SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the LDS Church met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel Friday, marking the first time a senior leader of the church has met with a German chancellor.
Hatch invited Elder Uchtdorf, a German native and member of the LDS Church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, on his trip to Berlin to meet with Merkel. Hatch also delivered an address on religious freedom at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation.
“The chancellor welcomed us warmly and expressed her thoughts on religious freedom carefully and with great clarity,” Elder Uchtdorf said, according to a news release by the LDS Church. “Freedom of religion is inextricably linked to the fundamental right of all — whether religious or not — to think, express, and act upon what you are deeply convinced of.”
Hatch and Elder Uchtdorf also shared how the LDS Church has been able to help with the worldwide refugee crisis. Elder Uchtdorf, who was once a refugee himself, fled from Czechoslovakia when he was 4 years old and made his way to East Germany and then West Germany.
Earlier this year, Elder Uchtdorf met with former German President Joachim Gauck, and in 2002 met with then-Federal President Johannes Rau at the Bellevue Palace in Berlin.
Merkel arranged the meeting with Hatch, and in addition to religious freedom, the two discussed trade and relations between the two countries. The former topic is particularly relevant in light of the recent trade tariffs imposed by President Donald Trump. Hatch previously said tariffs would hurt American workers and disagreed with the direction of President Trump on this matter.
“I am grateful to Chancellor Merkel for inviting me to Germany and giving me the personal honor to mark our shared history and partnership together,” Hatch said in a statement.
Hatch said he was one of only a handful of people still alive to see “Germany rise up from the ashes of WWII and grow to become one of America’s closest allies.”
“This week,” Hatch added, “I am reminded that we can build a better future together only by protecting our shared history and values.”
The Germany-U.S. Friendship group, formed from officials from all of Germany's major political parties, also met with Hatch, who shared his thoughts on bipartisanship and cross-country relationships.
While in Germany, Hatch and Elder Uchtdorf visited the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp in Oranienburg, where the two laid a wreath honoring those lost in the Holocaust. Hatch serves as a member of the board of directors for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.