Christoph Schönborn
Church positions
See Vienna
Title Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna
Period in office September 14, 1995—present
Successor incumbent
Previous post Coadjutor Archbishop of Vienna
Created cardinal February 21, 1998
Date of birth January 22, 1945 (1945-01-22) (age 72)
Place of birth Bohemia, Czech Republic

Christoph Schönborn, OP (born January 22, 1945) is an Austrian Cardinal of the Catholic Church and theologian. He currently serves as Archbishop of Vienna and President of the Austrian Bishops' Conference. He was elevated to the cardinalate in 1998.

Early life

Christoph Maria Michael Hugo Damian Peter Adalbert von Schönborn was born at Skalken castle, west of Leitmeritz, Bohemia (now Czech Republic), the second son of the Count Hugo Damian von Schönborn and Baroness Eleonore Ottilie Hilda Maria von Doblhoff. They divorced in 1959. He has two brothers and one sister. He belongs to the Central European noble family of Schönborn, several members of which held high offices in the Catholic Church and the Holy Roman Empire, including several prince-bishops, Cardinals and ecclesiastical prince-electors.

Early church career

In September 1945, his family was forced to flee from Bohemia. Schönborn took his Matura exam in 1963, and entered the Order of Preachers. He studied theology in Paris; and philosophy and psychology in Bornheim-Walberberg and Vienna. Schönborn also attended the Catholic Institute of Paris for further theological work, before studying Slavic and Byzantine Christianity at the Sorbonne.

He was ordained to the priesthood by Cardinal Franz König on December 27, 1970 in Vienna. Schönborn obtained a Licentiate of Sacred Theology in 1971, and later studied in Regensburg under Fr. Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI). He subsequently completed a Doctorate in Sacred Theology in Paris. From 1975 he was Professor of Dogmatics at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland. In 1980, he became a member of the International Theological Commission of the Holy See, and in 1987 he became editorial secretary for the Catechism of the Catholic Church. In 1991 he was chosen to become an Auxiliary Bishop of Vienna.

Archbishop of Vienna

Styles of
Christoph Schönborn
CardinalCoA PioM
Reference style His Most Illustrious and Reverend Eminence (in short: His Eminence)
Spoken style Your Most Illustrious and Reverend Eminence (in short: Your Eminence)
Informal style Cardinal
See Vienna

He became a coadjutor of the Archbishop of Vienna on 11 April 1995 and Archbishop of Vienna on 14 September 1995. He was created Cardinal Priest with the titulus of Gesù Divin Lavoratore by Pope John Paul II in the consistory of February 21, 1998. Considered among the papabili following John Paul's death, Schönborn was one of the cardinal electors who participated in the 2005 papal conclave that selected Pope Benedict XVI. Cardinal Schönborn remains eligible to vote in any future papal conclaves that begin before his 80th birthday on January 22, 2025.

Cardinal Schönborn also serves as the chaplain to the Austrian Order of the Golden Fleece. In addition to his native German, he is fluent in English, French, Italian, Spanish and Latin. Schönborn's episcopal motto is Vos autem dixi amicos (I have called you friends) from John 15:15.

In 2009, he was critical of the lifting of the excommunication of controversial bishop Richard Williamson.


Catholic-Orthodox dialogue

Cardinal Schönborn has said that theological differences between the Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox churches can be resolved, if the two faiths can overcome the burden of history.[1]

Alleged excommunication for renting space for an abortion clinic

Cardinal Schönborn distanced himself from a pronouncement by Salzburg's auxiliary bishop Andreas Laun, who mistakenly[2] said that Viennese businessman Richard Lugner had been automatically excommunicated for having allowed an abortion clinic to rent space in a shopping mall owned by Lugner.[3][4] The Cardinal had asked Lugner not to rent the space to the abortion clinic, and declared: "The destruction of life must not be made banal and viewed like a shopping trip. Everything you need to know about abortion is to be found in the Fifth Commandment."[3]

HIV/AIDS and condoms

In 1996, Cardinal Schönborn told an Austrian television audience conceded that someone suffering from AIDS might use a condom as a "lesser evil," but he quickly cautioned, "no one could affirm that the use of a condom is the ideal in sexual relations." [5]

Jewish connection to the Holy Land

As part of a visiting Austrian delegation, he spoke to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and said it was doctrinally important for Christians to recognize Jews' connection to the Holy Land, and that Christians should rejoice in Jews' return to Palestine as a fulfillment of biblical prophecy.[6]

Rahner and Balthasar

Schönborn has said that the two approaches of Karl Rahner and Hans Urs von Balthasar are close and different at the same time, being mutually complementary.[7]

Mozart, Catholicism and Freemasonry

According to Eric Leitenberger, Schönborn's spokesperson, the Cardinal's position is that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a Mason, but that he was fully Catholic too.[8]

Society of Saint Pius X

In a September 2009 interview, Schönborn stated that the Holy See would not give a free pass to the Society of Saint Pius X, saying that Church's core values and its relations with Judaism were not negotiable.[9]

Evolution and the Catholic Church


In an editorial in the New York Times on 7 July 2005[10] Schönborn accepted the possibility of evolution but criticized certain "neo-Darwinian" theories as incompatible with Catholic teaching:

Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense - an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection - is not. Any system of thought that denies or seeks to explain away the overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science.

This statement created considerable controversy, including public criticism of Schönborn's views by the director of the Vatican Observatory, George Coyne SJ,[11] and a response by Catholic physicist Stephen Barr in the Catholic periodical "First Things",[12] to which Schönborn in turn replied.[13]

See also


  1. Austrian cardinal optimistic on Catholic-Orthodox accord
  2. Canon Law Excommunication Blotter: February 2007
  3. 3.0 3.1 Austrian Bishop Laun Says Mall Owner Excommunicated for Providing Space for Abortion Clinic.
  4. The reportExcommunication Over Abortion: Austrian Cardinal Disagrees, mistakenly says that Auxiliary Bishop Laun "excommunicated" Lugner, a power that belongs to the diocesan bishop, not to an auxiliary bishop; however, it also more correctly states at one point that the Bishop had declared that Lugner "had excommunicated himself".
  5. Condom use as lsser evil, but still an evil
  6. Roman Catholic cardinal endorses Zionism
  7. Between Rahner and Balthasar
  8. Mozart: Catholic, Master Mason, favorite of the pope
  9. Vatican commission to draw red lines for ultra-traditionalists
  10. "Finding Design in Nature", The New York Times, 7 July 2005.
  11. "Intelligent Design belittles God, Vatican director says", Catholic Online, 30 Jan 2006
  12. S. Barr, "The Design of Evolution", First Things, Oct 2005
  13. C. Schönborn, "The designs of science", First Things, January 2006

External links

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Hans Hermann Groër
Archbishop of Vienna
since 1995
cs:Christoph Schönbornla:Christophorus Schönbornno:Christoph Schönbornpt:Christoph Schönborn

ro:Christoph Schönborn ru:Шёнборн, Кристоф sk:Christoph Schönborn fi:Christoph Schönborn sv:Christoph Schönborn

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