Now that the dust has finally begun to settle following the political and economic fallout of the EU referendum outcome, many people across the continent and further afield may be contemplating the possible impact of Brexit on the future of the Church. As time goes on, we think it is important to understand these potential implications, keep a close eye on developing situations, and continue to keep all of the Europe in our prayers.
At first, the instinct of many Christians may be reflected in the words of Cardinal Vincent Nichols: “We pray that in this process, the most vulnerable will be supported and protected”. He said this in the hours that followed the announcement that British voters had favoured the option to leave rather than to remain a member of the European Union. He went on to describe the need for all countries to welcome those less fortunate than themselves and offer what we can.
Whatever the reasons individuals may have had for voting the way they did, these are important words to remember. Even since these words were spoken just weeks ago, a shocking number of violent public attacks across Europe have claimed dozens of lives, and many of these incidents have been linked either directly or indirectly to increasing hostility and fear among citizens across the continent. Ideas of independence, national pride and indeed faith itself have all been the subject of much debate this year, and we can expect this to continue through this period of global political turmoil.
Other church leaders across the continent had similar responses to Cardinal Nichols in the wake of the vote, most with diplomatic messages to share that hinted at disappointment but focused on the positive. These included Pope Francis, who gave a very neutral comment regarding “the will of the people” of Britain. One of the more vocal critics of the outcome was the former Archbishop Henryk Muszynski of Gniezno, who spoke out in his native Poland against the voters’ decision and expressed his concern over the likely consequences. Although most Christian leaders were not so clear in their expressions, this viewpoint seems to have been widely shared.
The focus now, as we move on from the immediate fallout of the vote and look towards the future, seems to be on the European Union as a whole and what it means to people, including Christians and all others. Perhaps the message we should all take from the UK’s collective expression of its citizens’ opinions is that we may all have lost sight of what we should be working towards a peaceful and united world. If steps need to be taken to realign our individual perspectives, then we must be thankful that these issues have been highlighted, and show that we are all willing to continue learning and improving.