Adults from Afghanistan, Iran, prepare to be baptized as Catholics in Vienna

A baptismal font in St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, Austria A baptismal font in St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, Austria. | Bwag via Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Eleven people from Afghanistan are among the 27 adults who will soon be baptized as Catholics in Austria’s Vienna archdiocese.

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna formally welcomed the candidates for adult baptism at a ceremony on Oct. 20 at a Carmelite church in the city’s Döbling district, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

In addition to the 11 Afghans, there are six Iranians and four Austrians, with the remainder from five other countries.

More than two-thirds of the catechumens are male and between the ages of 20 and 40.

The 76-year-old cardinal told the candidates: “Being a Christian imparts a hope that is greater than the problems and crises of this world and also greater than the personal blows of fate that some of you have already experienced.”

Afghanistan is the world’s second-worst country in which to be a Christian after North Korea, according to the advocacy group Open Doors, which ranks Iran in eighth place.

Daniel Vychytil, who oversees the adult catechumenate in Vienna and at a national level, told the Austrian Catholic news agency Kathpress that some of those seeking adult baptism had gained asylum.

Following the Taliban’s seizure of power in Afghanistan in August, Afghans in Austria are likely to receive residence permits.

But baptized Afghans are often anxious about family members who remain in their homeland.

“Even if they have been granted asylum themselves, relatives must first manage to flee to Pakistan and apply there to the Austrian embassy for family reunification,” Vychytil said.

He added that most of the Afghan baptismal candidates first encountered Christianity on their journey out of Afghanistan or in Austria itself.

He noted that some had had “very deep religious experiences.”

“Some came to believe in Jesus Christ through conversations with compatriots who have already converted and are active in missionary work, others through visits to church spaces, where they felt a profound peace and quiet and encountered God,” he said.

He added that he knew Afghans who in previous years had been deported from Austria after being baptized.

Kathpress said that in Austria the number of adult baptisms — involving people aged 14 and over — has risen since the turn of the millennium, peaking in 2017.

In common with other Austrian dioceses, the Vienna archdiocese admits baptismal candidates each year in the spring, but has another ceremony in the fall for adult candidates who began their preparation later.

The baptisms take place in local parishes around the Feast of Christ the King, which falls this year on November 21.

More in Europe

Vychytil estimated that there would be around 200 adult baptisms in Austria this year, 80 of them in the Vienna archdiocese.

There are around 45,000 infant baptisms annually in Austria, a central European country of nine million people, around 57% of whom are baptized Catholics.

While there is an established trend of people leaving the Church in Austria, the Vienna archdiocese reported a rise in the number of men training for the priesthood last year.

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