VATICAN CITY, MARCH 12, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The row that ensued between Jewish leaders and the Vatican after the latter lifted the excommunication of a bishop who denied the extent of the Holocaust, is over.
Shear-Yashuv Cohen, the chief rabbi of Haifa, said this today in comments to the press after Benedict XVI met with a delegation from the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and of the Holy See Commission for Religious Relations With the Jews.
Relations with Israel’s’ Chief Rabbinate came to a breaking point in January after the Vatican moved to lift the excommunication of holocaust-denying Bishop Richard Williamson of the Society of St. Pius X, along with three other Lefebvrite bishops.
The bishop 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.
The move strained relations between the Vatican and Israel’s Chief Rabbinate, which were established in 2000 when Pope John Paul II visited Israel. The rabbinate had said in a letter that “without a public apology and repudiation of the bishop, it will be difficult to continue the dialogue.”
Since then Benedict XVI has repeatedly denounced those who deny the extent of the Holocaust, and today the Vatican released a letter in which the Pope apologizes for the mishaps surrounding the move to lift the excommunication of the four Lefebvrite bishops.
Rabbi Cohen said to the press after meeting with the Pope that he thanked “the Holy See for making this renewal possible by the clear and unequivocal statements deploring Holocaust denial.”
He said today’s audience was “a very special experience, marking the end of a crisis.” He added that Jews “couldn’t expect more” from the Pontiff.
Rabbi Cohen made history last October when he participated in the synod of bishops on the Word of God. He was the first Jewish participant ever in a synod.
Rabbi David Rosen, the American Jewish Committee’s director of Interreligious Affairs, said after the meeting that the Jewish community has “reason to be very satisfied,” and that he considered the question to “be resolved.”
The meeting with the delegation of Israel’s Chief Rabbinate had been scheduled for January, but was postponed in the midst of strained relations.