Pope to address Jews after bishop denies Holocaust

Sat Feb 7, 2009 7:29am EST
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By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Israel's chief Rabbinate is resuming dialogue with the Vatican after freezing ties over a Holocaust-denying bishop and the pope will meet major Jewish groups to try to make amends, a Church source said on Saturday.

The Rabbinate pulled out of a meeting with Vatican officials scheduled for March 1-4 in the midst of an international outcry over the Pope Benedict's lifting of the excommunications of four traditionalist bishops, including Richard Williamson, who denies the full extent of the Holocaust.

The meeting will now take place in late February or mid-March and will most likely include a papal audience.

Next Thursday, the pope will hold a meeting with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (CPMAJO) and make an address about the Holocaust and the dangers of Holocaust denial, the source said.

It will be the first between the pope and Jewish leaders since the start of the controversy, which many have said has undermined nearly half a century of Catholic-Jewish dialogue.

The Thursday meeting is particularly significant because of the influence and scope of the CPMAJO, an umbrella group that includes 51 organizations, including the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League.

Williamson told Swedish television in an interview broadcast on January 21: "I believe there were no gas chambers." He said no more than 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps, rather than the 6 million accepted by most historians.

Among those who condemned Williamson and the pope's decision were Holocaust survivors, progressive Catholics, members of the U.S. Congress, German Jewish leaders, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Jewish writer and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel.   Continued...

<p>Pope Benedict XVI waves to the faithful as he celebrates his weekly general audience in Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, February 4, 2009. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi</p>