VATICAN (CWN) -- The Vatican today announced that Pope John Paul II is preparing for a trip to Austria in June. That announcement came in reaction to a report, published in Vienna yesterday, that the papal visit would be postponed due to controversy over the status of the retired Cardinal Hermann Groer.

      Cardinal Groer, who has been repeatedly accused of homosexual affairs, has become the focus of a heated controversy in Vienna, his former archdiocese. The active bishops of Austria have asked Cardinal Groer either to rebut the charges or to make some public act of repentance-- neither of which he has done. His successor in Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, recently asked Groer to cease exercising his episcopal ministry.

      The Vatican recently began an investigation of Cardinal Groer's background, aimed specifically at his stint at the head of a monastery in Goettwig from 1960 to 1970-- the period during which his alleged transgressions took place. Cardinal Schoenborn has indicated that Rome must decide, on the basis of that investigation, what action is now appropriate.

      The daily Die Presse had indicated that the Pope's visit to Vienna might be postponed, for fear that demonstrators would use the occasion for ugly public protests over the Groer affair. But today's Vatican statement indicated that preparations are continuing "on the normal course."

      Last week Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn of Vienna said in an interview that he had asked retired archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer, to stop exercising the office of bishop.

      Cardinal Groer retired in 1995 following allegations that he had molested a boy more than 20 years ago. Although he has never admitted or denied the accusations, Cardinal Schoenborn and four other Austrian bishops issued a statement last month saying they believed the allegations were essentially true.

      Cardinal Schoenborn said in an interview the Catholic magazine Dialog that he has asked Cardinal Groer to refrain from carrying out the activities of a bishop, such as confirmations. He added that Cardinal Groer, whose alleged activities were investigated by a Vatican commission this month, also deserved thanks for the many good things he had done.

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April 1, 1998 volume 9, no. 65         DAILY CATHOLIC