Monasteries should take in asylum seekers: priest

Monasteries should offer accommodation to asylum seekers, Catholic priest Andreas Rellstab believes, but his proposal has met with resistence from other clerics.

“For us as a Christian community, it’s a shame that no one wants to take in the asylum seekers,” Rellstab told the Catholic television programme “Das Wort zum Sonntag” (‘Sunday Word’). 

The 46-year-old Swiss priest argued that there were plenty of places and facilities available, with the numbers of people living in monasteries dropping all the time, newspaper Blick reported. 

But the proposal has received very little support.

“Of course we have the space. But they would not fit into our community,” Franciscan monk Rene Fox told the newspaper.

Sister Rut-Maria Buschor of the Benedictine Abbey of St. Andreas in Sarnen, near Luzern, is also against the idea.

“We do have a really big convent. But we do not want to take anyone because it does not fit into our quiet life. Nobody says that people should take asylum seekers into their homes,” she said.

One Benedictine convent in canton Obwalden has agreed to the idea in principal. The problem, according to Prioress Daniela Bieri, is that the location is very remote and she does not know what the asylum seekers would do all day.

She also doubts, based on previous experience, that the local villagers would welcome the immigrant population.

Walter Müller of the Bishops’ Conference said the fact that these communities live in silence would make it very difficult for them to accommodate asylum seekers, despite the fact that many have available space.

He also pointed out that finding shelter for people was not the job of the church but of the state. 

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