When Germans go to the polls this Sunday, they are likely to re-elect Angela Merkel as chancellor, an office she has occupied since 2005. Merkel’s expected victory will be all the more remarkable given that the recent populist backlash against the global establishment has tended to see her as its chief enemy. Many had thought she would not survive the anger that her handling of the refugee crisis inspired.
To her enemies, Merkel is the leader of a technocratic, globalist European establishment that has lost touch with the concerns of ordinary people, an establishment that imposes austerity measures on weaker countries and is undermining the particularity of national cultures through the encouragement of mass migration.
Among Christians, attitudes towards Merkel diverge. The conservative Protestant prime minister of Hungary, Viktor Orbán, is one of her most determined opponents.
He sees his resistance to her political programme as being rooted in his Christian convictions. Orbán stands for a Europe of Christian nation states which preserve their traditional cultures and economic independence; Merkel stands for a Europe of multi-culturalism, integrated into a globalised economy with a transnational division of labour.
But there are Christians who admire Merkel as the defender of solidarity and human dignity against fear-mongering populists. By far the most important of these is Pope Francis. In photographs, the two leaders seem to have an unusually close rapport, and Merkel has spoken of their shared values. In June, for instance, she said the Pope “encouraged me to continue and fight for international agreements, including the Paris [climate] agreement”.
This bond might seem surprising, since the Holy Father is a fierce opponent of what he calls “the globalisation of the technocratic paradigm”. But he admires Merkel because he is convinced that she is not the sinister globalist that her critics claim.
How to continue reading…
This article appears in the Catholic Herald magazine - to read it in full subscribe to our digital edition from just 30p a week
The Catholic Herald is your essential weekly guide to the Catholic world; latest news, incisive opinion, expert analysis and spiritual reflection