bishops warn against “nationalist and populist” reflexes

bishops warn against “nationalist and populist” reflexes

Enlighten voters without giving lessons. Outline perspectives of hope without denying crises or difficulties. The crest of the eight bishops who wrote the letter “A new lease of life for Europe” on the occasion of the European election was not obvious. The political scientist and specialist in secularism Philippe Portier, a fine connoisseur of the Church, welcomes the exercise. “This text is very elaborate, extremely rich from a doctrinal point of view and its philosophical structure is remarkably solid.”

The authors, bishops of a region they call “Euregio” – the cross-border dioceses of France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany – invite people to vote for candidates who defend the European project, based on a “humanism of dialogue” and on “respect for the person”. The eight prelates are not at their first attempt since they had already signed a text during the last European elections in 2019.

Philippe Portier underlines that the text was written in such a way that “our secularized world can understand it. The bishops do not only speak to the people of the tribe. Like that of 2019, it is a copy of the thinking of Pope Francis: it it’s about addressing the peripheries, the people on the threshold.”

The first three pages of the letter's fourteen pages are devoted to the history of European construction. Notably, this part emphasizes the mixed roots of the Old Continent: Christian certainly but also Roman, Greek, Germanic or Arab. “We are very far from a culturalist, exclusivist, populist vision of the Christian roots of Europe, underlines Philippe Portier. Europe is not considered here as a closed culture which should not experience cross-breeding. The bishops, in line with the thoughts of Pope Francis, refuse this conception.”

While listing the crises facing the Union – nationalist, geopolitical, economic, migratory – the bishops warn against “populist” reflexes. “In this area in particular, the letter is a continuation of that of five years ago. Even if it is not said, it is the extreme right which is targeted,” explains Philippe Portier. If we read carefully the text, we understand that it is also difficult, by applying their principles, to vote for the radical left. However, at no time do the authors invite us to vote for one candidate rather than another. The principles are fixed and. it is up to everyone, in full conscience, to implement them as best they can.”

In the details of the subjects discussed, we will note a balanced position on migrants. If they “contribute (…) to energize Europe”, it is also indicated that (their) “massive arrival” constitutes a “real problem” and that we have “no right to deny it”. Regarding family ethics, the political scientist emphasizes that it is the singular definite article that is used – there family: “We reason from a unified, homogeneous principle and not from a plural sociological reality.” Finally, two short references are made to respect for life, from its conception to its natural death, in line with the doctrine of the Church. Generally speaking, Philippe Portier underlines that by using the expression “crisis of European conscience”, the eight bishops oppose “self-referentiality: the conception of a subject who is totally sovereign over his own life, according to an egotistic, individualist formula of existence, where everyone defends their own interests.”

From this pastoral letter emerges a broader reflection than that of the declaration of the bishops of the Comece (1) of March 13, 2024. In this last short text (2), the bishops representing the Episcopal Conferences of the European Union urged above all citizens to go to the polls in these “difficult and uncertain times”. They also recalled that “many of the founding fathers (of the EU) were committed Catholics who firmly believed in the dignity of every human being and in the importance of community.” The document, particularly sober, concluded with a call to young people to get involved in politics.

In the end, the Euregio text published at the beginning of April stands out for its in-depth analysis, both lucid and full of hope. While being perfectly consistent with the social doctrine of the Church and the “very Europeanist” vision of the popes since Pius XII, it is striking with its direct, clear and immediately understandable style by all.

Romain Mazenod

(1) The Commission of Episcopates of the European Union.

Similar Posts