He does not see himself "as a kind of politician"

Justitia et Pax Bishop Wilmer visits Israel

Berlin/Cologne/Dresden - Bishop Heiner Wilmer from Hildesheim has travelled to Israel for a short visit. He explains what he is concerned about. Two other German bishops also commented on the Middle East conflict.

Published  on 09.11.2023 at 15:49  – 

The Chairman of the German Commission for Justice and Peace, Bishop Heiner Wilmer, has travelled to Israel for a short visit. He arrived in Tel Aviv on Wednesday evening, Justitia et Pax announced on Thursday. The Hildesheim bishop wanted to send a signal with his trip. "The remembrance and solidarity of the Church in Germany are above all for the victims, the victims of the inhuman terrorist attack by Hamas, the hostages who were abducted and the relatives who fear for them," he said according to the press release. But also to the civilian population in the Gaza Strip, who are suffering as a result of the military conflict.

With his visit, he wanted to encourage all well-wishers to hold on to the hope of peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians. "We are on the side of the people who want peace," he said. He was convinced that the small Christian minority in Israel and Palestine had already made an important contribution to peaceful coexistence and could continue to play an important role in the future.

He does not see himself "as some kind of politician", said Wilmer after arriving in Tel Aviv. "I don't have any nosy suggestions for overcoming the decades-long conflict. But I am convinced that a secure statehood for Israel and a secure statehood for Palestine must be the basis for a future peace." On Thursday, Wilmer visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem to commemorate the Reichspogromnacht 85 years ago.

Bild: ©KNA/Harald Oppitz

Bishop Peter Kohlgraf is President of the German section of Pax Christi.

Meanwhile, Bishop Peter Kohlgraf of Mainz also appealed for non-violent solutions with regard to the war in the Middle East. There must at least be the opportunity to think about it, to encourage it and to consider such options, Kohlgraf said on Deutschlandfunk radio on Thursday. The Catholic peace movement Pax Christi stands for the fact that violence does not solve conflicts. Kohlgraf is President of the German section of Pax Christi.

With regard to the terrorist attack by Hamas in Israel and the war in the Gaza Strip, Kohlgraf said that solidarity with the victims in Israel "cannot be shaken". He criticised black-and-white thinking and "cheap, superficial slogans". "There are many shades of grey," said the bishop. When asked whether he was caught between two stools with regard to Israel and the Palestinians, Kohlgraf said that he was on the side of those suffering and recognised that there were victims and those affected on both sides. Pax Christi is also concerned with compassion for the misery of civilians on both sides.

According to Kohlgraf, it is the task of the church to take action against anti-Semitism and marginalisation. The Christian message includes having compassion for victims, praying for them and providing humanitarian aid. It is important to be vigilant against hatred, simplistic slogans and all forms of anti-Semitism. According to Kohlgraf, it is unacceptable when people in Germany deny Israel's right to exist, when Jews in Germany feel unsafe, when synagogues are attacked and Jewish homes are marked or when the victims of the Hamas terror attack in Israel are blamed and the terror is relativised.

Bild: ©KNA/Dominik Wolf

Bishop Ulrich Neymeyr is responsible for relations with Judaism in the German Bishops' Conference (DBK).

he criticism by Jews of a lack of sympathy in Germany for the victims of Hamas terror is met with understanding. In a podcast in the "With Heart and Attitude" series of the Catholic Academy of the Diocese of Dresden-Meißen (Thursday), Neymeyr emphasised that Jewish partners "quite rightly expect us to help ensure that the horror of the massacre on 7 October does not fade as quickly as it actually did".

Neymeyr is responsible for relations with Judaism in the German Bishops' Conference (DBK). He warned that in the debates about the current Israeli war in the Gaza Strip and its legitimacy, it is too easy to forget "what a cruel massacre that was". He almost has the impression "that this has already been ticked off for our society, and that must not happen." The same applies to the fate of the hostages abducted by Hamas.

In the interview, the bishop criticised the fact that anti-Semitism has become "more and more acceptable in recent years". The case of the deputy Bavarian Minister President Hubert Aiwanger (Free Voters) is "an indication of how people in our society think, how quickly they are prepared to dismiss bad jokes about Jews as a youthful sin and not really deal with them". (tmg/epd/KNA)