Israeli Rabbinate-Vatican Commission

Dialogika Resources

[Private Meeting on SSPX - Williamson Controversy]

(Eighth Meeting, Rome, March 4-5, 2009)

There was no formal Joint Statement issued as a result of this Bilateral Commission meeting. While the date had been set well in advance, the planned agenda was superseded by the controversy that had erupted in the preceding months by Pope Benedict's lifting of the excommunications of four bishops belonging to the Priestly Society of St. Pius X (SSPX). These ordinations, which had occurred on June 30, 1988, were conducted in violation of directives to the contrary by Pope John Paul II. The Society, founded as a repudiation of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, rejects the ecumenical and interreligious outreach of the Council, which it believes contradicts its understanding of Catholic "Tradition." Among these four bishops, Richard Williamson was revealed to be a public denier of the Holocaust, resulting in the pope sending an extraordinary letter in March 2009 to the world's Catholic bishops, which clarified that his outreach to the SSPX was part of the papal work of unity and that he was unaware of Richard Williamson's attitudes toward the Holocaust.

On March 5, 2009, Pope Benedict met with the Bilateral Commission members who had convened in Rome to reiterate the Catholic Church's commitment to the new relationship with the Jewish people. Chief Rabbi Shear-Yashuv Cohen, the Jewish co-chair of the Bilateral Commission, later stated that meeting the pope "has been a very special experience, marking the end of a crisis." The Bilateral Commission resumed its regular meeting schedule for its 9th gathering in January 2010.

Pope Benedict and Rabbi Cohen 2009Mar

Rabbi Shear-Yashuv Cohen, Cardinal Walter Kasper, and Pope Benedict XVI