CNA Staff, Jun 16, 2020 / 06:00 am
Austria’s bishops elected a new president Tuesday, ending Cardinal Christoph Schönborn’s 22-year term at the helm of the country’s bishops’ conference.
In a vote June 16, the bishops chose Archbishop Franz Lackner of Salzburg as their new leader. The 63-year-old Franciscan succeeds Schönborn, who turned 75 in January.
They also elected Bishop Manfred Scheuer of Linz as vice-president of the conference. The 64-year-old will take over the role from Lackner, who served in the position for five years.
Lackner was elected vice-president of the Austrian bishops' conference in 2015. He chaired the bishops' liturgical commission, which garnered attention for commissioning a recent book that argues the blessing of homosexual unions could be "celebrated" in Catholic churches, an act that would run contrary to Catholic teaching on marriage, sexuality, and the family.
The bishop, who is a Franciscan, has the distinction of having been elected an archbishop: The Salzburg archdiocese is one of few remaining in the world in which a body of regional priests, the cathedral canons, have the right to elect the archbishop, and present their choice to the pope for confirmation. Lackner was elected in 2013.
The voting took place during the bishops’ plenary assembly at Mariazell, in the southeastern state of Styria, the Austrian bishops’ conference said Tuesday.
Speaking after the vote, Schönborn, a renowned theologian who helped edit the Catechism of the Catholic Church, said that his years in charge were at times “full of conflict and scandal,” but he was nevertheless grateful for the opportunity.
“I am convinced it was the right time to hand over the reins,” he told the Austrian Catholic news agency Kathpress.