02:07 PM ETNazi war criminal to get church funeral (courtesy of schismatic sect)
By Daniel Burke and Hada Messia, CNN
ROME (CNN) - The Italian branch of a schismatic Catholic sect with a history of anti-Semitism has agreed to hold a funeral for a convicted Nazi war criminal, despite protests from Jewish groups and the local mayor.
Crowds packed the streets outside San Pio X Church in Albano, a small town south of Rome, chanting "Executioner!" as a hearse carrying Erich Priebke's body entered the compound on Tuesday.
The funeral plans also sparked an outcry in the United States.
"Erich Priebke was a monster," said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League.
"He does not deserve the dignity and respect of a proper church burial. His body should be cremated and his ashes scattered at sea, without further ceremony.”
Priebke, a former SS captain who served a life sentence for his role in an Italian massacre in 1944, died on Friday.
Priebke was convicted by Italian court in 1998 for helping organize the execution of 335 men and boys in retaliation for attacks on German troops.
After World War II, Priebke escaped to Argentina, where he lived for nearly 50 years. He had planned to be buried near his late wife there, according to his lawyer, Paolo Giachini. But Argentina's foreign minister said it would not accept the remains.
MORE: Nazi war criminal Priebke, dubbed the 'butcher,' dies at 100
Burying Priebke in Rome has proved nearly as difficult.
The Diocese of Rome, which is officially headed by Pope Francis but in reality run by other church officials, said in a statement that Priebke's lawyer was told to hold a "small, private" funeral in the Nazi war criminal's home rather than in a church.
"The prayer for the deceased was not denied," the diocese said in a statement, "but rather a different manner for the ceremony was decided."
Priebke's lawyer rejected that proposition, according to the diocese.
But the conservative Society of St. Pius X, whose leaders were excommunicated from the Catholic Church in 1988 for ordaining their own bishops without Vatican approval, agreed Tuesday to hold funeral rites for Priebke.
The Italian chapter acknowledged in a statement Tuesday that Priebke was "controversial" but said he had already been convicted by Italian courts and has the right to a Christian burial.
"A Christian who has been baptized and who has received the sacraments of the Confession and the Eucharist, regardless of what have been his crimes and sins, as he dies reconciling with God and with the Church has the right to have a Holy Mass celebrated at his funeral," the group said in a statement.
The society also said that it "reaffirms our repudiation to any form of anti-semitism and racial hatred."
But the Society of St. Pius X has a long history of controversial statements toward Jews.
Its founder, the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, sharply disagreed with the Roman Catholic Church's softened stance toward other faiths, including Judaism, after the Second Vatican Council in 1962-65.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, the Society of St. Pius X is "mired in anti-Semitism."
"Jews are described in SSPX documents as being cursed by God for the sin of deicide" (killing Jesus), the ADL says in an online report.
"Jews are accused of being in control of world financial and cultural institutions and of plotting to create a 'world empire' or obtain 'world dominion,'" the ADL report continues.
“The Society of St. Pius X never fails fail to shock," Foxman, a Holocaust survivor, said Tuesday. "First, they denied the Holocaust, and now they’re denying the acts of a perpetrator.”
Under Pope Benedict XVI, the Catholic Church tried to bring the ultra-conservative society back into the fold, lifting the excommunication of several bishops and allowing for wider celebration of the Mass in Latin, a favored practice of SSPX.
One of those bishops, Richard Williamson, was later found to have denied elements of the Holocaust, including its death toll of 6 million Jews.
Williamson was convicted of Holocaust denial in a German court and expelled from the society in 2012.
It doesn't look like the breach between the Society of St. Pius X and the Catholic Church will close any time soon.
On Saturday, the Bishop Bernard Fellay, the society's Swiss-born leader, attended a church conference in Kansas City and reportedly said, "The situation of the church is a real disaster, and the present Pope is making it 10,000 times worse.”