Bishops in several European countries issued statements urging Catholics to support Pope Francis in response to a former papal nuncio’s demand for his resignation.
Church leaders in Austria, Switzerland and Germany defended the pope and the Church, which they say is being undermined. Similar statements were also recently issued by the Nordic bishops’ conference, which represents bishops in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland.
Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna published a column on 7th September in the weekly newspaper Heute. He called Pope Francis a “fighter against injustice and exploitation” who “stands against sexual abuse in the Church with great determination.”
Criticism of Pope Francis “comes from circles in the Church who want to get rid of this pope as soon as possible,” said Cardinal Schonborn. He said the pope’s opponents are exploiting the opportunity to criticise him during a time when he is experiencing difficult days.
“I thank God for such a compelling shepherd,” the Austrian cardinal concluded. “Thank you, Papa Francesco!”
On 8th September, Church leaders in Zurich formally denounced Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano’s demand for Pope Francis to resign for allegedly ignoring sanctions Pope Benedict XVI had placed on then-Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick for sexual misconduct. They called for all Catholics in the city to pray for the pope during Masses.
“The demand for Pope Francis to resign appals us and strikes us with sorrow,” read a statement released by the Catholic Church of the canton of Zurich. “We find it intolerable and unheard-of that the matter of abuses within the church should be misused to endanger the unity of the Church, in pursuit of individual agendas.”
Bishop Felix Gmur of Basel, president of the Swiss bishops’ conference, weighed in on the issue on 5th September, according to Katholisches Medienzentrum, Switzerland’s Catholic Media Centre.
“We do not support a demand for the resignation of the pope,” said Bishop Gmur.
In Germany, four bishops previously at odds in the debate over Communion for civilly divorced and remarried Catholics were unanimous in their call for Catholics to remain loyal to the pope.
“It is time to stand behind the pope and support his efforts for clarification, restoration and prevention,” Bishop Peter Kohlgraf of Mainz wrote on his Facebook page.
“It cannot be that Catholics are only loyal to the pope as long as he represents their opinions. Without loyalty to the pope, it is not possible to be Catholic,” Bishop Kohlgraf said.