PARIS (Reuters) - European rabbis and Holocaust survivors in the United States urged the Vatican Wednesday to suspend unity talks with ultra-traditionalist Catholics until their movement pledged to renounce anti-Semitic members in its ranks.
The Conference of European Rabbis said Bishop Richard Williamson, already known for publicly denying the Holocaust, and the head of the splinter group in France had recently revived the age-old accusation that Jews killed Jesus.
The American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants said Williamson repeated the charge of collective Jewish guilt for Jesus’s death despite Pope Benedict’s recent reaffirmation that the Church rejected that charge.
“We call upon the Catholic Church to suspend negotiations with extremist Catholic tendencies until it is clear that these groups show a clear commitment to tackling anti-Semitism within their ranks,” said Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, whose group represents chief rabbis and top rabbinical judges in Europe.
“The Catholic Church should make clear that hate mongers have no place in its ranks,” said Elan Steinberg of the Holocaust survivors group.
The Jewish groups reacted after Williamson repeated the Jewish deicide charge on his blog at the weekend. Reverend Regis de Cacqueray, head of the French chapter of the rebel Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), said the same in an article last month.
The two are outspoken critics of any compromise between the SSPX and the Vatican, which have been holding talks to return the society to the Church after it split off 23 years ago in rejection of modernizing reforms introduced in the 1960s.
They brought up the sensitive issue of relations with Jews as Pope Benedict prepared to host a summit of world faith leaders — including Jews — in Assisi, Italy next week.
The Roman Catholic Church said at the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) that it did not hold Jews responsible for killing Jesus, launching an era of improved relations between Catholics and Jews.
But issues concerning the Holocaust, including Williamson’s denial and Benedict’s support for the beatification of wartime Pope Pius XII, despite statements by some historians and Jewish leaders that he did not do enough to support persecuted Jews, still cause friction.
After two years of discussions with the SSPX, the Vatican said last month the movement would have to agree to a list of fundamental Church teachings if its four bishops were to be reintegrated with the Church. The list was not made public.
The four, including Williamson, were excommunicated in 1988 when they were ordained by SSPX founder Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre against orders from the Vatican.
Williamson, who lives in Britain, was conspicuously absent from a recent meeting of SSPX leaders near Rome to consider the Vatican demand. Remarks by SSPX leader Bishop Bernard Fellay since then hinted the group could not agree with the Vatican.
The SSPX is expected to deliver its response to the Vatican within a few months.
Reporting by Tom Heneghan; Editing by Louise Ireland