Bishop 'regrets' effects of Holocaust comments

Society of St. Pius X Bishop Richard Williamson

LONDON, England-- Society of St. Pius X Bishop Richard Williamson has expressed regret to the Church and to Holocaust victims and their relatives for the harm caused by his remarks on Swedish television minimizing Jewish suffering in the Holocaust. He also apologized to those who took “honest scandal” from his comments.

Though describing his opinion as that of a “non-historian,” he did not explicitly retract it.

“I can truthfully say that I regret having made such remarks, and that if I had known beforehand the full harm and hurt to which they would give rise, especially to the Church, but also to survivors and relatives of victims of injustice under the Third Reich, I would not have made them,” he said in a Thursday statement issued from London.

He said recent events and the advice of “senior members” of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) persuaded him of his responsibility for “much distress caused.”

“To all souls that took honest scandal from what I said, before God I apologize,” Bishop Williamson remarked.

He said in his interview he had given “only the opinion of a non-historian” formed 20 years ago on the basis of “evidence then available.”

The bishop had denied the existence of Nazi gas chambers and claimed only 200,000 to 300,000 Jews had died at the hands of the Nazis.

The generally accepted figure of Jewish casualties in the Holocaust is about six million.

“As the Holy Father has said, every act of unjust violence against one man hurts all mankind,” Bishop Williamson said.

According to Bishop Williamson, both Pope Benedict XVI and his group’s superior, Bishop Bernard Fellay, requested that he reconsider his remarks because their consequences have been “so heavy.”

On Thursday the Vatican Press Office told the Italian news agency Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata (ANSA) that it had not been informed of the apology.

In January Pope Benedict lifted the excommunication of the four bishops who lead the Society of St. Pius X in an effort to advance church unity. The revelation of Bishop Williamson’s remarks caused tensions with Jewish leaders after an international media firestorm.

Bishop Williamson returned to Britain on Tuesday after he was ordered out of Argentina because of alleged irregularities in his documents, ANSA reports. (CNA)