Holocaust-denying bishop’s visit axed

AN anti-Semitic British churchman with a record of denying the Holocaust will not be allowed to visit Australia after The AJN alerted the government to his views.

Bishop Richard Williamson – who has publicly denied that six million Jews were killed during the Shoah, insisting that at most the number of victims was between 200,000 and 300,000 – was scheduled to travel to the country later this month.

The cleric has also claimed there is no evidence of any Jews being killed in gas chambers, and has described Jews as “enemies of Christ” responsible for “changes and corruption” within the Catholic Church.

Williamson, a member of “The Resistance”, a conservative grouping within the Catholic Church that rejects the landmark rapprochement with Jews in Vatican II in the 1960s, has previously been found guilty by a German court of inciting racial hatred,

Last week, after learning of Williamson’s travel plans, The AJN contacted the Department of Immigration and Border Control to inquire if he had been granted a visa and to alert Immigration Minister Scott Morrison to his views.

The following day, a spokesperson contacted The AJN saying, “The individual’s visa has been cancelled,” and noting that the minister was “appreciative” of the newspaper drawing his attention to the matter.

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) also contacted the Department of Immigration last week. Noting Williamson’s views and past, ECAJ urged that he be banned from the country in line with legislation that allows the minister to refuse or cancel a visa on character grounds, having regard to the person’s past criminal record or if there is a significant risk that during that person’s visit he or she would vilify a segment of the Australian community.

Welcoming the government’s decision, ECAJ executive director Peter Wertheim said, “The Minister seems to have drawn the correct conclusion that if Williamson were to be allowed into Australia there is a significant risk he would vilify the Jewish community.”

Describing the Minister’s decision as “a welcome affirmation that [Williamson’s] vile and hateful ideas will not be tolerated in Australia”, B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission chair Dr Dvir Abramovich added, “I am dismayed that any church or religious group in Australia would embrace a Holocaust denier and give legitimacy to his disgraceful lies.”

It is not clear whether Williamson’s visit was sanctioned by the Catholic Church in Australia, but a spokesperson for Archbishop Christopher Prowse, who is Consultor to the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, confirmed that the Canberra-based archbishop had no knowledge of the planned visit.

Rabbi Fred Morgan, a professorial fellow of the Australian Catholic University’s (ACU) Faculty of Theology and Philosophy, said Williamson’s views “would be anathema – to use a Christian term – to the scholars at ACU, all of whom support the openness and change in direction represented by Vatican II and the document on Jewish-Catholic relations Nostra Aetate, which eschews all forms of anti-Semitism”.

Williamson was one of four priests illicitly ordained by self-styled Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1988, which resulted in an excommunication that was revoked in 2009 by former pope Benedict XVI. The pontiff declared he had had no prior knowledge of Williamson’s comments on the Shoah and suspended him from his episcopal functions until he unequivocally and publicly repudiated his false assertions about the Holocaust.

PETER KOHN

Bishop Richard Williamson will not be allowed to visit Australia.