Merkel Phones Pope After Holocaust Controversy

Chancellor Angela Merkel and German-born Pope Benedict XVI have had a positive telephone conversation after a week of tension over a Holocaust-denying bishop, the German government and the Vatican said Sunday.

Merkel initiated the "good and constructive conversation" and it was characterized by their "common deep concern about the perpetual warning of the Shoah for humanity," according to a joint statement.

Shoah is a Hebrew word used to denote the Holocaust.

On Tuesday, Merkel made a rare public demand for a clarification from the German-born pope after the Vatican lifted the excommunication of traditionalist British Bishop Richard Williamson.

The Vatican demanded Wednesday that Williamson recant his denial of the Holocaust before he can be admitted into the Roman Catholic Church as a bishop. Merkel welcomed that stance.

Sunday's statement said Merkel and Benedict exchanged views with "great mutual respect."

Williamson is one of four bishops from the ultraconservative Society of St. Pius X whose excommunication was lifted by the Vatican last month. The decision sparked outrage because Williamson had said in a television interview that he did not believe any Jews were gassed during the Holocaust.

The German weekly Der Spiegel reported Saturday that Williamson made clear he does not plan to comply immediately with the Vatican's demand that he recant, and rejected a suggestion that he might visit the former Auschwitz death camp.

Williamson said he would correct himself if he is satisfied by the evidence, but insisted that examining it "will take time," Der Spiegel reported.

Several efforts by the Associated Press to reach Williamson at his home in La Reja, Argentina have been unsuccessful.