Belgium Bishops release declaration on church occupations


Today the Bishops of Belgium held a press conference in order to explain their position on the current occupation of church buildings by undocumented foreigners. A formal declaration was issued subsequently. This comes a day after the declaration of the Apostolic nuncio in Belgium.

The Bishops wished to speak in one voice, answering to alleged divisions in the Bishops Conference on the issue.

“The problem of refugees is a major issue in our society,” the declaration starts. "The Bishops reaffirm they solidarity with theses undocumented refugees and hope for a swift and human solution to the problem” it states.

The Belgian Bishop expressed their sympathy for the undocumented and “understand that some of these undocumented have recourse to church occupations to bring the problem to the attention of a wider public.” They wished to express their independence from political parties: “The bishops will not accept to be instrumentalized or manipulated by any party involved.”

Then the declaration condemns the means used to bring pressure on the government. “In any case can the Bishops admit hunger strikes in churches as a mean to pressure,“ they affirmed.

Moreover on the issue of the occupation of church buildings, “the Bishops remind as well that church buildings are not the most appropriate places to undertake such actions. It is therefore preferable that the pastors provide other spaces that they have available to welcome these people.”

Returning to the political aspect of the issue, they declareed that “the normalization of the situation of undocumented foreigners is above all a political question. A political answer is therefore required. The Bishops are well aware that this political issue is not easy to manage.” 

Nevertheless they strongly criticized the inaction of government and politicians in the issue. “Remaining silent or even worse indifference can not be accepted,” they affirmed.

“The Bishops can only invite people to be generous,” the declaration concludes.

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