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Pope says the Vatican erred

March 13, 2009|Associated Press

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI has made an unusual public acknowledgment of Vatican mistakes and turmoil in his church over an outreach to ultraconservatives that led to his lifting the excommunication of a Holocaust-denying bishop.

In an attempt to end one of the most serious crises of his papacy, he said in a letter that the Vatican must make greater use of the Internet to prevent other controversies. Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the letter -- released in six languages -- was "really unusual and deserving of maximum attention."

It recalled Benedict's 2006 apology after his remarks linking Islam to violence caused a storm in the Muslim world. He said then that he was "deeply sorry."

The last time a pope explicitly proclaimed infallibility on matters of faith and morals was in 1950.

The Vatican has said that Benedict did not know that British-born Bishop Richard Williamson was a Holocaust denier when he lifted his excommunication Jan. 24.

Benedict, in an implicit criticism of aides, said that not searching the Internet for information beforehand was an "unforeseen mishap" that caused tensions between Christians and Jews.

Williamson had denied in an interview with Swedish TV broadcast earlier in January that 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazis. He said about 200,000 or 300,000 were killed and none were gassed. His excommunication was lifted along with those of three other ultraconservative bishops in an attempt to bring dissidents back into the mainstream church.

Instead, the move outraged many Jews and Catholics, including bishops in Benedict's native Germany, when Williamson's views became widely known and the interview was seen on the Internet. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a Protestant, demanded clarification from the pope.

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