Picture Credit: CEN
A Cardinal once tipped to be Pope who in the past has criticised excess immigration says that the current wave of far-right populism sweeping Europe has gone too far in demonising migrants.
Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, 74, who is the Archbishop of the Austrian capital of Vienna, has criticised the country’s government over its right-wing immigration policies.
Schoenborn, whose name has been frequently mentioned as one of the contenders to be elected to become the next Pope, said he is worried about the “populist tendencies in the whole of Europe, which we need to oppose”.
Speaking on the issue of migration he said: “Obviously a small group of people are systematically put in a bad light and put under general suspicion.”
Schoenborn said that while his remark is not meant as a direct criticism of Austria’s right-wing government, which according to him does also lots of good, he does think that the Austrian Government sends out many “unnecessary signals”.
As an example he cited the example of the Austrian Government putting up the sign “deportation centre” at the gate of the asylum seeker reception point in the town of Traiskirchen where migrants need to go to start their asylum procedure, which according to the Archbishop is simply “inhumane”.
Schoenborn said: “That hurts because it is about elementary human rights.”
He said that he can understand the plight of refugees as shortly after his birth in 1945 in the Czech Republic he was one of an estimated three million ethnic Germans expelled from the Czech Republic by the country’s communist government
Schoenborn said that he does not dispute that there are also migrants who have to be sent back home as soon as possible, but argued that most of them have fled wars as well and might be suffering from trauma.
The cardinal’s remarks are quite different from the hardline comments he made at the height of the migrant crisis in 2016.
At the time, he spoke of the number of migrants involved being an overburden on society.
Shoenborn said: “We have had to learn: This goes beyond our capacities and possibilities.”
While in the beginning Schoenborn also used the same infamous words as German Chancellor Angela Merkel “Wir schaffen das” (“we will manage it”) when talking about refugees, over time he felt overpowered by the “unbelievable number of refugees” like many others in society.
Cardinal Schoenborn had earlier warned before that Muslims wanted to eradicate Christians and conquer Europe.
The Cardinal made the warning on 12th September 2016 during a special celebration for the “Holy Name of Mary” Church festival, which was first introduced 333 years ago to commemorate victory over the Ottomans in the Battle of Vienna (1683).
The Cardinal said, according to the Archdiocese of Vienna: “Will there be an Islamic conquest of Europe? Many Muslims want that and say: Europe is at its end.”
He asked God to have mercy on Europe and to show mercy to its people, who he said “are in danger of forfeiting our Christian heritage.”
Schoenborn explained that people could already feel this loss, “not only economically, but above all, in human and religious matters.”
Under his leadership, the Archdiocese of Vienna also published a brochure to ask migrants to respect Christian symbols, traditions and culture.
Since December 2017, Austria has been governed by a right-wing government led by Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who at just 32 years old is the world’s youngest head of government.
The coalition of Kurz’s conservative Austrian People’s Party (OVP) with the far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPO) have introduced strict anti-immigration measures and slashed benefits for new arrivals into the country since taking power.
Among recent measures proposed by the Austrian Government is a plan to seize migrants’ cash upon arrival in the country which will go towards their initial care.
The tightening of asylum laws also includes the power to confiscate asylum seekers’ mobile phones which would allow investigators to access the phone’s geodata to determine their origin and exact journey.