What happened
Germany’s Central Council of Jews welcomed a Vatican decision to demand that traditionalist Bishop Richard Williamson recant his denial of the severity of the Holocaust. (Reuters) Pope Benedict XVI has been hotly criticized in his home country, Germany, for his recent decision to lift Williamson’s excommunication. (The Dallas Morning News)

What the commentators said
“Pope Benedict XVI is usually a thoughtful man,” said the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in an editorial. He has “scrupulously denounced anti-Semitism.” But welcoming a “notorious Holocaust denier” muddies that message. Unless Williamson renounces his anti-Semitic views, letting him back in the church helps no one.

The pope has always been a little deaf to the outside world, said Paul Vallely in Britain’s The Independent. In two decades as Rome’s ideological watchdog before becoming pope, he was entirely focused on the church’s “sacramental life and its own self-certainty.” To him, Williamson’s Holocaust denial probably seemed irrelevant, and “with the windows of the Vatican shut he could not anticipate how differently the rest of the world would view his action.”

“Pope Benedict XVI was never an anti-Semite,” said Alexander Smoltczyk in Germany’s Der Spiegel. This was about his “secret empathy for the traditionalists and their loyalty to the old mass (pre Vatican II), these rigid figures who operate in the purest spheres of Catholicism.” But by failing to attach a fresh rejection of anti-Semitism to his olive branch, he has ended the honeymoon between Germans and their pope.