Several Social Democratic parliamentarians are planning to boycott the speech Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to give to the Bundestag in September. They accuse the pontiff of oppressing millions around the world.
The boycott call is contained in a draft document drawn up by Rolf Schwanitz, who has sent it to all his 146 fellow Social Democratic Party (SPD) members of the Bundestag and asked for their signatures. The document was made available to the Rheinische Post newspaper.
In it, Schwanitz slams the planned speech for September 22 by the pope in front of the parliamentary chamber, saying the Bundestag would be abused as a “decorative accessory” and was no place for “missionary work.”
Schwanitz, who leads a working group called “secular members of the SPD,” called the pope the “last absolute monarch” in Europe. He also said that the pontiff’s stances on women’s rights and contraception, gave him a good deal of the blame for “the ongoing global AIDS epidemic as well as the oppression, exploitation and stigmatization of millions of people.”
In the text, Schwanitz said other SPD members had signaled they would be absent on the day the pope spoke. Party sources told the Rheinische Post that about a half dozen parliamentarians planned on going through with the boycott.
But the head of the SPD Bundestag group, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, has rejected the initiative and Thomas Oppermann, another high-ranking SPD parliamentarian, called the pope-critical document “unfortunate.”
Conservative parliamentarians like Hermann Kues of the Christian Democrats have shown outrage at the boycott campaign.
“I am shocked over the ignorance and delusion here,” he said. “Without Christianity, our country is simply impossible to imagine.”