Holocaust row bishop returns to Britain

A British-born Roman Catholic bishop who was asked to leave Argentina after making "deeply offensive" comments about the Holocaust arrived back in Britain today.

Bishop Richard Williamson flew into London's Heathrow airport from Buenos Aires where he was met by a crowd of international media and an armed police guard.

The bishop, who was given 10 days to leave Argentina by the country's government, declined to answer questions from the press as he was taken to a waiting car by police officers.

Those meeting the bishop, including other Roman Catholic priests, also declined to comment before the vehicle sped away.

The bishop had been resident in Argentina until this week at the St Pius X seminary in the capital.

But after remarks he made in a Swedish television interview were broadcast, the government branded his view "deeply offensive".

He claimed in the interview last month that historical evidence was "hugely against six million having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler ... I believe there were no gas chambers."

He added: "I think that 200,000 to 300,000 Jews perished in the Nazi concentration camps but none of them in gas chambers."

The Vatican has ordered Bishop Williamson to retract his comments and the Catholic Church in England and Wales has said he must do so before he can "enter into full communion with the church".

The bishop would not discuss his plans now he has returned to the UK and no one from the Catholic Church was available to comment on whether he would be allowed to work.

The church and Pope Benedict XVI has come under severe criticism for the decision - taken before the comments were broadcast - to lift an excommunication on him.

He was ordained in the late 1980s by renegade French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and has angered many groups with his hard-line traditionalist views on women and the direction of the church.

The Catholic bishops of England and Wales have already condemned Bishop Williamson's views on the Holocaust as "totally unacceptable" and have stressed that the lifting of his excommunication was for unrelated matters.

A spokesman for the Catholic bishops conference of England and Wales said today that he had "absolutely no idea" where Bishop Williamson was going following his arrival in Britain.

He said: "He does not fall into the jurisdiction of any of the England and Wales bishops because he is not in full communion with the Catholic Church.

"He will have to make his own arrangements, whether that is with a Catholic priest or with somebody else.

"From the hierarchy's perspective, he has got nothing to do with the bishops of this country."

Also there to meet the bishop was documentary-maker Michele Renouf, who said she wanted to represent and support him in getting his views across to the public.

She said: "The Holocaust has become a religion and to deny its central tenets and saints is blasphemy."

She said it was "a disgrace" that there could be no reasoned debate on the issue in this country.

The former socialite has become increasingly known in recent years for an association with those who deny the Holocaust and supported historian David Irving during his trial in Vienna for Holocaust denial.

Last year she helped put together a legal team for Australian academic Frederick Toben after he was arrested at Heathrow airport.

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