By John Waters
The Catholic Bishops of Normandy, France have called on both the French government and the so called “Yellow vest” protesters to meet with each other and become men of dialogue and peace. The bishops released a statement entitled “Should we pay tax to Caesar,” a quote from the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, where Jesus is asked whether it is permitted for Jews to pay taxes to the pagan Roman empire. The “Yellow vest” protesters in France have been angered by a government proposal to increase the taxes payed on petrol and diesel fuels.
In the statement the Bishops call on French Christians to be examples to those around them.
Dialogue and peace
“The maxim (give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s) is often interpreted to ask to reserve their faith in God and to behave like all other citizens for the rest,” the statement reads. The bishops go on to say that, while they do not intend to dictate people’s actions to them, it is worth noting that, like the story in the gospel, the question of taxes often disguises other issues and motives for behavior.
In the second of 4 points, the statement notes that a workable solution cannot be found by violence but only by the parties involved agreeing to talk to one another.
“The way out of the crisis will not happen if we consider that it is a face to face between citizens and rulers where everyone would be asked to choose his side. Clinging to polls will not help anymore. We encourage Christians, men and women of good will to participate in any debate.”
The third point in the statement attempts to use Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment “Laudato Si” as something of a bridge between the protesters and the government.
“Pope Francis was right in repeating "everything is connected" in "Laudato Si". He proposes an integral ecology, the respect of the planet and the development of the human. For the Christian, how can we think of a creative God who would choose between respect for the planet and solidarity between men? However, neither ecology nor solidarity can be found in consumption that has become haunting for all, those who have to survive, those who are afraid of losing purchasing power or want more, those who have lost measure in ostentatious money.”
By highlighting both the concerns of the government regarding the environment and those of the protesters, the bishops hope to show both parties that there is some common ground between them, and therefore space to talk and come to an agreement, rather than demand complete capitulation from the other side.
Care for the whole of society
The statement builds upon this intention in its fourth and final point, warning that the temptation for politicians to focus solely on the economy, excluding everything and everyone else, must be avoided. Rather all members of society must be cared for in order to guarantee a future and political stability.
“Caring for children, young people, people who are sick and at the end of life, loving, preserving, encouraging the family, recognizing the levers of generosity and all that makes the true happiness of life in society are also a political achievement . Thinking the economy without fraternity is sterile.”