Interview on Benedict XVI's Upcoming Trip
VIENNA, Austria, 6 SEPT. 2007 (ZENIT)
Cardinal Christoph Schönborn says Benedict XVI is the last of the
great Second Vatican Council theologians, and that the Pope's words are
always both important and fascinating.
In view of Benedict XVI's visit to Austria this Friday through Sunday,
the archbishop of Vienna and president of the Austrian bishops'
conference spoke to ZENIT about the Pope, the man and the successor of
Part 2 of this interview will be published Friday.
Q: Everyone is talking about the Pope's upcoming visit. Who is the real
Cardinal Schönborn: He is very simple. He is the successor of the
Apostle Peter and therefore for us, he is the Vicar of Christ, the
Lord's representative here on earth in the visible Church.
This is at the same time incomprehensible and immense, but it is the
secret of the Petrine ministry. Whoever meets with him, whatever country
he is from, whatever language he speaks
all of that is important, but it is secondary. For us he is, above all,
according to the faith of the Church, Peter among us, with all the
depth, greatness and strength of what Jesus prophesied to Peter, of the
ministry that he entrusted to him, a ministry that continues to exist
beyond the historical figure of Peter.
Q: How are your meetings with the Holy Father?
Cardinal Schönborn: Very normal. He is a man I have known for 35 years,
under whom I studied and with whom I have worked for many years, a man
that throughout the years, I learned to know and deeply esteem and
greatly admire. But April 19, 2005, in his life and in our lives,
something greater happened
he was chosen as the successor of Peter. This naturally represents a new
dimension, which is evident in meeting with him. He is the man, the
teacher, the cardinal that I know well and have known for many years,
and at the same time, he is Peter.
Q: You have known Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI for many years. What
distinguishes him as a man?
Cardinal Schönborn: I could mention many things. In his memoirs he wrote
in a very modest but wise way about his life. He is very restrained in
manifesting personal matters. He does not talk much about his life, but
its deep Christian roots are notable. You can tell that he comes from a
family profoundly formed by faith, a family united in faith and love.
I had the opportunity to get to know his sister Maria well, who died
unexpectedly on Nov. 2, 1991. The three siblings were very close and
they must have had parents who profoundly shaped them.
Who is the Pope based on his personal history? He is a particularly
gifted and intelligent theologian. I do not hesitate to say that he is
the last of the great theologians of the Council generation
de Lubac, Congar, Rahner, von Balthasar. He was the youngest in a long
line of theologians who influenced the Second Vatican Council and he is
certainly one of the greatest because of his spiritual and theological
Q: During your meeting with Benedict XVI in Castel Gandolfo you
discussed the details of his upcoming trip. What is the Holy Father
Cardinal Schönborn: He will let us know and I think this is good. When
Benedict XVI speaks, it is necessary to pay close attention, because
what he has to say is always very clear, important, incisive and very
personal and fascinating. I don't know what he will say to us. It is
good to be open.
What I can say with certainty is that we will receive enough material
for further reflection.
Q: What kind of Church will the Pope find? What is, in your opinion, the
situation of the Church in Austria?
Cardinal Schönborn: Only Our Lord can say what the situation of the
Church is for sure, because faith has him for its aim. In that sense,
hearts and their relationship with God is a mystery. No statistic is
able to measure this. But naturally we live in a time when religious
sociology, the psychology of religion, and statistics play an important
role, and therefore one studies how to pose religion to the young, to
adults and to the elderly.
Since the 1950s there has been enormous change, but not only in the
Church, also in society. We live in a very different society.
Let me offer an example: In our diocese we have a rural area and an
urban area, the great city of Vienna and neighboring areas that belong
to the Archdiocese of Vienna. Fifty years ago, these areas were
farmland; today they make up a large part of the outskirts of Vienna.
This is a radical change, linked to the professional, social and family
lives of many people. The number of farmers has diminished greatly, and
this has impacted religious practice.
I think that today the challenge, in a highly secularized society, is
living Christianity, the Christian faith almost as an alternative, as a
Interview on Benedict XVI's Pilgrimage to Mariazell
VIENNA, Austria, 7 SEPT. 2007 (ZENIT)
The Virgin Mary teaches the
faithful to look to Christ, which is also the message of the shrine of
Mariazell in Austria, according to Cardinal Christoph Schönborn.
In view of Benedict XVI's visit to Austria today through Sunday, the
archbishop of Vienna and president of the Austrian bishops' conference
spoke to ZENIT about the Pope's pilgrimage and the situation of the
Church in Austria.
Part 1 of this interview appeared Thursday.
Q: The Holy Father's visit to Austria is a pilgrimage to Mariazell. What
importance does Mary have in the Christian life?
Cardinal Schönborn: The motto "Turn your gaze toward Christ" is deeply
inspired by Mariazell. If you look at the "full of grace" statue in
Mariazell, the 850-year-old small statue of Linden wood, without festal
vestments, without the opulent robes it is usually clothed in, you can
see a simple figure of this smiling and mysterious Mother of God, and on
her lap a child with an apple in his hand, symbol of the reign of divine
power. And Mary is clearly pointing to the baby. That means that she is
saying to us what she said at Cana
"Do whatever he tells you"
and she teaches us to look to Christ.
She is looking at us but she is pointing to Christ. In a certain sense
she is calling to us: "Look there, look at my son." And I think that
this is the motto that Pope John Paul II chose for his entire life and
especially for his pontificate. "Totus tuus" means to Christ through
Mary. She shows us the way. Therefore let us begin Benedict XVI's
pilgrimage, and with the Holy Father, to Mariazell, and to the Am Hof
Plaza before the Mariensaeule.
On Dec. 8, 2006, feast of the Immaculate Conception, we began a novena
that will last until Sept. 8, in preparation for the feast day of
Mariazell and for the Holy Father's visit.
Q: You recently implied that the scarcity of children is a problem. How
can society be more favorable to childhood?
Cardinal Schönborn: It is above all a big problem for a society that
compromises its future by not having a sufficient number of children. We
know well: Almost all of Europe must face the problem of falling
demographics, which is being helped by strong immigration. It is a
decision that involves all of society that is already facing the "No
Why are we in this situation today when the situation is Austria is so
positive and there is support for families like never before? At no
other time in history has there been a lack of norms like we have today.
And despite that, families once had more children than they have today.
Certainly the drama of abortion plays an important role, but along with
that I would add the fact of people not wanting children, saying no to
children through contraception.
In the last 40 years Europe has said "no" three times to its future: the
first time with the pill, the second time with abortion and the third
time with homosexual marriage. Irrespective of the moral judgments of
these phenomenon, it is simply a "de facto" no to the future.
The yes to the future can only mean a yes to children. I think that
there is a growing awareness among Europeans that this is a necessary
decision. The yes to the future is already a good thing, if you think
the future has a chance.
Q: The Center for Families in the Archdiocese of Cologne has existed for
some time. What are the specific initiatives of the Archdiocese of
Vienna to support families?
Cardinal Schönborn: Naturally many initiatives exist in favor of the
family, for example, associations of families or family workshops.
Different religious movements have familial organizations, like the
Schoenstatt movement. The religious movements of renewal are also
strongly focused on families. But I believe that there is something
more. It has to do with seeing.
Jesus said to his first disciples: "Come and see!" We need to see, we
need to be able to touch
otherwise you don't live it.
I spent some of my vacation time with a young family who has just had
their sixth child. Naturally it is a life with many sacrifices, but it
is certainly more vital than what happens if we are afraid of every new
life. I think of the experiences of families in similar situations who,
with full knowledge, say yes, even if it is linked to enormous
opposition from those around them. With our lives we witness that it is
good, that having children is good.
Naturally it is tiring. But it is rewarding, gratifying. And I think
that the life of families in similar situations encourages others to try
it. And strangely, it is not a problem of economics.
Naturally it is difficult with six children. But thank God in Austria
there is good support for families. Some things could be better, more
constructive, but it is fundamental to live it and make it possible for
others. "Come and see!"
I see it in many families that have three, four, five, six children or
more. The impression one has is that the future is here, hope is here,
life is here. This is the way in which society should live: solidarity,
mutual respect, mutual assistance; the logical experience that we need
to forgo certain things.
These are the values that we absolutely need, so that society will
become a society worthy of life and love. It is there that we find them,
where we learn them. Woe to the society in which these values are lost,
because it will be an evil society, ruthless.
Q: What are you expecting from the Holy Father's visit?
Cardinal Schönborn: Strengthening of the faith, joy in the faith and
encouragement in walking the way of faith, with the Church and in the
Church, and not on a path we make for ourselves.