Holocaust-denying bishop to leave Argentina

February 22nd, 2009 - 4:44 am ICT by IANS  

Buenos Aires/Paris, Feb 22 (DPA) The Catholic priest who is at the centre of a global storm of controversy over his denial of the Holocaust will leave Argentina voluntarily, according to a local newspaper report Saturday.
Under pressure from the Jewish community and other groups in Argentina, the Argentina government had asked Richard Williamson to leave the country by early March or face mandatory expulsion.

The newspaper, La Naciion, quoted the head of the arch-conservative Society of Saint Pius X for South America, Christian Bouchacourt, as saying Williamson would leave.

The decision over where the British-born 68-year-old priest will go is in the hands of officials of the European branch of the society, the newspaper reported.

The storm over Williamson’s rehabilitation by the Pope Benedict XVI - the German-born pope revoked his 1988 excommunication - just days after his most recent Holocaust denial has washed waves of furore through both the world Jewish and Catholic communities.

In France, the International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism (LICRA) plans to file a legal suit against the priest. The French courts have competence in the matter because Williamson’s remarks are widely spread and accessible across the country, LICRA

lawyer Alain Jakubowicz told the daily Le Figaro Saturday.

A 1990 French criminal law provides punishment for anyone who denies crimes against humanity. Judges can send Holocaust deniers to jail for a year or extract large fines.

The Pius Society had already removed Williamson from his position as director of a Catholic Seminary west of Buenos Aires and decided that he must leave Argentina.

“The bishop no longer directs the Seminary, and he was already prepared to leave Argentina,” Bouchacourt was quoted as saying.

Williamson’s whereabouts continue to be a mystery.

Williamson was among four ultra-traditionalist members of the Society of Saint Pius X bishops whose 1988 excommunication Pope Benedict XVI revoked last month.

In the interview with Swedish television, Williamson insisted that only 200,000 to 300,000 Jews had been killed in Nazi concentration camps, and not the historically confirmed six million.

Argentina’s Interior Minister Florencio Randazzo said Thursday Argentina would expel Williamson because his remarks insulted “Argentinians, the Jewish people and all of humanity”.

In defiance of the world furore, Williamson has insisted he needed to study “evidence” before changing his views on the Holocaust.

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