Multilingual Business Communication

February 19, 2009

Jewish leaders outraged by Pope’s welcoming back Holocaust denier

Filed under: crisis communication, Wouter Deconinck — meertaligebedrijfscommunicatie @ 1:49 pm

Pope Benedict A few weeks ago the Pope has outraged Jewish leaders by welcoming back into the Roman Catholic Church a previously excommunicated bishop who denies the Holocaust. The British bishop, Richard Williamson, recently told Swedish TV (watch video) that evidence “is hugely against 6 million Jews being deliberately gassed.” He said only 300,000 Jews were killed by the Nazis, “but not one of them by gassing in a gas chamber.”

Pope Benedict was slow to react, a major error to my opinion. Jewish leaders fulminated against his silence and the Pope was eventually put under more pressure to make a stand against anti-Semitism. Even German Chancellor Angela Merkel phoned Pope Benedict about the issue and demanded that the pope firmly reject Holocaust denial. The Vatican reacted by pointing to several statements by Pope Benedict in the past few years condemning the destruction of European Jewry, including his visits to concentration camps. The Pope said he did not know of Williamson’s views on the Holocaust when he lifted the excommunication, which was to my opinion too less a reaction to restore order among Jewish leaders.

Eventually, due to the risen pressure the Pope met American Jewish leaders at the Vatican and made the statement, quite late I believe, that the Catholic Church is “profoundly and irrevocably committed to reject all anti-Semitism” and that the Shoa was a crime against God and against humanity. Jewish reactions to the pope’s speech were broadly – but not uniformly – positive.

Pope Benedict should have reacted faster and should have made a stronger statement, especially because of his own past. After his 14th birthday in 1941, Pope Benedict – then called Joseph Ratzinger – was forced to join the Hitler Youth. However, his biographer said Ratzinger’s family was strongly anti-Nazi. You should believe Pope Benedict would have reacted fiercely as he has experienced the Nazi period himself but this was clearly not the case.

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