UK

Vicar's 9/11 Facebook post investigated by Church

Attack of World Trade Centre Image copyright AP
Image caption The 9/11 attacks on New York, Washington and Pennsylvania in 2001 claimed nearly 3,000 lives

The Church of England is investigating a vicar accused of posting an article on Facebook blaming Israel for the 9/11 attacks in the US.

The Reverend Stephen Sizer, vicar of Christ Church, in Virginia Water, Surrey, allegedly posted a link to an article entitled: "9/11 Israel did it."

He reportedly wrote: "Is this anti-Semitic? It raises so many questions."

Mr Sizer later removed the link and apologised for his "ill-considered and misguided" actions.

The Diocese of Guildford said it was taking "immediate steps" to investigate.

A spokesman for the diocese - which oversees Mr Sizer - said it was a matter of "deep sorrow and shame" that the posts appeared in the same week as the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

"Our attention has been drawn to comments by the Rev Stephen Sizer on social media.

"In those comments Rev Sizer linked to an article entitled '9/11 Israel did it'," the spokesman said.

'Beyond absurd'

"These comments would rightly be seen as unacceptable whenever they were posted.

"It is a matter of deep sorrow and shame that they have been posted in this week of all weeks."

He added the diocese was "aware of the seriousness of the matter" and was also in touch with the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

In a statement, Mr Sizer said: "It was particularly insensitive in that last week coincided with Holocaust Memorial Day.

"I removed the link as soon as I received adverse feedback, and realised that offence had been caused.

"I have never believed Israel or any other country was complicit in the terrorist atrocity of 9/11, and my sharing of this material was ill-considered and misguided."

He added that at the request of the diocese, he would not be using social media or blogs until further notice.

BBC religious affairs correspondent Caroline Wyatt said Mr Sizer had a history of disputes with Jewish community leaders over blog postings on Israel and Zionism.

In 2013, he and the Board of Deputies of British Jews reached a mediated agreement aimed at ending a long-running dispute over postings on his blog.

Jonathan Arkush, vice-president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, told the Jewish News: "Posting, and giving approval to, an article which in effect accuses Jews of responsibility for the 9/11 atrocity is unquestionably anti-Semitic, just as it is beyond absurd."