By expressing “closeness and solidarity” to COVID-19-hit Spain, the German Bishops’ head has shown up the “pettiness” of Chancellor Merkel.

– “Social and welfare needs” after the coronavirus, at the top of the agenda

As the Spanish Bishops’ Conference (CEE) informed today, President of the German Bishops’ Conference Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg called his Spanish counterpart, Cardinal Juan José Omella of Barcelona, to express to him “the closeness and solidarity of the German Church in these difficult times”.

“The two presidents of the episcopal conferences, both elected to their positions on March 3, shared the efforts of the two Churches to accompany and serve the people of God and all people in need during this time of pandemic”, the CEE press release continued.

The Spanish Bishops’ Conference went on to state that Bätzing and Omella “studied the possibility of a joint initiative on the part of COMECE (the Commission of Episcopal Conferences for the European Union) to face the social and welfare needs that this situation of emergency will foreseeably leave in wide sectors of the European Union”.

– German paper Der Spiegel: the future of the EU is at stake

The German Bishops’ President’s support for Spain with respect to the economic aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic is especially significant, given that it comes just as the Eurogroup is trying to reach an agreement on financial aid to palliate the crisis.

The eurozone finance ministers have been stuck in intense negotiations over how to help the countries worst-hit by the coronavirus respond to the economic impact of the pandemic, with Spain, France and Italy pushing hard for the mutualisation of debt via so-called coronabonds and countries such as Germany, the Netherlands and Austria fiercely opposing that proposal.

Just this Tuesday, as the Eurogroup rejected the coronabonds, prestigious German newspaper Der Spiegel blasted conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel and her government for their refusal to agree to the issuing of joint debt.

In a hard-hitting editorial, also published in Spanish, Der Spiegel described Merkel’s rejection of eurobonds as “insolidary, petty and cowardly” and reminded her that “it may be worth remembering who helped finance the German reconstruction after the war”.

“German leaders either don’t understand what they’re rejecting with such negligence, or they don’t want to understand it”, the German paper, which enjoys a daily print run of over a million copies, denounced.

Der Spiegel also deplored that Merkel and her government are being driven by the “fear” that the far-right AfD (Alternative for Germany) party will cash in on any potential rescue of Italy and Spain, since it is widely thought that the EU rescue of Greece from 2010 ignited the match that led to the explosion of the extremist party in the polls.

The German newspaper concluded its editorial with a stern warning to Merkel that unless she opts for “compassion and solidarity” in the face of the coronavirus “tragedy” in Italy and Spain the very future of the EU is at risk.

“If Europeans don’t immediately show that they will resist this crisis together, populists, enemies of the European Union and hedge funds in London or New York will have a party.

“As happened with Greece, they’re going to bet on a European state bankruptcy. And this time they’re going to win”.

Next on Novena:

Cardinal Omella: “No way” is COVID-19 punishment from God

German Bishops choose as new president reformer in favour of optional celibacy, more power for women

New ‘Francis bishops’ at helm of Spanish Episcopal Conference poised to finally bring country, Church up to date

More on Novena on the challenges of COVID-19 to the EU:

Churches push Brussels for “concrete expressions of our shared European responsibility” on COVID-19

On COVID-19, Church development network urges Brussels: “Now is the time for Europewide solidarity”


PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.