Bishops in eastern Germany condemned the policies of the AfD (“Alternative für Deutschland”) and other far-right parties, warning Catholics not to become members or vote for them.
The bishops of Hamburg, Berlin, Erfurt, Dresden, Magdeburg and Görlitz – the dioceses of the former German Democratic Republic, where the AfD has the highest following – published their joint statement against the party on 18 January.
“The crude expulsion fantasies for migrants and anyone who supports them, the denial of protection for those seeking refuge, ostracising the handicapped, focusing solely on efficiency, denying that climate-change is also man-made, are all incompatible with our society,” the bishops said.
The bishops decided at the end of December to publish the joint statement, Archbishop Stefan Heße of Hamburg told Der Spiegel, because the AfD was “democracy-hostile and ultra-nationalist”.
“There is no such thing as an intersection between Christianity and the AfD,” he said.
Bishop Ulrich Neymeyr of Erfurt said the bishops’ statement was a “wake-up call for Catholics in the AfD whose membership of that party alienates them from their faith”.
Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg, the president of the German bishops’ conference, told the Süddeutsche Zeitung that he did not think it possible to be a Catholic and support the AfD.
Archbishop Stephan Burger of Freiburg published a joint statement with the Lutheran Bishop of Baden, Heike Springhart, emphasising that “anyone who rides roughshod over human dignity and permits themselves to be guided by racism and contempt for humankind is no longer a member of our democracy”.
It continued: “As Catholic and Protestant Christians we stand together for a broad alliance for democracy and human rights.”
Bishop Felix Genn of Münster condemned “all right-wing extremist views” and called for the support and protection for migrants.
“We are in favour of solidarity with everyone who out of dire necessity seeks a new life in peace and security in Germany.”
Catholics joined the tens of thousands of people who rallied in more than 100 German cities to protest against the AfD on Saturday – with Bishop Bätzing taking part in a demonstration in Limburg.
These followed the revelation a number of extreme right-wingers, including high-ranking members of the AfD, met secretly in Potsdam on 25 November to discuss a “remigration” policy, which would amount in practice to the mass expulsion of immigrants.
Several bishops and members of the Central Committee of German Catholics expressed their shock at the plans.
“Preparations for this far-right coup and their eviction plans have become truly alarming in our country”, said Archbishop Heße, who is also responsible for refugee matters in the German bishops’ conference.
The Catholic Church was “quite decidedly” against “remigration”, Heße told KNA.
The Bishop of Magdeburg Gerhard Feige said he was “aghast” when he heard of the plans, saying they recalled one of the darkest periods of German history.
“They reminded me of the developments which led to the horrors committed by the Nazi regime and I am deeply shocked. It is quite obvious that those involved have not learned from history,” he said.