European church leaders critical of Brexit

 

European church leaders critical of Brexit

Author: 

George Conger

European Church leaders have been sharply critical of last week’s vote for Britain to quit the European Union, with some Catholic leaders calling the decision egotistical and irresponsible. The Rt. Rev. Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, Bishop of Bavaria and President of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) released a statement saying his church “deeply regrets the decision of the British people to leave the European Union. Now it will be necessary to analyse the reasons for this decision. The imminent departure of a country from the EU is a painful matter and must prompt us to drive the European peace project forward even more energetically.” Bishop Bedford-Strohm noted the majority of young people voted to remain in the EU, leading to the hope the vote would not be permanent. “Speaking for myself, I see young people as being the hope of Europe,” he said. Speaking to reporters during his visit to Armenia, Pope Francis said the vote must be respected as it “expressed the will of the people.” However it imposed a “great responsibility” on the EU’s other members to “ensure the well-being and coexistence of the whole European continent”. The former  primate of the Polish Catholic Church, Archbishop Henryk Muszynski of Gniezno (pictured) was less sanguine. “Brexit is the outcome of separatist, populist and egotistic tendencies, shown at both personal and social level, which have been discernible for a long time in Europe. I fear this decision won’t serve Great Britain, Europe or the world,” he told the KAI news agency. The Catholic Bishop of Eisenstadt Agidius Zsifkovics told the Austrian Kathpress news agency the European ideal was being “buried by self-serving gravediggers”. “We must warn against the rise of provincial mentalities and group egoisms. Transnational problems and challenges cannot be solved nationally,” he said, adding: “We’ll be exposed to numerous dangers if we don’t work together for a Europe which cares about its children, stands fraternally by its elderly, protects those seeing its help and promotes and respects the rights of individuals.” In an interview published on the French Catholic Bishops Conference Archbishop Jean-Pierre Grallet of Strasbourg said he was saddened by the vote, but hoped it was clarify the “European project”. Britain could not be compelled to belong to the EU he said.  “I don’t know what the English will say now, how they will propose to exit and what their first moves will be,” he said. “But we must be realists: we will not build Europe against its peoples, without gaining popular support and a responding properly to their anxieties. Europe may look like a beautiful project; but we should remember it’s still highly fragile.” However the moderator of the Free Church of Scotland Donald Robertson applauded the outcome. My own response to this vote is one of immense thankfulness that so many people voted against the Establishment and were prepared to take a risk. But it is a risk and it may not work out.   I recognize the fears and sorrows of those who perceive they have the most to lose (in this case people who have benefited most from the system) and also the danger of giving false expectations to those who think this change will bring them great benefit (essentially the losers under the present system). Justice and equality are never easy and cheap.”

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