Page last updated at 14:16 GMT, Friday, 22 May 2009 15:16 UK

Far right riles Austrian Church

FPOe campaign poster
One of the FPOe's slogans is "The West in Christian hands"

A Church leader has added his voice to criticism of the campaign tactics of the far-right Austrian Freedom Party.

The Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, spoke out in a sermon on Thursday, warning politicians against exploiting Christian symbols.

He did not name the Austrian Freedom Party (FPOe), but it is using the slogan "The West in Christian hands" in its European election campaign.

The FPOe's leader held up a cross at a rally against a Muslim centre recently.

Heinz-Christian Strache has also been condemned as a "hate preacher" by Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann.

'Inciting hatred'

In his Ascension Day sermon, Cardinal Schoenborn said the Cross "must not be misused as a fighting symbol against other religions".

FPOe leader Heinz-Christian Strache at Vienna rally, 14 May 09
Last week, the FPOe rallied against the expansion of a Muslim centre in Vienna

He said the Cross was "a sign of love, which does not answer violence with violence, or hate with hate, but conquers hatred and hostility through devotion and forgiveness".

In national elections last year, the FPOe came third, taking 17.5% of the vote.

Austrians go to the polls on 7 June in the European Parliament elections.

In its campaign advertisements, the FPOe has said it would veto bids by Turkey and Israel to join the EU in order to avoid "getting sucked into the bloody Middle East conflict".

Israel, unlike Turkey, is not a candidate for EU membership.

Chancellor Faymann warned in a newspaper interview that "it cannot be a trivial offence in our country to establish oneself using Israel and religious feelings in order to incite hatred and gain a few votes".

Referring to the FPOe's slogan, the archbishop said: "My question is not whether the West remains in Christian hands, but whether the West has Christ in its heart".

"A West without faith would be a West to fear," he added.

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  Votes MEPs
Party % +/- % Total +/-
EPP 33.4 -1.4 264 -18
Socialists 23.2 -4.1 183 -26
Liberal 11.0 +1.6 84 +5
Green 7.4 +1.3 50 +9
Left 5.3 -0.6 34 -2
UEN 3.4 +1.6 28 +2
Ind/Dem 2.7 -1.8 21 -15
No Group 13.6 +3.4 72 +3.4
0 of 27 countries declared.

UK Total MEP Seats

Party Votes MEPs
% +/- % Total +/-
CON 27.7 1.0 *26 1
UKIP 16.5 0.3 13 1
LAB 15.7 -6.9 13 -5
LD 13.7 -1.2 11 1
GRN 8.6 2.4 2 0
BNP 6.2 1.3 2 2
SNP 2.1 0.7 2 0
PC 0.8 -0.1 1 0
OTH 8.5 2.4 0 0
SF 1 0
DUP 1 0
72 of 72 seats declared. Vote share figures exclude Northern Ireland as it has a separate electoral system to the rest of the UK
* Includes UCUNF MEP elected in Northern Ireland
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