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Plenary of the German Bishops on migration, refugees and new forms of poverty

Four days of intensive debates in the halls of the Episcopal Seminary in Fulda on migration and refugees, new poverties and marginalization as a challenge for the Church, humanitarian intervention in favour of Christians of the Near and Middle East, European integration after the UK Brexit vote and the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation

The German bishops accept the challenge of contemporary society: a summary of the recent Plenary meeting of the German Bishops’ Conference (DBK), that ended on Thursday, September 21, after four days of intensive debates, could be described with these words. Migration and refugees; new poverties and marginalization as a challenge for the Church; humanitarian intervention in favour of Christians of the Near and Middle East; European integration after the Brexit vote in the UK; the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation were the main themes discussed in the halls of the Episcopal Seminary in Fulda that welcomed 66 German prelates.

Commitment for refugees. The president of the German Bishops, Archbishop of Munich-Freising, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, speaking on behalf of DBK, explicitly requested the Federal Government to adopt a new global law on migration and on the management of asylum-seekers. During the final press conference His Eminence pointed out that “Germany is a Country of Migration, especially today, when approximately 25% of the overall population are migrants.” The Cardinal reiterated the need for a law assessing the various causes of immigration. There is the need for “greater clarity before people who emigrate for economic reasons, availing themselves of the possibility of asylum and of the German refugee Law.”

The commitment of the German Church in providing aid to refugees has involved all 27 dioceses in the Country, allocating 79.5 million euro in the first seven months of 2016: 52millon and 200 thousand euro to assistance, schooling, vocational training and social housing projects; 27.3 million euro in humanitarian projects in the regions hit by the crisis.

These consistent sums, DBK pointed out, don’t encompass the commitment of the religious communities, that of Catholic associations, nor the non-financial assistance to approximately 28 thousand refugees hosted in 1381 ecclesial structures. Over 5900 pastoral workers provide medical care, social, professional and legal counselling, while 100 thousand volunteers are engaged in activities for integration, schooling and support to the families.

Compassion and solidarity. The events that followed the Second World War, marked by the inflow into Federal and Democratic Germany of over 12 million refugees from Eastern Europe, is an important benchmark for comparison with the current situation. “Their descendants preserved the culture of memory while giving a great contribution to the European peace project”, said Cardinal Marx. During the meeting the archbishop of Cologne Cardinal Rainer Woelki highlighted the need for greater compassion and solidarity towards refugees and marginalized people: “No society can describe itself as human if it looses sight of the fate of the poor or puts the blame on other poor, turning them into scapegoats.” Poverty, continued the Archbishop, “is not a distant reality. It is the reality of many thousands of people in our country. ” For Woelki, the problem is the blame game played by a society with increasing levels of racist populism and lack of solidarity: “At this moment in time our Country is experiencing what happens when people are courted politically on this issue. Populism feeds a de-supportive attitude and fuels the need for scapegoats. ”

Christians in Iraq. National media outlets equally featured major coverage of the speech delivered by the Catholic Chaldean archbishop of Erbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan, Monsignor Bashar Warda, who launched a heartfelt appeal to Christians in Germany and in all of Europe since “within a month it will be decided if after a 2000-year-long presence in Iraq Christianity will have a future or if it will become extinguished, exception made for minor exhibits in Museums.” In conveying his gratitude to German Catholics for the economic support given to Iraqi Christians Monsignor Warda recalled that in the Mesopotamian Country “the number of Christian has radically declined – from 1.4 million faithful to less than 300 thousand.” Thousands of refugees arrived in the region of Erbil after ISIS invaded Mosul. The Chaldean prelate pointed out: “Chaldean Catholics of Erbil welcomed and hosted 10 thousand Christian families.” The funds given by the German Church have been used to build 11 schools and grant university scholarships to 150 students, along with daily support to the new refugees.

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