Page last updated at 20:46 GMT, Saturday, 31 January 2009

Pope promotes conservative cleric

By David Willey
BBC News, Rome

Pope Benedict
Jewish groups have criticised the Vatican in recent weeks

Pope Benedict has made a controversial appointment, days after revoking the excommunication of a bishop who is a Holocaust denier.

He promoted ultra-conservative cleric Fr Gerhard Maria Wagner to assistant bishop of the Austrian city of Linz.

The Vatican came under heavy criticism from Jewish groups this week for the rehabilitation of dissident British-born bishop Richard Williamson.

The bishop apologised for shaming the Church, but not for his views.

Fr Wagner is also notorious for his extreme views - he has accused the popular Harry Potter novels of spreading Satanism, and described Hurricane Katrina as God's punishment for the sinners of New Orleans.

He wrote in a parish newsletter that the death and destruction caused by the hurricane in New Orleans was divine retribution for the city's tolerance of homosexuals and permissive sexual attitudes.

The future bishop said he was glad that Katrina destroyed not only nightclubs and brothels in New Orleans, but also five of the city's abortion clinics.

The Catholic Church in Austria has been losing support in recent years after its former head was sacked as a result of a scandal involving gay priests in a teaching college.

Austrian Catholics gave only a lukewarm welcome to the Pope when he visited Vienna in 2007.

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