VATICAN CITY, Feb. 4, 2009 (CCRL) — The Vatican on Feb. 3 ordered an illicitly-ordained bishop who denies the Holocaust to publicly recant his views before he can be considered for any role in the Church. Pope Benedict was not aware of Bishop Richard Williamson’s denial of the Holocaust when the pontiff lifted excommunications on him and three other traditionalist bishops last month, the Vatican said in a statement.

“Bishop Williamson, in order to be admitted to the episcopal functions of the Church, must in an absolutely unequivocal and public way distance himself from his positions regarding the Shoah,” the statement said, using the Hebrew word for the Holocaust.

Williamson’s positions on the Holocaust were “absolutely unacceptable and firmly rejected by the Holy Father,” it said. On Jan. 24, the Pope lifted the excommunications of four traditionalist bishops who were thrown out of the Church 20 years ago when they were ordained without the permission of then-Pope John Paul II. The original 1988 decree was based on the four bishops’ participation in an illicit ordination ceremony, not on the opinions they hold about historical events. With this edict, they moved from excommunication to “suspended” status and still do not hold any ordained function within the Church.

Williamson and the three other bishops were consecrated by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who in 1969 founded the Society of Pius X, opposed to many of the reforms of Vatican II. In addition to its demand of Williamson, the Vatican also said the society as a whole must fully recognize the teachings of Vatican II and of all popes who came during and after it in order to have a legitimate canonical function in the Church.