VIENNA – Many Muslims would be glad to see Europe conquered by Islam, an Austrian cardinal and leading future candidate for the papacy said. He also warned that the Christian heritage of Europe risked disappearing, with the statements raising much controversy online.
“Will there now be a third Islamic attempt to conquer Europe? Many Muslims think that and want that, and they say ‘Europe is at the end,’” Cardinal Christoph Schönborn said, as cited by the Archdiocese of Vienna.
He was speaking during the church festival “Holy Name of Mary.” The holiday commemorated the victory over the Ottoman Empire at the Battle of Vienna in 1683.
He asked God to have mercy on Europe as people of Europe “are in danger of forfeiting our Christian heritage.”
“And now we wonder what Europe will look like… [Europe’s Christian heritage] is already being felt as missing [by many people]. Not only economically… but above all human and religious matters.”
“What will become of Europe?” the cardinal asked.
People on social media seem to be agreeing with Schönborn’s statement.
“[We should] live , [according to]the Catholic faith, [it is] exactly what Europe needs,” @trillarion user wrote.
“No churches, but mosques… Islam [brings] nothing good of humanity, but oppression,” one Facebook user wrote.
However, there were those who believe that the cardinal’s statement would fuel tensions between Christians and Muslims even more.
“The difference between the vast number of peaceful Muslims and radical Islamists is not yet clear. Our right-wing populists are happy about this sermon. Sad,” one more user wrote.
Some angry readers asked the cardinal to clarify the notion “Islamic conquest” of Europe. In his Facebook post, Schönborn explained that his sermon was not calling to defend Europeans against the refugees.
“The chance of a Christian revival of Europe is with us, he said, urging to reflect on the Christ’s word and spread it to “everyone, even strangers.”
In May, the Austrian federal chamber passed a law allowing the government to declare a state of emergency lasting up to six months, and extendable for another three, if the number of refugees applying for asylum in Austria exceeds the cap of 37,500 for the year. By the end of July, Austria had already received a total of 24,260 applications, an average of 3,000 per month. Chancellor Christian Kern said in August that the government would review the pros and cons of declaring a state of emergency in September based on the outcome of negotiations with neighboring countries on readmission agreements.
Around 90,000 asylum seekers arrived in Austria in 2015, overwhelming the country’s population of eight million people and leading to a surge in popularity for the right-wing, anti-immigrant party, FPÖ, whose candidate, Norbert Hofer, is currently leading in the polls in a presidential election re-run to be held on October 2.
Europe has been on high alert since 2015, when it was hit by a series of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL)-linked terrorist attacks. The attacks took place in France and Germany.
In September this year, a report emerged that over 11,000 asylum seekers were listed as crime suspects in Austria. The report came after four teenage refugees from Afghanistan, aged 15 to 16, and a 22-year-old man were detained over accusations that they had sexually harassed at least three women in the northern Austrian city of Wels during a wine festival. Following the assault, Mayor Andreas Rabl demanded a “zero tolerance” response to such crimes.