Pope Francis has donated 100,000 euros (£90,000) towards the first Orthodox monastery that is being built at St Andrä in Austria’s easternmost province of Burgenland.
At a festive ceremony in the Greek-Orthodox Holy Trinity Cathedral (“Dreifaltigkeitskathedrale”) in Vienna on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Austria’s Orthodox Act of 1967, - (the Roman Catholic Church enjoys special rights in Austria regulated in the Concordat but statutory enactments also regulate the state’s relationship to other Churches) – the President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, Cardinal Kurt Koch and the Bishop of Eisenstadt (capital of the Burgenland) Ägidius Zsifkovics presented the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I with the Pope’s donation.
The Orthodox Act of 1967 guarantees that Orthodox religion is taught at state schools, recognises existing Orthodox communities and allows new communities to be founded and regulates proprietary issues.
Patriarch Bartholomew praised Austria’s Orthodox Act saying it was an “important role model for Europe”. Religious freedom required a state framework and that was by no means something one could take for granted in the twenty-first century, he underlined.
Koch recalled that Pope Francis had supported the monastery project from its very beginnings and had in his turn recalled that Pope John Paul II had underlined the importance of Austria’s easternmost diocese’s bridge building function between the people of eastern and western Europe. “May the Pope’s building block (the donation) incite many others to participate in the construction of this first Orthodox monastery in Austria through their prayers or material help”, Koch said.
Metropolitan Arsenios (Kardamakis) of Austria, the Greek-Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria and the whole of Africa, Theodoros II, Metropolitan Isaak (Barakat) of the Patriarchate of Antiochia, the Russian Orthodox Archbishop of Austria Antonij (Sevrjuk), Serb-Orthodox Bishop Andrej (Cilerdzic) and several Austrian bishops were also present.
There are around 450,000 Orthodox Christians from seven different Orthodox Churches in Austria. Since 2010, they have worked together in Austria’s Orthodox bishops’ conference.
PICTURE: Patriarch Bartholomew ©PA