At the invitation of Federal Minister Susanne Raab, an “Easter reception” was held for the first time with numerous representatives of the churches and the religious communities. The face-to-face meeting on Thursday in the Federal Chancellery was the first of its kind since the beginning of the pandemic, which was a major topic alongside the challenges of Russia’s war against Ukraine. Both Education Minister Raab and the President of the Episcopal Conference, Archbishop Franz Lackner, addressed this in their speeches. Both emphasized the excellent relationship between state, church and religions in Austria. This has proved its worth, not least during the pandemic and the associated necessary restrictions on the practice of religion on the basis of joint agreements.
As the Minister emphasized at the reception, the majority of the Austrian population belongs to a church or a denomination: “Religion is rooted in the middle of society and has a very high status.” The Minister praised the good cooperation with the religious communities in the fight against the corona pandemic. Churches and religions would show up in the meaningful support of people, but also in their education. Raab explicitly acknowledged the churches and religious communities in helping people fleeing the war in Ukraine.
People often have to leave their homes for various reasons, one of which is persecution based on religious beliefs. The Minister pointed out that Christians are the largest affected group worldwide. The worldwide commitment to religious freedom is a central issue for her as Minister of Education, as is the cooperation between the Ministry and the Ministry of Education and the faith communities: “We are there for you, we have an open ear and an outstretched hand. to work together, “Raab assured his guests.
Meeting after “state of emergency”
In his speech, Archbishop Lackner thanked for the invitation to a larger-scale meeting, after every two years a kind of “state of emergency” had passed, in which the health care system was pushed to its limits, but the social structure was also put to the test. “The pandemic was associated with sacrifices for all of us. I would never have dreamed that one day I would preach in an empty church, and yet it was reality in Easter 2020,” recalled the Archbishop of Salzburg.
Since then, the situation has certainly improved and one can venture a hopeful look into the future. “Yet the challenges of the pandemic are not over yet, there is still disagreement and mistrust. I see our mission as a faith community here as a good example through efforts to balance differences in mediation, as well as in reconciliation and healing of divisions,” the President of the Episcopal Conference stressed. .
From the point of view of the Catholic Church, co-operation with the Austrian state authorities had been “extremely positive”, Lackner continued. So it was important to tackle the fight against the corona virus along with each individual’s own options, although this approach was not without controversy. “But it was and is the conviction of the Austrian Episcopal Conference to support political decisions that were and have been made on the basis of scientific expertise to the best of their knowledge and conviction,” confirmed its President.
New test in the Ukraine war
“All of this, however, seems far-fetched given the war in Ukraine, which we have been following with horror for almost three months,” the archbishop continued, adding: “We are confronted with the suffering of the people caused by the Russian attack. . ” At the same time, one is “witnessing an immense solidarity that transcends all boundaries”. The Church’s mission also lies in helping, for “it is precisely in the face of suffering that we meet the resurrected today.” At the same time, the bishop’s chairman thanked the government for the help and support of the refugees. “Here, too, there has been a positive collaboration between the faith communities and the state, which enables comprehensive help and care.”
The generally good life also has its limits, the Archbishop remarked, saying: “The introduction of assisted suicide is a decision that we as the Catholic Church have to accept; nevertheless I would like to say this at this point: we can not do it yes. We can not and we will not. ” There remains a “peaceful disagreement” on this issue. The Archbishop positively emphasized the decision to expand palliative care in Austria, “whose resolute implementation we hope and support”.
In addition to Archbishop Lackner of Salzburg, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn and the Apostolic Nuncio of Austria, Archbishop Pedro Lopez Quintana was present, as well as Bishops Alois Schwarz, Anton Leichtfried (both from St. Pölten), Franz Scharl (Vienna). , Bishops’ Conference -General Secretary Peter Schipka and the Ukrainian Catholic Vicar General Yuriy Kolasa. The ecumenism was represented by the President of the World Council of Churches, the dean of the cathedral, Rudolf Prokschi, the Greek Orthodox metropolitan Arsenios (Kardamakis), the priest of the Romanian Orthodox bishop Nicolae Dura, the Syrian Orthodox bishop Dionysios (Isa Gürbüzent), and Matthias Wiener Gospel-luth. Geist and President of the Evangelical Synod Peter Krömer.
“We should be the people of peace”
“We should be the people of peace,” metropolitan Arsenios, referring to the war in Ukraine. “We condemn this war of aggression.” The chairman of the Orthodox Bishops’ Conference in Austria called for “generous opening of hearts and homes for refugees from Ukraine”.
Krömer, chairman of the church meeting, said that this year’s services and church life at Easter were somewhat different. On the one hand, there is joy over the solution of the corona virus, on the other hand, there is constant prayer for peace in Ukraine and the refugees there. The lawyer and chief physician representative of the Evangelical Lutheran Church also mentioned some “problematic” questions for his church: The current Good Friday provision for Evangelical Christians is still unsatisfactory. There are also problems, especially with hospital chaplains, due to the more restrictive data protection provisions that have been in place since 2018. The treatment of asylum seekers who converted to Christianity during their stay in Austria was also unsatisfactory. Krömer rejected the often-heard accusation of “false repentance.” He thanked Minister Raab for her efforts in the areas mentioned to find solutions in cooperation with the Evangelical Church.