Cardinal Matteo Maria Zuppi (Photo by Roberto Serra - Iguana Press/Getty Images)

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Catholic bishops warn EU voters against ‘nationalistic temptation’ of Euroscepticism


Voters should beware of the “nationalistic temptation” of Euroscepticism in June’s European Parliament elections, Catholic prelates said in an election message.

The bishops’ May 8 letter began: “Cara Unione Europea” in the Italian text – dear European Union – and went on to say “you are our home”.

“People often speak badly of you, and many forget how many important things you do!” added the letter from the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union – which was co-signed by senior Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, Archbishop of Bologna.

The “upcoming elections for the renewal of the European Parliament and the appointment of the European Commission are a propitious and unrepeatable opportunity”, said the bishops, for voters to rediscover their “enthusiasm for a common path”.

They went on to warn European voters about an election backlash against migration.

It is the “dream of so many migrants coming from different continents and seeking for a better life within your borders,” according to the bishops.

“It is not a matter of welcoming all but of ensuring that no one is losing his life,” they added and “that many find hospitality”.

At a time when governments and much of the public appear to have become more sceptical of the EU, the Catholic Church has emerged as perhaps one of its more surprising defenders.

In an April message, the bishops also warned against what they called “enlargement fatigue”.

The EU’s continued expansion was both a “geopolitical necessity for stability in our continent” and also “a strong message of hope for the citizens who desire living in peace and justice,” argued the prelates.

Some Catholic commentators have criticised the latest letter, with Stefano Fontana, journalist and former advisor with the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, arguing the bishops had interpreted Christian faith from view of pro-EU ideology.

Cardinal Zuppi, in particular, has been an energetic diplomat, visiting Kyiv, Moscow, Washington and Beijing as part of a Vatican Ukraine peace mission in September last year.

His globetrotting has not always gone down well in all corners, though.

An image of Zuppi shaking hands with Russia’s Maria Lvova-Belova provoked widespread anger in Ukraine.

Lvova-Belova was the subject of a March 2023 International Criminal Court arrest warrant, for her alleged role in the illegal deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia.

Irena Sashko, vice-principal of Ukraine’s Institute of Theological Sciences of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, a Catholic religious institute, said for many Ukrainians, the Catholic Church, and the Sant’Egidio movement to which Cardinal Zuppi is closely linked, were downplaying Russian aggression in their effort to make peace.

In the end, Zuppi’s diplomatic mission had “almost zero results”, argued Franca Giansoldati, Il Messaggero’s Vatican correspondent. The Italian Catholic website Il Sismografo was more biting still, arguing Zuppi had only produced “Lots of media visibility. Lots of public relations”.