Bishops from European Union countries have expressed their concern over the increase in “populist” movements throughout Europe.
In a statement issued by the Bishops of COMECE after their Autumn Plenary meeting, they assessed the development of this complex and multifaceted phenomenon stating: “It has a variety of manifestations, from certain forms of regionalism to nationalism and also extremism, it spans from left to right of the political spectrum. Nevertheless, there are striking similarities: a simplified presentation of problems and solutions, the search for scapegoats, the instrumentalised distinction between ‘them’ and ‘us’”
The COMECE Bishops are deeply concerned because populism tends to:
• Divide societies and undermine social cohesion and solidarity,
• Discriminate against the weakest in society: minorities which are labelled as scapegoats
• Offer the illusion of simplistic solutions to complex problems
They stressed that populism is not only the opposite of the European idea, which has its roots in the notion of solidarity but that it is truly incompatible with the universal vocation of the Church. They expressed regret that even some Christians are tempted to follow these trends.
The Bishops affirmed faithfulness to their vocation and a commitment to continue:
• Promoting intercultural dialogue in fraternity and truth
• Encouraging Christians to further civil and social engagement at the service of their neighbour
• Reinforcing their efforts in education for responsibility.
Aware of the uncertainty and insecurity of the present time, the COMECE Bishops called upon Christians “to resist the pull of populism and to swim against the tide: the Gospel calls us to do this today as it did in former generations. Not in order to engage in battle of cultures or ideologies, but to lay down the principles that are at the root of everything: the steadfast, dignity of the human person – as so loved and wished for by God – and the common good, which reminds us time and time again to show solidarity and to love our neighbour”.
COMECE (Commissio Episcopatuum Communitatis Europensis) is the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community. It is made up of Bishops delegated by the Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union and it has a permanent Secretariat in Brussels.
More than 21 COMECE Bishops met from 24-26 November 2010 in Brussels for their Autumn Plenary Session.
At their meeting the Bishops reflected deeply on the topic of Populism. Contributions to the discussion were made by three leading academics; Prof. Frank Decker, University of Bonn, Prof. Bratt Pattyn, University of Louvain and Prof, Chantal Delsol of Marne-la-Vallee.
Bishop William Kenney, Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham, is the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales representative and has been a member of COMECE since March 1999. Bishop Kenney attended the Plenary meeting.