Dialogika

Statement of the Chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference Subcommittee for Religious Relations with Judaism

Bishop Dr. Heinrich Mussinghoff chairs the German Bishops’ Conference Subcommittee for Religious Relations with Judaism

Concerning the Lifting of the Excommunications of the Bishops of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X

With a decree from Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, dated 21 January 2009, Pope Benedict XVI repealed the penalty of excommunication issued on 2 July 1988 against the four bishops of the Priestly Fraternity of Pius X. In spite of this, they are still suspended and thus legally prevented from exercising their priestly office. The decree is an expression of the papal desire to put an end to an existing schism. We support the Pope in his attempt to overcome the scandal of division in the church and in his efforts for the unity of the Church and unity in the Church.

Admittedly, the step taken by Pope Benedict XVI has given rise to a number of critical inquiries. They relate to its correspondence with the more recent statements of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. The concerns intensified in particular when an interview with one of the four no longer excommunicated bishops, Bishop Richard Williamson, became widely known. In this television interview Bishop Williamson maintained that historical evidence argues against the existence of gas chambers and that not six million, but 200,000 to 300,000 Jews were murdered by the Nazis. We contradict in the strongest terms this explicit denial of the Holocaust, which is already subject to investigations by the public prosecutor's office in Germany. In addition, the four bishops and those responsible for the St. Pius X Fraternity have frequently made it clear that they do not observe the Second Vatican Council's Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions Nostra Aetate, issued 28 October 1965. The decree of Cardinal Re speaks of  unsettled issues whose solution must be dealt with in talks between the Apostolic See and the St. Pius X Fraternity. We express the clear and great hope and the urgent plea that in the talks the four bishops and the St. Pius Fraternity declare unequivocally and credibly their loyalty to the Second Vatican Council and in particular to the declaration Nostra Aetate whose concerns Pope John Paul II adopted as his own so persistently and beneficently during his long pontificate. After the enormous concession made by the Pope, we now expect a clear statement from the Fraternity and its bishops in particular regarding  Nostra Aetate.

At the present time we cannot disregard the current irritations in Catholic-Jewish relations. After the depressing days of the Hamas-Israel-War there was criticism of the State of Israel on the part of some Catholics, which we must reject. In an editorial in the Catholic Sunday Newspaper for Germany (Katholische Sonntagszeitung für Deutschland) the editor Dr. Dirk Hermann Voss described the Israeli operation in Gaza as if done "in a bloodthirsty frenzy" and presented it as "completely espousing the logic of violence". Here the boundaries of reasoned and justifiable criticism of the policy of the State of Israel are clearly exceeded. Protest and indictment in view of the victims in the recent war are quite comprehensible. But the right to security of the State of Israel and its citizens must not be denied in fact through undifferentiated criticism. Such criticism undermines the necessary commitment to a life in security and peace for the Palestinian people.