Bishops in Ever Deeper Pickle over Support for Illegal Aliens

Ali Guissé

The crisis between the Catholic Church and the government is escalating in Belgium. So far over 30 Belgian churches have been occupied by illegal immigrants or so-called “sans papiers” (“people without papers” [=staying permits]). The latest church taken over by squatters is the Saint Susanna Church in the Brussels borough of Schaarbeek, where a group of thirty women with small children have installed themselves. They were invited in by the local parish priest.

“We only go to churches where we are welcome,” says Ali Guissé, the spokesman of the far-left Union for the Defense of People Without Papers (UDEP), which coordinates the “church asylum” actions. The relations between the Belgian Church and the government of Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt have soured since last week, when the Belgian Catholic Bishops spoke out in favour of the occupation of their churches and chapels by sans-papiers. The latter have installed themselves there in order to pressure the Belgian authorities into giving them permanent residence permits.

Yesterday Prime Minister Verhofstadt and Cardinal Godfried Danneels, the Archbishop of Mechelen and Brussels, discussed ways to solve the crisis, but, following their meeting in Mechelen today, the Belgian Bishops reaffirmed their support for the church occupations by the sans-papiers. In an official statement the Bishops write that they accept and understand the occupations of churches by people without papers.

Left-wing Belgian priests have been opening up Belgian churches for illegal immigrants for a number of years. While the controversial actions are opposed by many conservative Catholics and ordinary people, the Bishops officially support them. Father Jacques ’t Serstevens, the dean of the parishes of the Brussels boroughs Elsene and Etterbeek, however, said that he is opposed to the church occupations:

Why don’t these asylum seekers occupy town halls and other public buildings? It is the government that decides about their permits, isn’t it? […] A parish cannot function without its church. We need the church for religious services. […] An average church does not have enough toilets and washbasins. Churches are not built for living in.

Churches have been occupied in every Belgian diocese, except the diocese of Hasselt. Some churches currently have 700 people living in them. Many of the sans-papiers are Muslims. They pray in the aisles while the walls display banners with the name of Allah.

UDEP spokesman Ali Guissé, an African immigrant, says the church occupations were boosted by Patrick Dewael, the Belgian Interior Minister. Guissé was an illegal immigrant himself until very recently. He led the group of 118 sans-papiers that occupied the Saint Boniface Church in Elsene last October. Last month Minister Dewael offered 60 of them, including Guissé, permanent residence permits “for humanitarian reasons” because they had gone on hungerstrike. According to Guissé many sans-papiers now think that the way to get their situation “regularised” is by occupying a church and threatening to go on hungerstrike. “Indirectly the minister encourages the occupation of churches and the hungerstrikes,” Ali Guissé told Het Laatste Nieuws, Belgium’s largest paper, today. He said:

I am living proof [of the fact that our actions can be succesful]. Last October I started with the occupation of the Saint Boniface Church in Elsene, where the first sans-papiers went on hungerstrike. Minister Dewael regularised the situation of 60 occupants of the church last April, including mine. The thousands of sans-papiers, who have since followed our example, are very well aware of this.

Ali Bouchrouk, an Algerian who has a residency permit but whose wife does not, told the American weekly National Catholic Reporter that the strategy of the sans-papiers is simple:

We are in a Catholic country, thus we occupy churches. If we were in Algeria, we would occupy mosques.

Meanwhile Monsignor Karl-Jozef Rauber, the Papal Nuncio [or Vatican Ambassador] to Belgium, explained his position in the Brussels newspaper De Standaard. Yesterday the Nuncio was criticised after newspapers reported that he fully supports the church occupations. De Standaard, however, writes that the Nuncio’s secretariat denies that he supports the actions. His secretariat is quoted as saying: “The Nuncio cannot interfere in this issue. However, whatever the Belgian bishops say, the Nuncio supports them because the bishops are wise men.”

Minister Dewael, a member of Prime Minister Verhofstadt’s Liberal Party VLD, has said that the Church has to stop interfering in Belgian politics. In 2000 the Verhofstadt government, which is a coalition of Liberals and Socialists, decided to “regularise” every illegal immigrant who could prove that he or she had lived in the country for five years. The 2000 regularisation allowed 50,000 illegal immigrants to become permanent residents of Belgium (that has 10 million inhabitants). The UDEP, the Catholic Bishops and the Socialist Party are in favour of another “regularisation” round, but the VLD says the Belgian welfare system cannot afford this.

Although the Belgian Bishops support the church occupations and the Nuncio, the Vatican representative in Brussels, refuses to criticise them, the official position of the Roman Catholic Church is clear. The 2004 document Erga migrantes caritas Christi states in paragraph 61:

61. To avoid misunderstandings and confusion, and considering the religious diversity that we mutually recognise, and out of respect for sacred places and the religion of the other too, we do not consider it opportune for Christian churches, chapels, places of worship or other places reserved for evangelisation and pastoral work to be made available for members of non-Christian religions. Still less should they be used to obtain recognition of demands made on the public authorities.

More on this topic:

Vatican Representative Supports Church Squatters, 10 May 2006

Allah Takes Over Catholic Church, 7 May 2006

Belgian Church Organizes Illegal Immigrants, 5 May 2006

This makes me want to cry

How can this tragic series of of events be allowed to occur?

Invaders do not always come at the point of a gun. That comes later. Can't anyone see this is what happened in the rest of the world 200 years ago?  I thought Europeans had claimed to learn from the mistakes of the colonial era.

Most colonial invasions did not begin with armies or government appointments - it began by imposing religion on the colonial targets. Why does no one else see this?

Will the subversion of European churches be allowed to continue until there are no more churches? Then what, the muslim members of parliament can legislate islam as the national religion, state by state?

This is the thin end of a VERY DEEP wedge.


Defend Christendom. Defend Jewry. Oppose socialism in Europe.

Christian charity

It is a christian act to open your home to the homeless. But when a priest does this, the home he should be opening up is the parish rectory where he lives, not the Church itself. There are rules as to what can and cannot be done in a church. The priest is responsible for removing people who violate the rules. If the rectory is empty of sans papiers and the church is full of them, the priest is behaving improperly.

That said, it is proper to live in a church under certain, very limited circumstances. If the rectory is already full, if the priest puts out a call for the parishioners to take in refugees and not enough come forward, if there are no other alternatives, we should not turn people out on the street.

This is all theoretical, of course. I highly doubt that there were no alternatives. I would be very surprised if there even was a call for the people to take in the sans papiers. It does us good to remember what real christian charity in the Catholic tradition would look like so that we can compare it to the political agitprop on display in too many places.

Dangerous circle

When forced to become recognized citizens of a country, and having the government fall for the pressure, more people will try it. This is a dangerous circle, where more and more will try, and if the government doesn’t get hard, it will more or less be defacto to be come a permanent resident if one only gets into the country. I am not 100% into Belgian politics, but doubt that this is a wise decision. And sooner or later the population will start to go against the resolutions and thereby the governing body.

The secret to happiness is not in doing what one likes to do, but in liking what one has to do.

Seems the West is loosing its last bastion

Seems the West is loosing its last bastion against Islam - the church.

The fact that these people are waving Islamic flags cheering Allah from Catholic churches shows what they have come as - as conquerers, not as mere immigrants.It's common in history that the first a conquering force does, is to raise its flag - to show the defeated that their fight is over.

They started building little mosques, then asked for mosques that were higher than the surrounding churches.

Now that seems no good any more. So they start aiming at the core of Western civilization - squatting churches. Why churches and not, in God's name - their own mosques??

What's next? The demand to turn these churches into mosques as it is unbearable to a believer of the true faith to stay in a place worshipping the "wrong faith"?? (I  wonder if the priests already refrain from holding the holy mass there and disguise the cross, just to not offend the squatters in their belief....)

Anyone imagines the reaction of the believers of the true religion of peace and tolerance if Christians occupied a mosque hanging a cross out of the window?



Church squatters

What is wrong with the Roman Catholic Church that they allow this, no, not allow, encourage this rape of their sanctuary? In the U.S. the Church is encouraging illegal immigration in order to fill their pews again but at least the Mexicans are Christians.