid,» the sources added. «It will be decided during the upcoming days if the meeting will take place in March.»

Oded Wiener, the director-general of the Rabbinate of Israel, had said on Italian television after Benedict XVI’s statement that it was «a big step forward,» and denied that the ties between with the Vatican had been severed.

The Vatican and the state of Israel have had their own, separate relationship since establishing diplomatic ties in 1993, and the current situation does not affect state relations.

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