Europe: Divisions in the Church about the migrant question

Source: FSSPX News

In a video message addressed to young Hungarians, dated September 17, 2015, the contents of which were published in the September 18 issue of Le Parisien, Pope Francis called on them to demonstrate “a charity full of mercy” toward the hundreds of thousands of migrants who have been arriving in Europe since August. The Supreme Pontiff declared that “the most beautiful face of a country or a city is the face of the Lord’s disciples—bishops, priests, religious, lay faithful—who live with simplicity, in everyday life, in the style of the Good Samaritan and become the neighbors of the flesh and wounds of their brethren, in whom they recognize the flesh and wounds of Jesus. This charity full of mercy comes from the heart of Christ.”

On Sunday, September 6, after the recitation of the Angelus, Pope Francis had already called on each of the 120,000 Catholic communities [parishes] in Europe to welcome “a family of refugees”, explaining that he himself would begin with the two parishes in Vatican City. As of September 17 this resolution was half accomplished, since the first family of refugees moved into an apartment not far from Saint Peter’s Basilica. These are Christians from Damascus, who belong to the Greek-Melkite Catholic Church.

According to a story posted at the website on September 19, “this measure runs counter to the appeal made by the Eastern Patriarchs, who have called on their respective flocks not to leave their territory.” François le Luc is referring to a letter specially addressed to young people by Patriarch Gregory III, sent to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) and reported by Vatican Radio on September 3. The Primate of the Greek-Melkite Catholic Church in Syria writes: “The almost universal wave of emigration of young people, particularly from Syria, but also from Lebanon and Iraq, breaks my heart, wounds me deeply and strikes me a fatal blow. Given this tsunami of emigration ... what future remains for the Church? What will become of our homeland? What will become of our parishes and institutions? ... Despite all your sufferings, stay! Be patient! Do not emigrate! Stay for the Church, for your homeland, for Syria and its future! Stay!” And François le Luc wonders: “Has the Pope heard this appeal, which is moving and at the same time eminently political? Has he, in effect, responded?”

Irenicism in the West, vigilance in the East

Bishop Henryk Hoser.

In a statement published on the website of the Bishops’ Conference of France (CEF) on September 7, the French prelates preferred to listen to only one voice, that of Pope Francis, which they hastened to welcome “with joy” and which, they said, “stimulates us all and invites us to continue, indeed to increase our actions for the sake of the refugees”. According to the CEF, the Supreme Pontiff “invites us to change our outlook and our way of speaking about the migrants. We have to stop considering these persons as aggressors whom we should fear. Whether they are economic or political migrants [refugees], it is unacceptable to sort them in a way aimed at accepting only some of them.”

These words contrast with those of Polish, Hungarian or Slovak prelates who have declared that welcoming masses of Muslim refugees could later create a “ghetto” in which “violence and terrorism” would develop. “Let’s be realistic!” said Abp. Henryk Hoser, Archbishop of Warszawa-Praga (the Eastern part of the Polish capital), in an interview granted to the Catholic press agency KAI and reprinted by Apic on September 16. Bp. Laszlo Kiss-Rigo, Bishop of Szeged-Csanád (Hungary) was even more blunt when he said that the Muslim refugees in Hungary were a threat to “the universal Christian values” of Europe and that they were moreover “arrogant” and “cynical”. He thought that Pope Francis had “no idea of the situation” in his country. Speaking about an “invasion”, he declared to the online edition of the Washington Post on September 7 that many of these “self-styled” refugees are in fact economic migrants and that they deserved no support “because they have money”. He said that he agrees completely with the policy of the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban who is trying, somehow or other, to close the Hungarian borders. For his part, Czech Cardinal Dominik Duka, Archbishop of Prague, said that the Church must “welcome the afflicted with open arms”, but that it was necessary nevertheless to remain “vigilant”. In fact, he declared on the air on the Czech Catholic radio network Proglas, as reported by Apic on September 16, there was “danger that some enemies” would come along “with the wave of refugees”. He pointed out that “it is generally known, after all, that youngsters and even children are utilized to commit terrorist acts.” He added that “the right to life and safety of our families and of the citizens of this country is above all other rights.”

The necessary discernment

Fr. Ephrem Azar.

According to French journalist Eric Zemmour, we are witnessing “the return of the East-West conflict, only backwards, or rather with a wall to keep people out instead of in, with Hungary again in the forefront.” On the airwaves of RTL, on September 3, the commentator recalled that in 1989 that country opened a gap in the Iron Curtain at its border with Austria. “Today, Hungary is building a wall at its border with Serbia,” he continued, noting that whereas the Hungarians and their neighbors of Communist Europe “dreamed back then of freedom and travel,” today the freedom to travel is “their nightmare”. The East “is calling for the defense of European civilization” while in the view of the West, “Europe is confused with the world.”

This confusion is deplored by Fr. Ephrem Azar, O.P., an Iraqi Dominican who has lived in exile in France for 25 years. On the website of the public radio network France Info, he stated that “what the West is proposing today is utterly stupid and naive. We must not indulge in this dangerous pity and popular sentimentality.” In this radio interview broadcast on September 20, upon his return from a trip to Iraq, he stressed that “there has to be some discernment, and we have to understand the causes of this crisis, especially in Syria and Iraq. On the ground, we are facing Daesh [ISIS] and other Islamists who will say: ‘Since the Christian West is welcoming you, go there. They will open their arms to you, go there... and this country is no longer yours.’ And so the country is being totally impoverished, because the ones who leave are not only the unwell and the poor, but also all the intellectually and socially gifted, those who had a lot of talent and qualifications.” This alarming observation prompted him to say that “now is the time to practice solidarity, it is not the time to encourage my people to leave the country.”

In an editorial published on the website Liberté politique on September 16, the director of the non-governmental organization Children of Mekong, Yves Meaudre, called on the public not to confuse charity, morality and politics. In his view, “the unthinking acceptance of hundreds of thousands of immigrants”—most of them single men in good health—“does not correspond to an obligation of charity but to an ideological obligation.” After the fad, “We are all Charlie [Hebdo],” the slightest reflection on the “consequences of that acceptance, which as the months go on will prove to be definitive, leads inevitably to excommunication for the crime of blasphemy [against political correctness].” Meaudre, who is a specialist in welcoming refugees from Southeast Asia, in France but also in their country of origin, deplores the fact that there is “an international desire to replace the old Christian populace with peoples of other religions so as to watch one of the most beautiful civilizations that humanity has ever known disappear.” He concluded: “The nations are in God’s hand. Therefore let us pray....”

(Sources: apic/ leparisien/ washingtonpost/ rtl/ radiovatican/ cef/ franceinfo/ libertepolitique – DICI no. 321 dated September 25, 2015)