Benedict XVI Receives Letter of Support

70 Bishops Express Solidarity, Fidelity

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By Jesús Colina

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 15, 2009 ( More than 70 bishops participating in a seminar organized by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications are assuring Benedict XVI of their fidelity and solidarity.

Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, delivered a letter Friday to Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, in which the prelates declare their support for the Pope who has been under attack during the last months.

The Pontiff issued a decree in January that lifted the excommunication of four Lefebvrite bishops, one of whom was Bishop Richard Williamson. Days earlier, the bishop claimed in an interview taped in November for Swedish television that historical evidence denies the gassing of Jews in Nazi concentration camps.

The concurrence of the two events served to strain relations between the Vatican and Jewish leaders, as well as spark a wave of attacks against the Pope and the Curia.

In a letter published Thursday, Benedict XVI explained that he had made the decision to lift the excommunications as a «gesture of mercy» to promote the peace and internal unity of the Church, and that he was in the dark about Bishop Williamson’s declarations denying the Holocaust.
The 70 prelates thanked the Pope for his explanatory letter, and expressed their «nearness,» saying they take comfort «for the carrying out of our daily work» from the Pope’s own letter.

The prelates wrote of their sentiments of solidarity and unconditional fidelity.

Cardinal Bertone, in receiving the letter, explained to the prelates that «in these moments the Pope has also felt communion with many bishops despite an occasional sour note from among the same bishops and from some journalists.»

«Benedict XVI is not alone,» the secretary of state said in response to certain articles. «All of his closest colleagues are truly faithful to the Pontiff and are deeply united with him, including the heads of the [Vatican] dicasteries.»

The unprecedented seminar brought together the largest number of bishops since the Second Vatican Council to reflect on the Church’s relation to the media.

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