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Pope says pained over "hate, hostility" against him
VATICAN CITY |
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict on Thursday said he felt deep pain over the "hostility and hate" some Catholics directed at him after he allowed four traditionalist bishops, including a Holocaust denier, back into the Church.
In a letter addressed to the world's bishops, he admits the Vatican mishandled and badly communicated the affair and that some problems could have been foreseen if the Vatican had made more use of the Internet to check people's backgrounds.
In an extremely rare public show of personal emotion, the pope also warns that the Church risked "biting and devouring itself" over internal squabbles.
It is highly unusual for a pope to have to explain his actions to his bishops after the fact and to acknowledge that things went wrong.
In the letter, the pope defends his decision to start the procedure to let the traditionalist Society of St Pius X (SSPX) back into the fold but rejects accusations he wanted to "turn back the clock".
He said he regretted that a "gesture of mercy" led to "a discussion more heated than any we have seen for a long time".
On Jan. 24, Benedict lifted the excommunication of Richard Williamson and three other bishops to try to heal a 20-year-old rift that began when they were thrown out of the Church for being ordained without the permission of Pope John Paul II.
Williamson said in an interview broadcast several days earlier that he believed there were no gas chambers and that no more than 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps, rather than the 6 million accepted by most historians.
Williamson's comments and the pope's decision to lift the excommunication caused a deep rift in Catholic-Jewish relations. The decision was condemned by Holocaust survivors, some Catholics, Israel's Chief Rabbinate, world Jewish leaders and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
"I was saddened by the fact that even Catholics who, after all, might have had a better knowledge of the situation, thought they had to attack me with open hostility," he says.
He said the fact the much of the attention concentrated on Williamson as a Holocaust denier was "an unforeseen mishap" that overshadowed his intention to bring healing to the Church.
"That this overlapping of two opposed processes took place and momentarily upset peace between Christians and Jews, as well as peace within the Church, is something which I can only deeply deplore," he said.
"That the quiet gesture of extending a hand gave rise to a huge uproar, and thus became exactly the opposite of a gesture of reconciliation, is a fact which we must accept," he said.
In his defence, the pope said it was sad that modern society appeared to always need someone to hate.
"At times one gets the impression that our society needs to have at least one group to which no tolerance may be shown; which one can easily attack and hate. And should someone dare to approach them - in this case the Pope - he too loses any right to tolerance; he too can be treated hatefully, without misgiving or restraint," the pope said.
The pope said his aim in starting procedures to readmit the SSPX was to bring good people back into the fold, while adding that some of its members act with "arrogance and presumptuousness".
The Vatican says before the SSPX can be fully readmitted into the Church it must accept the teachings of the 1962-1965 Second Vatican Council which urged respect for other religions.
"The Church's teaching authority cannot be frozen in the year 1962 - this must be quite clear to the Society," the Pope said.
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