Merkel phones pope over Holocaust denier

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel phoned Pope Benedict XVI Sunday over a Holocaust denier whom the pope welcomed back into the Roman Catholic Church last month.

Neither side seems to have shifted its position over Bishop Richard Williamson, who, shortly before the pope lifted his excommunication, denied the Nazis had systematically murdered six million Jews during World War II.

"It was a very constructive conversation," the German government and Vatican said in a joint statement about the call. Merkel and the pope expressed respect for each others' opinion, the release said -- diplomatic-speak for saying neither side budged.

Merkel demanded Tuesday that the pope firmly reject Holocaust denial: "The pope and the Vatican must make absolutely clear that there can be no denial of the Holocaust," Merkel said.

The Vatican has pointed to several statements by Pope Benedict in the past few years condemning the destruction of European Jewry, including his visits to concentration camps. He has also said he did not know of Williamson's views on the Holocaust when he lifted the excommunication.

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