Commenting on the upcoming visit to Austria by Pope Benedict XVI, the archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn said he expected to hear strong and forceful statements from the Pontiff about the reality of Europe and Austria’s responsibility in the region.
“What he has to tell us will be captivating. They won’t be empty words about unimportant matters,” the cardinal told the magazine News. He said that at Hofburg in Vienna, the Pope would surely remind the country of “its place and responsibility in Europe.”
He noted that as a cardinal, Pope Benedict “was never afraid to be precise and sharp in his diagnosis, in the same way as a doctor.” The Pope is not “bombastic” in his manner of speaking, he went on, but rather he speaks “with clear precision and with the dedication of a doctor who really wants to help and point out the path to a cure.”
Cardinal Schönborn pointed out that the Holy Father has the “uncommon gift of being able to speak with both the emotions and with reason,” expressing the “rational together with the existential dimension of life enlightened by the faith.” “This has always been the fascination of Pope Ratzinger, who captivated hundreds of students who attended his classes at Tübingen and Ratisbona.”
The young Joseph Ratzinger, he continued, was considered one of the bright young lights of Vatican II. He always defended the ecumenical nature of the council, but even by 1964, before it was concluded, he was warning about the dangers of misinterpreting the council.
Thus, he explained, in the post-conciliar controversy, Ratzinger always recalled that the Council was not meant to be a break with the past but rather a “renewal in continuity.” Cardinal Schönborn said the Pope’s reputation as “an inquisitor” was due to his 24 years as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the faith, during which he was responsible for rejecting any deviation from the Church teaching.
The cardinal said the Pope’s discourse in Ratisbona, the recent CDF document on the Church and salvation, and the permission to celebrate the Mass according to the 1962 missal, show that the Holy Father is unafraid. “He says things as he sees them and he wants to inspire reflection,” the cardinal said, adding that the Pope has been the one responsible for generating a new discussion about the liturgy.
Cardinal Schönborn also said he hoped the Pope’s visit would encourage people to express their faith in public, as there is a tendency to treat religion as a private affair in Austria. He also warned that those who are expecting the visit to lead to changes in the fundamental structure of the Church are misguided. “The fundamental structure of the Church, which Christ himself established, was clearly fixed and determined from the end of the first century and has remained thus throughout the centuries, and it is non-negotiable.”