Commentary: Holocaust-denying bishop should forfeit his post

This editorial appeared in The Miami Herald.

Pope Benedict XVI stirred up another controversy last month when he reinstated a bishop who said of the Holocaust: "There was not one Jew killed in the gas chambers. It was all lies, lies, lies."

Apparently, Pope Benedict either didn't know that British-born Bishop Richard Williamson believes that the Holocaust never happened, or else he misread what a stir the rehabilitation of a Holocaust-denying bishop would cause.

In Germany, where it is against the law to deny the Holocaust, Chancellor Angela Merkel took the extraordinary step of publicly criticizing the reinstatement of Mr. Williamson. In protest, Israel's chief rabbinate severed ties with the Vatican. Jews everywhere expressed their outrage, while others had to wonder what sort of vetting the Vatican did on Mr. Williamson.

The Vatican responded to the uproar by reiterating Pope Benedict's "full and indisputable solidarity" with Jews and warned against denying the Holocaust. The Vatican demanded that Mr. Williamson recant. So far, the bishop has merely issued an apology to the pope for the trouble this has caused him, without mentioning the Holocaust.

Unlike his predecessor, Pope Benedict sometimes has a tin ear for diplomacy. During a lecture in Germany in 2006, he angered Muslims by quoting from a 1391 text that characterized Islam as being spread by the use of violence. The pope, once a theology professor, was apparently taken aback that a scholarly text cited during a university speech could ignite a firestorm.

Eventually, after the Vatican reached out to the Muslim community, the two religions sought more dialogue, always good between religions as well as nations. Jewish organizations aren't going to permanently turn their back on the Vatican after this latest uproar, either.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Miami Herald.