The Swiss Bishops have given 10,000 francs to the German Churches’ refugee rescue efforts in the Mediterranean.

Driving the news

The Swiss Bishops’ Conference gave the money to the “United4Rescue” initiative of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), as the SIR agency reported January 30.

German Catholic Bishops’ president Cardinal Reinhard Marx has also given 50,000 euros to the Churches’ refugee rescue project, by which the Churches mean to purchase and float their own refugee rescue boat in collaboration with other civil search and rescue operations.

The Swiss prelates handed over the money “with great concern”, they said, at the thousands of lives put in danger and lost altogether in the Mediterranean Sea.

They also expressed their support for the other humanitarian projects currently being carried out in the Mare Nostrum.

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In a press release announcing their donation to the German Churches’ refugee rescue efforts, the Swiss Bishops recalled that they have long been on the side of the migrants seeking to reach European shores by whatever means available.

The prelates mentioned, for example, the August 2019 appeal of Caritas Switzerland, along with other aid and development NGOs and Federal Councillor Karin Keller-Sutter, to intensify “Switzerland’s involvement in the sea rescue efforts in the Mediterranean Sea”.

The Swiss Bishops endorsed that call of Caritas, Keller-Sutter and the other humanitarian organisations, and also called to mind a joint inter-religious declaration they signed in November 2018 on the protection of refugees, entitled “There’s always a person in front of you”.

Most of all, thugh, as justification for their donation the Swiss Bishops cited the words of Pope Francis January 8 at the Wednesday General Audience, in which the pontiff said:

Let us ask the Lord today to help us to live every trial sustained by the energy of faith; and to be sensitive to the many shipwrecked people in history who come to our shores exhausted, because we too know how to welcome them with that fraternal love which comes from the encounter with Jesus. This is what saves us from the frost of indifference and inhumanity“.

Why it matters

The Swiss Bishops’ donation to the German Churches’ refugee rescue project came just as a study carried out by the Swiss Federal Statistical Office revealed that despite greater and greater numbers of people pulling out of the Catholic Church, that denomination remains the largest in Switzerland.

In total, in 2018, 35.2% of Swiss people belonged to the Roman Catholic Church and 23.1% to the Evangelical-Reformed State Church, the national Statistical Office said.

That’s despite a drop of five percentage points among the Catholic population between 2010 and 2018, a three percentage point rise for the Evangelicals and an eight percentage point hike among the non-affiliated.

Other Christian denominations make up 5.6% of the Swiss population, while the Muslim and Jewish communities amount to 5.3% and 0.2% of the population respectively.

The latest Swiss Statistical Office figures coincide with numbers released last November by the Swiss Pastoral Sociological Institute (SPI), which revealed that around 2.9 million Swiss people belong to the Catholic Church.

That was despite the “historical high”, in the words of the SPI, of 25,366 Catholics turning their backs on the Church in 2018 alone, largely due to their discomfort with sharing their churches with migrant Catholics and disgust at the Catholic Church’s abuse and cover-up scandals.

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