Belgian bishops criticize water attack on archbishop

Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard of Mechelen-Brussels reacts after activists from FEMEN threw water at him during a conference April 23.

CNS PHOTO | YVES HERMAN, REUTERS

Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard of Mechelen-Brussels reacts after activists from FEMEN threw water at him during a conference April 23.

May 6, 2013

The Belgian bishops’ conference criticized an attack on its president, Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard of Mechelen-Brussels, during which he was soaked with water by half-naked women.

Four bare-breasted protesters from the international FEMEN movement disrupted the April 23 evening debate at the Free University of Brussels, waving placards with the slogan, “Stop homophobia.”

The bishops said in an April 24 statement: “A democratic debate on society’s questions is only possible if everyone is allowed to express their ideas in mutual respect and free expression.

The attitude shown by these people totally lacks credibility and civic sense.

It also completely contradicts the debate theme and the way the Catholic Church undertakes dialogue in a pluralist context.”

Press photos showed the 72-year-old archbishop sitting and praying as he was soaked by the women, who were later ejected by university guards from the debate.