1. The Holy Father today received in Audience [Monday, 28 June], Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna, Austria, and President of the Austrian Bishops' Conference. The Cardinal had asked to meet the Supreme Pontiff personally in order to report on the present situation of the Church in Austria.
In particular, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn wished to explain the exact meaning of his recent declarations on some aspects of the ecclesiastical discipline currently in force, as well as on certain opinions on the positions taken by the Secretariat of State – and, in particular, by the then-Secretary of State of Pope John Paul II of venerable memory – concerning the late Cardinal Hans Hermann Groër, Archbishop of Vienna from 1986 to 1995.
2. Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals and Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, sdb, Secretary of State, were then invited to join the meeting.
In the second part of the Audience, certain widespread errors were clarified and resolved; they derived in part from certain terms used by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, who expressed regret at the interpretations given to his words.
a) It should be remembered that in the Church, when accusations are made against a Cardinal, competence devolves solely upon the Pope; other parties have a consultative role but always with the due respect for people.
b) The word “chiacchiericcio” (gossip) was erroneously interpreted as disrespectful to the victims of sexual abuse, for whom Cardinal Angelo Sodano nourishes the same sentiments of compassion and of the condemnation of evil as expressed on various occasions by the Holy Father. Those words, spoken [by Cardinal Sodano] to Pope Benedict XVI in his Easter Address, were taken literally from the Papal Homily on Palm Sunday and referred to the “courage that does not let itself be intimidated by the gossip of prevalent opinions”.
3. The Holy Father, recalling his Pastoral Visit to Austria with great affection, through Cardinal Christoph Schönborn sends his greeting and encouragement to the Church in Austria and to her Pastors, while he entrusts the journey to renewed ecclesial communion to the heavenly protection of Mary, venerated by so many in Mariazell.
St. Peter’s Square
Feb. 22, 2020
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