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British bishop's Holocaust apology not enough: Vatican

world Updated: Feb 27, 2009 21:32 IST

DPA
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An apology issued by Richard Williamson, the British bishop at the centre of an international row over the denial of the Holocaust, "does not seem to respect" the terms set by the Vatican, the Holy See's chief spokesman said on Friday.

Father Federico Lombardi described Williamson's apology as "generic and equivocal", contrasting it to a request made by the Vatican to Williamson that he "clearly and publicly distance himself" from his remarks on the Holocaust.

Lombardi also denied media reports that the apology was contained in a letter sent by Williamson to Pope Benedict XVI and to the Vatican's Ecclesia Dei commission which handles relations with the ultra-traditionalist Society of Saint Pius X.

In his apology, which was first circulated Thursday, the 68-year-old Williamson said he "regrets" his remarks for the "harm and hurt" they caused to survivors and victims of "injustice" under Nazi German rule

The apology was published Friday on the website of the British arm of the Society of Saint Pius X, of which Williamson is a member.

Last November, Williamson said in an interview with Swedish television that he believed that "up to 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps but none of them in gas chambers".

"I believe there were no gas chambers during World War II," he also said in the interview, which surfaced just days after Benedict revoked last month the 1988 excommunication of four Saint Pius X bishops, including Williamson.

In the apology, Williamson said the Holy Father had requested that he reconsider the remarks made on Swedish television, "because their consequences have been so heavy."

"Observing these consequences 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."

Williamson, whose remarks have prompted particular outrage in Germany, returned to Britain on Wednesday after being expelled from Argentina where he had previously worked.

The Catholic Church in Britain, to which Williamson converted from the Anglican Church of England in 1971, has condemned his remarks and distanced itself from the bishop.

In a statement released Wednesday, the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales said Williamson's views had "no place in the Church and run contrary to Catholic teaching".