He was born in Skalsko, Bohemia on January 22, 1945 and his parents fled to Austria when he was only nine months old. At the age of 18 young Christoph entered the Dominican Order and seven years later was ordained a priest in the Order of Preachers in 1970. After more studies and pastoral work he became a student pastor in Graz University in 1973 for two years until he was promoted to associate professor of Dogma at the University of Fribourg in 1976, then Professor of Theology a year later and in 1981 he became Professor for Dogmatic Theology at the same institution until 1991. In 1980 he was appointed a member of the Orthodox-Roman Catholic Dialogue Commission of Switzerland for seven years as well as a member of the foundation "Pro Oriente" in 1984. In 1987 he was appointed Secretary for the Draft-Commission of the new Catechism of the Catholic Church, a position he held until 1992.
On September 29, 1991 Pope John Paul II made him Auxiliary Bishop of Vienna. He was promoted to Co-Adjutor Bishop of Vienna on April 13, 1995 and five months later on September 14, 1995 he was named the acting Archbishop of Vienna. He was further honored by His Holiness when he was elevated to the cardinalate during the most recent Consistory of February 21, 1998, receiving the titular church of Jesus the Divine Worker. He enjoys curial membership in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Congregation for Oriental Churches as well as the Pontifical Council for Culture. There are some prognostics who believe Cardinal Schonborn is being groomed quite possibly to take over in three or four years as Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a very important curial position now held by the esteemed Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. At 54 he is one of the youngest of the cardinals and is quite favored by the Holy Father and in the same line of thinking as Cardinal Ratzinger and John Paul II. There already is mounting a struggle between the people of Austria and the Holy See for the people love him dearly and it is because of him there was not an all-out schism there. Yet the Vatican sees this bright young prelate as a force in the new millennium for the universal Church. It will be interesting to see what develops for some are even touting him as papal material. Only God knows what is in store for this loyal son of the Church.
Schism is the refusal to submit to the authority of the Pope; heresy is the formal denial or doubt by a baptized person of any revealed truth of the Catholic Faith.
Apostasy is the total rejection of his Faith by a baptized Christian. With heresy and schism, and supported by persecution, it has caused divisions in the True Church, and the rise of other churches.
Jesus Christ predicted divisions in the Church, and the rise of other churches. From the time of the Apostles new denominations have sprung up, and have divided and subdivided, to form other denominations. With other churches that are non-Christian, the Christian denominations have opposed the Apostolic Church. "For false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray; if possible, even the elect" (Matthew 24:24).
After some time, separated as it is from the authority of the Pope, a schismatical church is led into errors in doctrine. Today schismatical churches deny the infallibility of the Pope. Of the numerous schisms and heresies, the following are a few of the major ones from the first millennium:
The Pope was alluding to the formal signing, in Augsburg, of an agreement between the Holy See and the World Lutheran Federation, on the subject of justification. The accord was signed, he observed, "in the same city where, in 1530, the Augsburg Confession wrote a decisive page in the Lutheran Reformation." The new document, the Holy Father said, lays the groundwork for further ecumenical advances, by establishing a common understanding on one of the most hotly disputed theological points that has divided Catholics and Lutherans.
Cardinal Edward Cassidy, the president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, led a Vatican delegation to Augsburg for the ceremony. The cardinal urged all Christians to redouble their efforts to promote Church unity. He added: "Unfortunately, we also have the duty to begin work to repair the damages inflicted on the building by the storms, conflicts, and sometimes even earthquakes caused by men."
The greatest task facing all Christians, the Australian-born prelate continued, is to spread the word of the Gospel around the world. "Our divisions are a great obstacle to that task," he observed. But the new Catholic-Lutheran accord, he said, could "give new life and new hope to the ecumenical movement as a whole."
In a separate development on the ecumenical front, a Vatican delegation headed by Cardinal Cassidy and Cardinal Achille Silvestrini, the prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, will soon visit Armenia to greet the new leader of the Armenian Apostolic Church, and to sign an accord strengthening ties between that church and the Holy See. The election of a new Armenian leader, or Catholicos, was delayed because of the terrorist attack on the Armenian national parliament last week.
This event was described by John Paul II as a "consoling sign" on the eve of the Jubilee of the Year 2000, and as "a corner stone on the complex road to the reconstruction of full unity among Christians."
Hundreds of guests from all over the world participated in the ceremony, along with Cardinal Edward Cassidy, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and Bishop Christian Krause, president of the World Lutheran Federation. The German media consider the event as a decisive change for relations between Catholics and Protestants. The change comes almost 500 years after the Reformation instigated by Martin Luther, with his famous 95 theses nailed to the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517.
Cardinal Cassidy pointed out the significance of this ecumenical step, during an interview on Vatican Radio, in which he explained that it "touches on one of the most important questions at the time of the Reformation. It could be said that it was a central issue in the situation that caused the division of the Western Church. Now, we and the Lutherans from all over the world, have been able to find a formula to express the same faith in the fundamental truth of justification, although we put the accent on different aspects."
The Australian Cardinal believes that the agreement closes a wound that was opened almost five centuries ago, "as this division, which goes back to the time of Luther, caused the condemnations by the Catholic Church, as well as the Lutheran condemnations of Catholics. Today the document states clearly that those condemnations of the past are no longer applicable."
The Joint Declaration is also very important because it addresses the very matter of man's salvation.
"It is very profound," Cardinal Cassidy continued, "because -- above all, it is concerned with salvation, which comes from Our Lord Jesus Christ; the new life, which we are called to live thanks to Baptism; justification, as in Baptism a new life begins that leads us to sanctity and eternal life. I would say that it is more a spiritual question than a theological one. This act of salvation is both divine -- as it is Jesus Christ who saves us -- and human, as we must collaborate with grace. The Lord gives us the grace to collaborate with grace."
Although it has taken a giant step, communion with Lutherans is still far from complete. There are very important matters still pending, such as the sacraments, for example.
"This fundamental point opens the door to the coming century. The Holy Father has requested that, in view of the preparation for the Jubilee, initiatives be promoted that will unite Christians even more. We have not arrived at the end of the road. There are many questions that remain to be resolved. In a few words: we must continue to work, as the Pope has said: 'It is a long and difficult road, but full of joy,' " the Cardinal concluded. ZE99110202
Meanwhile in Berlin the leader of the German Evangelical-Lutheran Church, the principal representation of the Reformation in Germany, Bishop Hans Christian Knuth, 59, said, "It has been an historic step, without which, further steps could not be taken in the future. We have found common formulations precisely on a point that caused the schism five centuries ago: this is great news."
Bishop Knuth, who is also the highest representative of the General Synod of the Lutheran Episcopal Conference, and of the German section of the World Lutheran League, is responsible for relations with Catholics and, therefore, knows from within the long negotiations with the Holy See to arrive at this step of mutual agreement.
"Of course a process of this nature, cannot take place without frictions, without problems. It is somewhat similar to politics: when the matter is serious, everyone gets nervous. And, undoubtedly, following the Vatican note of June 25, 1998, we thought the whole process was in difficulty. Later, however, and all of a sudden, the substantial change came. I believe, that in the midst of human give and take, and of the nebulousness of diplomacy, the Holy Spirit wanted to give a signal," Knuth told the Italian newspaper "Avvenire."
According to the Lutheran leader, the decisive step was also taken for a very simple reason: in this long process, the two churches have come to know one another better. Old stereotypes have fallen away. "Undoubtedly, it is clear that a better perception of the other -- both in the personal as well as the theological aspects -- has been of great help. Moreover, ... it is an important fact that we faced a common front: the pressure of secularization, on one hand, and the new religions, on the other. This has led us to concentrate on what unites us, and not on what separates us."
There are those who believe that these agreements between experts in theology and those responsible in the churches leaves the normal faithful indifferent. Knuth disagrees. "No. On the contrary, I would rather say that everyone now ask us what the consequences of this Declaration will be."
And what are the Lutheran expectations? "We would like an end to the scandal that Christians must separate precisely at the moment when they approach the Table of the Lord. From our side, we have already sent out an invitation. What's more, we say we are not issuing the invitation, but the resurrected Christ is. We would like the Catholic Church to do the same."
The Lutheran Bishop feels that "precisely because it is clear that it is a long road, the theological commissions have developed the necessary preparatory work for the next steps. The Declaration on Justification is the balance of a long process that was later officially confirmed by the respective hierarchies; at present, the same should be done with the other aspects, that is, to go over all that has been elaborated by the commissions to see if a consensus can be reached. I repeat, the work is already done."
Regarding the wounds of the past, Bishop Knuth said "the Declaration states clearly that our Synods are recognized as organs of ecclesial guidance. For us, however, a further step cannot be ignored: it must be stated clearly that it is about the Church, not simply about religious communities." ZE99110205
The Apostolic Administrator of Dili, Bishop Carlos Belo, thanked during the celebration for the horizon of hope that opens for the people of East Timor. Before and image of the Virgin of Fatima, he thanked the international community for its support, which prevented a total massacre of the people by pro Indonesian militias.
The Prelate praised as well the effort that the peace forces stationed in East Timor are accomplishing. He stated that this is an example that armies can also serve "to construct," as well as for "solidarity, humanity and justice."
"The visit is something normal. Iraq welcomes everyone who comes to visit," the Vice-President said to the local press, while visiting a commercial fair in Baghdad. Yassin Ramadan said that his country is not looking for political profit from the visit.
John Paul II hopes to go on pilgrimage to various original sites of Revelation. In a letter published on June 29, the Holy Father confirmed his intention to visit Ur of the Chaldeans, Abraham's birthplace, considered the Father in faith of believers of the three monotheist religions.
However, in the document the Pope states that his tour of the places of the Old and New Testament has a strictly spiritual character. Consequently, he wants to avoid any political interpretation or manipulation of his visit.