WARSAW, Poland (CNS) — Portugal’s Catholic bishops voiced “deep unease” about worsening economic conditions in their country and urged the government to show greater concern for the common good in its austerity drive.

Saying they “feel the suffering and anguish of those suffering harshest consequences from the current crisis,” the bishops said they wanted to show “solidarity in caring for the weakest and neediest victims of the old and new poverty.”


“We warn whoever has the noble mission of governing our country they must fairly apply measures for the recovery, sparing those already suffocating under the weight of austerity,” the bishops’ conference said after its Nov. 12-15 meeting in Fatima.

The statement followed violent protests outside the Lisbon parliament during a Nov. 14 Europe-wide day of strikes.

It said the Catholic Church counted on a “climate of unity by all social and political forces behind the common good,” and was grateful to those helping create jobs and support families unable to repay loans.

Catholics make up 80 percent of the 10.3 million inhabitants of Portugal, which has faced 16 percent unemployment during Europe’s financial crisis.

In their statement the bishops urged political leaders to better explain the austerity measures and to promote a “culture of dialogue,” as well as to overcome conflicts which “create a feeling of impasse and indefinite crisis.”

However, Bishop Manuel Clemente of Porto, Portugal, conference vice president, said clashes with riot police in the capital and other towns had also “caused unfair damage,” adding that the church backed the right to demonstrate and strike only if “parameters of law and democratic order are maintained.”

“We all lose from violence, which merely undermines and weakens every cause and never resolves any issues,” the bishop said at a Nov. 15 press conference.

Portugal’s Movement of Christian Workers vigorously backed the Nov. 14 day of action in a joint communique with Catholic organizations from neighboring Spain, which warned poverty and exclusion were “increasing at a dizzying pace” throughout southern Europe.

It added that the rights of families were currently “under profound attack, with the excuse of prioritizing deficit reduction and debt repayment.”

The Catholic Church has criticized plans by the center-right government of Prime Minister Pedro Coelho to suppress two religious public holidays as part of the austerity drive, which is expected to intensify in 2013 in line with an international bailout.