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Pope Draws Criticism for Pardoning Bishop

Pope Benedict XVI's decision to reinstate Bishop Richard Williamson, who has made comments denying the full extent of the Holocaust and the existence of gas chambers during World War II, has drawn sharp criticism. A reporter discusses the controversy.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Finally, the pope and the Holocaust story. And to Ray Suarez.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    A decision this past Saturday by Pope Benedict XVI to reinstate four bishops has sparked controversy in the Catholic Church and beyond.

    All four are members of a conservative catholic sect and were excommunicated by Pope John Paul II. One of the clergymen, Bishop Richard Williamson, is also a Holocaust denier. Last week, he spoke to Swedish television.

  • BISHOP RICHARD WILLIAMSON:

    I believe that the historical evidence is hugely against 6 million Jews having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler. I believe there were no gas chambers.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Despite those comments, Pope Benedict decreed that Williamson and his three fellow members of the splinter sect would be "rehabilitated," the formal term for rescinding excommunication.

    The timing heightens the controversy: Yesterday was the 64th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz. Today, Pope Benedict highlighted his efforts at inter-faith dialogue.

  • POPE BENEDICT XVI, Vatican City (through translator):

    I remember the images collected in my repeated visits to Auschwitz, one of the largest camps in which were committed the massacres and cruelties towards millions of Jews, victims of blind racial and religious hatred. As I renew with affection the expression of my full and indisputable solidarity towards our brothers.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    But his actions are getting more attention than his words. Today, the top religious authority in Israel, the rabbinate, severed ties with the Vatican and canceled an upcoming visit to Rome. The decision of that body doesn't affect relations between the state of Israel and the Vatican.

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