PARIS, FEB. 2, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The archbishop of Paris says the denial of the Holocaust by a Lefebvrist bishop is a cause of horror, but that the issue at hand is not his successive apology but the facts of the Shoah.
Cardinal André Vingt-Trois affirmed this to the French daily “Le Parisien” on Sunday, referring to the media flurry caused by Society of St. Pius X Bishop Richard Williamson.
The Lefebvrist bishop denied that 6 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust during an interview taped in November for Swedish television. He claimed 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 is one of the four Lefebvrist bishops who had his excommunication lifted Jan. 21 by the Congregation for Bishops acting under a papal directive.
The lifting of his excommunication — which happened shortly after the interview was aired — was called an affront to Jewish-Catholic relations, though the Holy Father made clear that his motive in removing the excommunication was the advancement of Church unity.
In papal commentaries and in statements from the Vatican spokesman, it has been reiterated that the Church does not share the bishop’s views.
The prelate has since asked forgiveness from Benedict XVI for what he said in the interview. His apology came through a letter dated Jan. 28 and sent to Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, president of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei.
The Ecclesia Dei commission was established to facilitate communion in the Church for people associated with Bishop Williamson’s group, the Society of St. Pius X.
The prelate said in his letter: “Amidst this tremendous media storm stirred up by imprudent remarks of mine on Swedish television, I beg of you to accept, only as is properly respectful, my sincere regrets for having caused to yourself and to the Holy Father so much unnecessary distress and problems.”
“For me,” the prelate continued, “all that matters is the Truth Incarnate, and the interests of his one true Church, through which alone we can save our souls and give eternal glory, in our little way, to Almighty God.”
While entirely rejecting Bishops Wililamson’s position on the Holocaust, Paris’ Cardinal Vingt-Trois said that it is not his place to “judge consciences to know if his repentance is sincere or not.”
“On the other hand,” he continued, “the question is not about sincerity but about the historical truth. It is expected of him, and of people like him, that they recognize the historical reality of the extermination camps and that they say this.”
The Paris cardinal went on to explain Benedict XVI’s “outstretched hand” toward the traditionalist bishops.
“The schism is not a political option,” he said. “It is a religious attitude. The decision of the Pope is not an outstretched hand toward political options, and much less their approval. His mission is to work for the unity of the Church.”
The cardinal said the lifting of the excommunications tore down a wall and makes it possible to work in-depth. “Now it is up to the interested parties to say if they are decided to re-encounter their place in the Church,” he contended.
Regarding the Pope’s adherence to the Second Vatican Council — a council contested in part by the Society of St. Pius X — Cardinal Vingt-Trois said there is no question whatsoever.
“I don’t need to say that for the Pope, Vatican II is non-negotiable,” he said. “He is more than convinced [of it] himself, and has said so again this Wednesday.”
Message to Jews
Finally, Cardinal Vingt-Trois offered a message to the Jewish community: “The negationist propositions of Williamson and of others hardly reflect the position of nearly all Catholics unanimously, and certainly do not reflect the position of the Church. They cause us horror. What wounds Jews wounds today Christians as well.”
“I would like to ask the Jewish community not to condemn the Catholic Church on the basis of extremely minority propositions of someone who does not have any post or any mission in our Church,” the cardinal added. “The path that we have walked together and that opens before us is too important to allow us to be manipulated by extremists.”