Days After Expulsion Threat, Holocaust-denying Bishop Leaves Argentina

Bishop Richard Williamson said he believes no more than 300,000 Jews died in Germany's Nazi concentration camps.

The Roman Catholic bishop who caused an international uproar by denying the scale of the Holocaust left Argentina on Tuesday, just days after the government threatened to expel him.

Bishop Richard Williamson, an ultra-traditionalist who headed a seminary near Buenos Aires until earlier this month, said he believes that no more than 300,000 Jews died in Germany's Nazi concentration camps, rather than six million.

Wearing dark sunglasses, a baseball cap and an overcoat, Williamson was seen by a Reuters reporter in Argentina's main international airport as he entered the boarding area.

He did not respond to questions and raised his fist toward the face of a local TV reporter who was trying to get a comment from him as he walked briskly toward his flight.

Williamson, his lips tightly pursed in a grimace, raised his hand inches from the reporter's face, then pushed past, shoving him into a pole with his shoulder. Two men accompanying the bishop then grabbed Dupesso by his shoulders and held him back while Williamson hurried away.

Argentina's Interior Ministry later confirmed that the cleric departed on a flight bound for London.

People accompanying Williamson had been seen at the British Airways ticket counter earlier. On Sunday, priest Miguel Faure of the same religious order told Reuters he believed Williamson would travel to England.

Christian Bouchacourt, the head of the Latin American chapter of the Catholic Society Saint Pius X, confirmed Williamson was leaving Argentina but declined to specify his destination, saying "we want a little tranquillity."

The Argentine government last week gave the bishop 10 days to leave the country or be expelled, citing irregularities in his immigration application and condemning his remarks on the Holocaust as "deeply offensive to Argentine society, the Jewish people and humanity."

Argentina is home to one of the world's largest Jewish communities outside of Israel.

Pope Benedict angered Jewish leaders and many Catholics last month when he lifted excommunications on Williamson and three other traditionalists to try to heal a 20-year-old schism within the Church that began in 1988 when they were ordained without Vatican permission.

The Vatican ordered the British-born Williamson to retract his comments, but the bishop responded that he needed more time to review evidence regarding the Holocaust.

World Jewish organizations and German Chancellor Angela Merkel criticized the pope for rehabilitating Williamson, who belongs to the ultra-traditional Society of Saint Pius X.

Holocaust denial is a crime in Germany and state prosecutors in the southern city of Regensburg are investigating Williamson for incitement.

German neo-Nazi websites and blogs have published pieces supporting Williamson's stand.