“This is not about the church getting involved in politics, which is something we constantly get accused of. This interference in politics and mentioning the separation of church and state is old news that we have been hearing for as long as I can remember,” said the president of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Slovenian Bishops’ Conference, Anton Stres, Ph.D., who also added that this is a practice that originates from communism. Today, we live in a free country, and there is no reason not to talk about things that are for the common good.
Anton Stres, Ph.D., president of the Justice and Peace Commission at the Slovenian Bishops’ Conference and former Archbishop of Ljubljana, recently published a post on the Bishops’ Conference website, on behalf of the Commission, to which the LMŠ and the Levica party strongly reacted. They saw it as “the church interfering in state affairs” and “politicking in favour of the ruling SDS party.” Stres spoke about all of the misconceptions about the separation of church and state on our show Topic of the day (“Tema dneva”).
On the show, Stres first explained what the purpose of his post was and said he wanted to point out the need to help the government, which is adopting unpopular measures. He said that it was not about the masks; that is the last of it. He said that it was also or even mainly about the people who have lost their jobs, their businesses, their income, and are nervous, angry. If you add the challenging of the authority to that, you get people behaving the way they do, which is why we are all currently facing problems.
The church is an equal part of civil society
Stres went on to explain that while in communism, it made sense in a way to call for the separation of church and state because church was only a “private matter” under the constitution, in the free society we live in now, where the constitution is different, this no longer makes sense. Church and its followers, which also includes ecclesiastical dignitaries, are a part of the civil society and, as such, have the same concerns as all other citizens, and also have the right to speak out on matters that concern everyone.
He pointed out that the state is often wrongly defined when it comes to talking about the separation of church and state. That the state is the army, the police, the legislature, the government, and so on, and the church stands next to these, as an equal member of society. Stres also responded to the accusations that the church too obviously supported the ruling SDS party with this post, saying that some time ago, they also supported the closing of shops on Sundays, which was proposed by the opposition, but no one criticized them at the time. Judging by the same criteria, this would then also be considered “an interference in politics or state affairs.”
Helping people behave responsibly in difficult times
Regarding the address of the Archbishop of Ljubljana, Zore, who asked the churchgoers to stay in their municipalities for All Saints’ Day, but did not explicitly call on them not to visit the graves en masse, Stres emphasized that it is not only the believers who visit the graves and that every such address of an authority figure is just a small stone in the mosaic of convincing people to behave responsibly in these difficult times for all of us.