WEDNESDAY
February 23, 2000
volume 11, no. 38
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NEWS & VIEWS     Acknowledgments
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CHURCH IN AUSTRIA CONCERNED ABOUT SOCIAL AND POLITICAL TENSION
Intervention of Cardinals Schönborn and König to Pacify Spirits

    VIENNA, FEB 21 (ZENIT).- The Catholic Church is very concerned about the political and social tensions Austria is experiencing at present. Without entering directly in political affairs, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna and his (indirect) predecessor, Cardinal Franz König, who headed this Archdiocese for over 30 years, published a joint declaration stating, "We experience the bitter consequences of often irresponsible speech over the past months and years with deep sorrow. Unprecedented political divisions have broken out."

    "We appeal to our fellow countrymen, but also to our friends in Europe and the world, to show signs of particular care at this time both in words and deeds." The Cardinals agree that an excitation of spirits could spell serious dangers. "The elderly especially know where discord can lead and with what speed poisoned actions flow from poisoned words."

    In the 30s, Austria was characterized by a tremendous confrontation between the left and the right that almost started a civil war and resulted in a divided country, easy prey to Hitler's power.

    The Cardinals also referred to the sanctions that 14 countries of the European Union have adopted against Vienna because of the new government, which includes Jörg Haider's Freedom Party, which is accused of xenophobia and racism. "We Austrians must take the concerns of our friends, neighbors, and partners seriously -- knowing the bitter burden of history that our country cannot and must not flee. Where bad things occurred, the burden must be borne together. Where Austria's image doesn't match up with reality, we must set it aright together. The citizens of this country -- with the exception of a few fringe groups -- are neither racist nor xenophobic. Respect for human rights and readiness to help people in need are deeply rooted in Austria," stated the Cardinals' declaration, published by the "Kathpress" agency.

    The Church is following events in Austria very closely. On February 4, Cardinal Schönborn, president of the Bishops' Conference, celebrated a Mass in the Viennese Cathedral of St. Stephen to pray for the country, and exhorted Austrian parishes to do likewise. During his homily, which was preceded by an international press conference, the Archbishop appealed to all parts of the disputes to put aside harsh words and resolve the situation through dialogue, which has given Austria long years of prosperity and peace. In regard to Haider's participation in the government, Schönborn said that the Church will follow the government's actions closely, keeping in mind the need for respect of human rights and social justice. ZE00022103

          

February 23, 2000
volume 11, no. 38
NEWS & VIEWS

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