Cardinal Christoph Schönborn has elaborated on a widely-shared homily he delivered last weekend, in which he lamented Europe’s falling away from Christianity and stated that “many Muslims” wish for “a third attempt at an Islamic conquest of Europe.” In his most recent statement, Schönborn said that while Europe’s Christian heritage is “in danger,” this is not because of Muslims, but rather “because we Europeans have squandered it.”
According to the cardinal, the decline in European Christianity “has absolutely nothing to do with Islam nor with the refugees. It is clear that many Islamists would like to take advantage of our weakness, but they are not responsible for it. We are.”
Cardinal Schönborn continued: “One must not take my homily to be a call to defend ourselves against the refugees, this was not at all my intention. The opportunity for a Christian renewal of Europe lies in our hands: if we look at and come to Christ, spread his gospel and deal with our fellow men, strangers included, as he has taught us, in love and responsibility.”
The cardinal’s homily was delivered on Sunday, September 11, the day commemorating the Battle of Vienna in 1683, when European forces defeated the Ottoman Empire.
Reflecting on the Sunday gospel, the cardinal said: “We are a little bit like [the prodigal son]. We have dissipated the inheritance, we have squandered our Christian heritage, we have thrown it away. And now we are astonished that Europe looks as it looks…wherever we turn we are experiencing need, we are falling into want. Not only in the sphere of economics…but above all humanly speaking and in the sphere of religion and faith. What will become of Europe?”
“Will there now be a third attempt at an Islamic conquest of Europe?” Cardinal Schönborn asked. “Many Muslims think so and long for it and say: This Europe is at an end.”
The cardinal concluded: “This is what we ask for Europe today: Lord, give us another chance! Do not forget that we are your people. As Moses reminds him that it is YOUR people. YOU have led it out of slavery, YOU have sanctified it, it is YOUR people. Hence we ask: Lord, remember, it is YOUR people. And when we have gone wayward and have squandered the inheritance, Lord, do not cast us away! Do not repudiate this Europe, which has brought forth so many saints. Do not abandon us, because we have become so mediocre in our faith.”
Last spring, Cardinal Schönborn spoke about the need for Muslim immigrants to integrate into European societies, noting the differences between democracies and many Middle Eastern countries.
“In Saudi Arabia, for example, there is no religious freedom,” the cardinal said in an interview on Austrian television. “That is quite out of the question here. We must make these differences quite clear to Muslims when they come. They must understand and accept that.”
Cardinal Schönborn also mentioned the significant number of Muslim converts to Catholicism within the Archdiocese of Vienna in the last several years. “I myself have baptized many Muslims,” he said.