BERLIN — The German chancellor called the pope Sunday, days after she demanded he clarify the Vatican's stance on the Holocaust after it lifted the excommunication of a bishop who denies six million Jews were killed.
Chancellor Angela Merkel initiated the "good and constructive conversation" and it was characterized by "common deep concern about the perpetual warning of the Shoah for humanity," said a joint statement with German-born Pope Benedict XVI. Shoah is a Hebrew word for the Holocaust.
On Tuesday, Merkel made a rare public demand for clarification after the Vatican lifted the excommunication of traditionalist British Bishop Richard Williamson, who has said he does not believe any Jews were gassed during the Holocaust.
A day later, the Vatican demanded that Williamson recant his denial of the Holocaust before he can be admitted into the Roman Catholic Church as a bishop. Merkel welcomed that stance.
The pope's action revived strains in relations between the Vatican and Jews. Jewish groups have previously criticized Benedict's decision to restore what they see as an offensive prayer for the conversion of Jews in Easter Week services of the old Latin Mass.
Some Jews accuse World War II Pope Pius XII of not speaking out to try to prevent the Holocaust; and Israeli officials recently took offense when a senior cardinal said Gaza under the Israeli offensive seemed like a "big concentration camp."
Williamson is one of four bishops from the ultraconservative Society of St. Pius X whose excommunication was lifted by the Vatican last month.
He has apologized to the pope for having stirred controversy, but has not repudiated his comments, in which he also said only 200,000 to 300,000 Jews were killed during World War II.
Williamson does not plan to immediately comply with the Vatican's demand that he recant, and has rejected a suggestion that he might visit the former Auschwitz death camp, the German weekly Der Spiegel reported Saturday.
Williamson said he would correct himself if he is satisfied by the evidence, but insisted that examining it "will take time," Der Spiegel reported.
Several efforts by The Associated Press to reach Williamson at his home in La Reja, Argentina, have been unsuccessful.