Page last updated at 23:35 GMT, Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Nazi row bishop returns to the UK

Local TV showed the bishop raising a clenched fist to a reporter's face

A British bishop embroiled in a row over Holocaust denial has arrived in the UK after being thrown out of Argentina.

Richard Williamson, a Roman Catholic, was asked to leave after he refused to retract his denial of the existence of Nazi gas chambers.

The row hugely embarrassed the Vatican which had only recently lifted an excommunication order on the bishop.

After his arrival he was taken straight to a waiting car by police officers.

'Deeply shocked'

Those meeting the bishop, including some Roman Catholic priests, declined to answer any questions from the press before the vehicle sped away.

The bishop has been living at the St Pius X seminary in Buenos Aires, but last Thursday he was given 10 days to leave the country for having "deeply shocked Argentine society, the Jewish people and all of humanity".

Lord Janner, president of the Holocaust Educational Trust commented: "It would be much better if Williamson was not here as his views are anti-Semitic, extremely offensive, and insulting to the millions who witnessed and suffered the horrors of the Holocaust.

"Sadly, as a British citizen, he cannot be prevented."

Earlier, Bishop Williamson had been removed from his post as head of a seminary near Buenos Aires, set up by breakaway Roman Catholic group.

Bishop Richard Williamson arriving in the UK
The bishop refused to answer questions from a scrum of reporters

A row erupted in January after Pope Benedict decided to lift Bishop Williamson's excommunication on an unrelated matter.

After that move, it emerged that the bishop had denied the full extent of the Nazi genocide of the Jews in an interview for Swedish TV.

"I believe there were no gas chambers," he had said.

"I think that two to three hundred thousand Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps but none of them by gas chambers."

David Irving, the British historian who has been jailed in Austria for denying the holocaust, said he had sent Bishop Williamson a letter advising him on "things he can safely say and things he can't say" about the subject.

The Vatican later said the Pope had been unaware of Bishop Williamson's views and had ordered him to recant.

Pope Benedict met American Jewish leaders at the Vatican in a display of solidarity with victims of the Nazis.

The decision to lift the excommunication order was related to the appointment of Richard Williamson as bishop by a breakaway archbishop more than 20 years ago.

Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who died in 1991, had rebelled against liberal reforms in the Church, such as the restriction of the traditional Latin Mass.

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