The German Catholic bishops have adopted guidelines for the church's refugee work. Christians are "resolutely committed to the concerns of refugees and asylum seekers," the paper says.
It was adopted on Thursday at the end of the spring plenary meeting in Schontal, Baden-Wurttemberg. At the same time, however, the church "always has the well-being of society as a whole in mind, and especially the needs of the disadvantaged people in our country.".
Caring is in line with the church's self-understanding
According to the bishops, this care corresponds to the self-image of the church. Experiences of flight and homelessness already permeate the texts of the Bible. In contrast, xenophobia and racism are incompatible with the Christian image of man. The church also invokes Pope Francis in its advocacy "for a vibrant culture of welcome and solidarity". Fears and apprehensions about refugees should be addressed and overcome in discussions.
Recommendation of personal accompaniment
The document recommends person-to-person encounters and personal accompaniment. The bishops emphasize that the dignity of each individual must be preserved, regardless of origin and status, religion and ideology, gender and sexual orientation. The bishops describe learning the German language as a crucial prerequisite for integration.
They want Christian refugees to "feel welcome in the midst of our church". The wishes of Orthodox Christians should also be taken into consideration. Christians should not be excluded or harassed in asylum centers because of their faith. In addition, the bishops want to ensure "that Christian life in the Middle East has a future" and that there is a right of return.
Invest in dialogue with Muslims and Jews
In the paper, the bishops also address concrete steps taken by church-related institutions, such as housing construction, better professional qualifications for refugees, medical and psychotherapeutic care for asylum seekers, and support for unaccompanied minors and women traveling alone.
The bishops want to intensify the dialogue with Muslims and Jews. They also propose joint projects to support refugees. Such cooperation, he said, could contribute to mutual respect and overcoming anti-Semitic resentment.
Cardinal Marx counters criticism of AfD leader Petry
Cardinal Reinhard Marx, chairman of the bishops' conference, also addressed criticism from Frauke Petry, leader of the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD), in front of journalists. She had called the church's position mendacious and said the bishops cared too little about cries for help from their fellow Christians in the Middle East and more about Muslims. Marx, by his own admission, "cannot see" that the accusations are true.
When asked, Marx emphasized in the direction of the AfD that it was a matter of solving problems, not exacerbating and emotionalizing conflicts. Prioritizing means addressing the situation of people in Aleppo, Syria, and boat people in the Mediterranean. It would be a scandal if people continued to drown every week. The political debate must be about "talking to each other in a style of respect". He has never mentioned the AfD in his remarks so far, Marx said.