As the German political and media establishment mobilizes against the Alternative for Germany (AfD), Catholic bishops are joining in against the party and are calling for Catholics to “stand for democracy” in the fight against the AfD.
Six German bishops, who are responsible for the so-called eastern bishoprics, issued the call in a new statement released on Friday: “Democratic processes and institutions are being questioned and disparaged. Populist, right-wing extremist and anti-Semitic positions are becoming increasingly acceptable. Mistrust, hatred and agitation are driving society apart.”
The six signatories of the statement are Gerhard Feige from Magdeburg, Heiner Koch from Berlin, Stefan Heße from Hamburg, Wolfgang Ipolt from Görlitz, Ulrich Neymeyr from Erfurt, and Heinrich Timmerevers from Dresden-Meißen, according to Vatican News.
The Catholic bishops, who receive their wage and board from the Church, claim that Germans are essentially being tricked into supporting the AfD.
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“They are insecure, angry and afraid of social decline. This must not lead us to allow ourselves to be taken in by populist statements and seemingly simple solutions,” the letter states.
They also pointed to the Nazi era, which taught Germans that human rights must be respected, and this idea must be the main motivating factor behind governments. A party that calls these values into question cannot be voted for.
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Paradoxically, Germany’s establishment parties are increasingly calling for an outright ban on the AfD, or in many instances, saying that a ban cannot be ruled out. At the same time, these parties say the AfD must be stopped to protect “democracy.” Although the bishops did not call for a ban on the AfD, their claim that the AfD is a threat to democracy may raise some eyebrows given the rhetoric from the left-liberal parties actively exploring a ban on their rival.
The AfD, in contrast, has not called for a ban on any party.
The bishops’ call comes at a time when state elections in eastern states like Brandenburg, Saxony, and Thuringia are fast approaching. The AfD currently leads in first place in all three states. Incidentally, the share of religious citizens is significantly lower in these regions in part due to the past influence of communism, which means the Catholic bishops’ calls to abandon the AfD may find a less receptive audience than in the west, which is also trending heavily toward the AfD.