Bishops of Austria Appeal for Unity in Face of Terror and Suggest COIVID Vaccine Should be Taken Voluntarily in Report after Assembly
Bishops: standing together against terror and corona
Archbishop Franz Lackner, as chairman of the bishops' conference, presents the results of the plenary assembly of the episcopate
The Austrian bishops made the appeal for cohesion in difficult times the focus of several statements following their autumn plenary assembly this week . They commented on the "Austria deeply shocking" terrorist attack on All Souls Day in downtown Vienna, the dramatic flare-up of the corona pandemic and the need for global cooperation in the face of cross-border threats to creation and peace, which the bishops are currently addressing in the contested Caucasus region of Berg -Called Karabach. The Archbishop of Salzburg and chairman of the Austrian Bishops' Conference, Franz Lackner, explained these positions on Friday, November 13th, at a press conference in Vienna.
"Together against terror" is the programmatic title of a declaration on an act of violence that is intended to divide and destroy society as a whole and coexistence, according to the bishops. "All the more important were and are the signs of all political and social forces, including the churches and religious communities, who resolutely stood up for peace and cohesion in the difficult hours of mourning and continue to stand up for it."
Honest discourse with Islam
The bishops pleaded for an honest discourse on the danger of politically instrumentalized religion in general and on the advance of Islamist forms of political religion. "We firmly reject any sweeping defamation of religion," it said. Pope Francis and Grand Imam Ahmad Al-Tayyib agreed a year ago in Abu Dhabi that God must never be used to justify murder, displacement, terrorism and oppression. The bishops want - as they have assured - to continue to follow the "path of respectful encounter and honest dialogue with Islam" and also recommend this to all Christians and Muslims in their specific neighborhood.
The human right to religious freedom, which is upheld in Austria, forms a good basis for dialogue and cooperation between the state and the churches and religions as well as between the religious communities. This creates a "resilient basis to stand together in the face of terror".
Regarding the currently politically heatedly discussed circumstances and backgrounds of the bloody act in Vienna, the Bishops' Conference declared that these should be "clarified comprehensively by the responsible state institutions without hasty accusations, but with sober expertise".
Church in the fight against Covid-19 too
The bishops also demand responsibility for the common good, consideration and solidarity with a view to the Covid 19 pandemic. As soon as a suitable vaccine is available, it should be made available worldwide at reasonable prices; national egoism or economic interests would take precedence here. Particularly vulnerable people or those in system-maintaining professions should be given preference. The willingness to vaccinate is also an expression of a self-responsible Christian attitude, so the bishops. Archbishop Lackner specified at the press conference that this was not an endorsement of a general vaccination requirement. He relies on people's personal responsibility.
The bishops also stated that in the current, second lockdown, they want to make a responsible contribution to overcoming the crisis with strict precautionary measures in their own area. Specifically and going beyond the current legal requirements: a minimum distance of 1.5 meters and wearing mouth and nose protection during public services. All baptisms, first communions, confirmations and weddings would be postponed. "In extremis" - if the health and social situation require it - a suspension of the services is also conceivable, explained Bishops' Conference chairman Lackner at the press conference.
For the year 2021, the church must reckon with corona-related financial losses, in 2020 many Catholics would have paid the early payment bonus before the outbreak of the pandemic, said the archbishop. "We are still in the midst of a pandemic with enormous personal, social and economic effects. There must be no lockdown of hearts and aid," the bishops stated in their joint statement.
Promote a "new policy"
The bishops looked at a wider horizon with a declaration on the encyclical "Fratelli tutti", in which they campaigned with Pope Francis for a "new policy". With the endeavor to create "a world of brotherhood and social friendship", this should promote a realignment of political and economic action with a view to the global common good. In addition to problem areas such as terror and the corona pandemic, the necessary global economic turnaround towards sustainability, peacekeeping and flight or migration required "solidarity and cooperation across all cultural, religious, geographical, ethnic and political borders". The commitment to human rights is a "permanent work order".
Against the previously prevailing "logic of insatiable greed and exploitation of life", the Austrian bishops are convinced that it must succeed more than before in reconciling economy, ecology and social issues - "also and especially in view of the global climate crisis". The willingness to eliminate the causes of flight must go hand in hand with the reception and integration of people seeking protection "as far as this is only possible". In all of this, it is important to strengthen international relations and institutions and thus counteract tendencies towards isolation and nationalism.
Austria's bishops are finally pushing for lasting peace in the South Caucasus in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsach) region, as they stated in a fourth declaration. They hope that the negotiated ceasefire will hold and called for increased aid for war victims and refugees.