At the start of the super election year, the six Catholic bishops responsible for eastern Germany are warning against the activities of right-wing parties. In a joint appeal, first reported on Thursday evening by "Der Spiegel", they declare, with reference to their conscience, that they cannot accept the positions of extreme parties such as "III. Weg", the Heimat party or the AfD. In addition to the elections to the European Parliament, state elections will be held in Brandenburg, Saxony and Thuringia in 2024, as well as local elections in nine federal states.
The letter states: "Crude expulsion fantasies for migrants and their supporters, the rejection of offers of protection for refugees, the exclusion of people with disabilities, the sole focus on performance, the denial of man-made climate change and the blanket disparagement of political actors and institutions are incompatible with these fundamental values of our society."
The bishops admit that many people no longer understand political decisions. They are insecure, angry and afraid of social decline. But: "This must not lead us to allow ourselves to be taken in by populist statements and seemingly simple solutions." The appeal has been signed by Archbishops Heiner Koch (Berlin) and Stefan Heße (Hamburg) as well as Bishops Gerhard Feige (Magdeburg), Ulrich Neymeyr (Erfurt), Heinrich Timmerevers (Dresden-Meißen) and Wolfgang Ipolt (Görlitz).
Inform yourself comprehensively and make a responsible decision
The clergy are calling on voters to inform themselves fully and make a responsible decision: "In your deliberations, consider the long-term consequences for our coexistence, for your families and also for you personally." The bishops also remind us that the orientation towards Christian roots, human rights, the values of democracy, the rule of law and the social market economy have brought Germany peace and prosperity. "On this basis, we will also overcome the challenges of our time." They appeal to voters: "Stand up for our free and diverse social order on the basis of our constitution!"
Archbishop Heße of Hamburg told Der Spiegel that they had agreed in December to speak out now. Heße described the AfD as "anti-democratic" and its ideas as "ethnic and nationalistic". The archbishop, who is also the refugee bishop of the German Bishops' Conference (DBK), continued: "There is no overlap between Christianity and the AfD." Bishop Neymeyr of Erfurt called the appeal a "wake-up call for Catholics in the AfD who are alienating themselves from their faith through their membership". Neymeyr added that he only understands dissatisfaction with politics to a certain extent. His understanding ends "where generally recognised facts are denied, such as man-made climate change".
The Chairman of the Bishops' Conference, Georg Bätzing, has repeatedly distanced himself from the AfD, including in an interview with the Süddeutsche Zeitung at the end of December. "Being Catholic and an AfD supporter at the same time, that doesn't go together for me," said the Bishop of Limburg at the time. (KNA)