Renegade British bishop Richard Williamson, who has been accused of Holocaust denial, has been expelled from the breakaway ultra-conservative Catholic fraternity, the Society of Saint Pius X, the fraternity said Wednesday.
"Monseigneur Richard Williamson, having distanced himself from the leadership and the government of the Saint Pius X Society over a period of several years and refusing to show respect and obedience deserved by his legitimate superiors, has been declared excluded," the fraternity said in a statement.
The fraternity of traditionalists who broke away from the Vatican more than two decades ago over its reforms said the decision had been reached on October 4.
Williamson was one of four bishops who were consecrated by bishop Monseigneur Marcel Lefebvre in Econe, Switzerland, in 1988 against the orders of Pope John Paul II, who excommunicated them.
The British-born bishop became a household name when he told Swedish public television that Nazis never used gas chambers and that only up to 300,000 Jews died in the Holocaust.
The interview was conducted in November but broadcast on January 21, just three days before Pope Benedict XVI decided to lift Williamson's excommunication.
Benedict later said he would not have made such a move if he had known about Williamson's views on the Holocaust.
Williamson faced a drawn-out court case in Germany, where he was found guilty in two courts of Holocaust denial before the case was finally thrown out early this year for procedural reasons.
His words created an uproar around the world and especially within the Catholic Church, and just days after the interview aired, the Society of Saint Pius X announced he was no longer the head of the La Reja seminar, near Buenos Aires.
With its announcement Wednesday, the fraternity took the final step in distancing itself from Williamson.
It said in its statement that it had given him a deadline for falling in line, but that when it was reached he had said he had published an "open letter" demanding that the fraternity Superior General resign.
"This is a painful decision," it said Wednesday.
The fraternity was founded in 1970 by Lefebvre, who died in 1991, to distance itself from the reforms pushed through during the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), and broke free from the Vatican in 1988.
It had until now counted four bishops, around 500 priests, along with tens of thousands of other faithfuls.
The Vatican on Wednesday welcomed the expulsion of Williamson.
Citing Vatican sources involved in handling the case of the bishop, francophone news agency I.MEDIA reported that his exclusion was seen as "good news" and a "very significant and important" step.
Otherwise "it would have been another complicating factor" in bringing the fraternity back to the Catholic Church after it broke away from the Vatican more than two decades ago.