As the election of the new Roman Pontiff approaches, ZENIT will feature several biographies on some of the Cardinals who are in Rome for the Conclave.
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The cardinal archbishop of Vienna, Austria, Christoph Schönborn, was born on January 22, 1945 in the present-day Czech Republic. After graduating from high school in 1963, he entered the Dominican Order at Warburg, Germany, and was ordained a priest in 1970.
While studying philosophy, psychology and theology, young Schönborn went to Regensburg, Germany in 1972-1973, where he took courses from professor Joseph Ratzinger, the present Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. He finished his university studies the following year at the Institut Catholique of Paris, presenting his thesis entitled “The Icon of Christ.”
From 1973 to 1975 he worked as student chaplain at the University of Graz, Austria. He began his academic career in 1976, becoming a professor of Dogmatics at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland. Two years later, in 1978, he became auxiliary professor of Theology of the Christian East and in 1981 professor of Dogmatics.
Ten years later, Blessed John Paul II appointed him auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese of Vienna. He received his episcopal ordination on September 29, 1991 in the Stephansdom, cathedral of the Austrian capital. The Pope appointed him archbishop coadjutor of Vienna in April of 1995, succeeding Hans Hermann Groer in September of the same year.
John Paul II created Schönborn a cardinal in February of 1996. From then on, he held several posts. He is particularly remembered for his role in editing the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC). From 1987 to 1992 he was the secretary of the Editing Commission of the CCC. In 1993 he became referent for Europe of the Austrian Episcopal Conference and in 1998 he was elected president of the conference.
The Austrian cardinal has served as a member of several Commissions and Congregations. From 1980 to 1991, of the Theological Commission of the Swiss Episcopal Conference (CES). From 1980 to 1987, of the Swiss Commission for Dialogue between Orthodox and Roman Catholics, and from 1980 to 1984 of the Swiss Commission for Dialogue between Roman Catholics and Christians.
In 1996 he preached the Spiritual Exercises in the Vatican in the presence of John Paul II and today he is a member of the Congregations for the Doctrine of the Faith, for the Oriental Churches and for Catholic Education. He also forms part of the Pontifical Council for Culture and for Promoting the New Evangelization.
As of now, the cardinal has taken part in three Synods of Bishops, the last one being on the New Evangelization, held in Rome last October. Interviewed by ZENIT on that occasion, Cardinal Schönborn stressed the importance of beginning by “re-evangelizing ourselves,” a topic that permeated the last Synod.
The cardinal was very struck by the “many bishops who said that we can evangelize only when we let ourselves be evangelized. It was a very beautiful specification; we cannot only evangelize others, but must let ourselves be evangelized, as confirmed by the Catechism of the Catholic Church itself,” he said in the interview.
It is widely known of the close bond between Cardinal Schönborn and Benedict XVI. In the same interview, the cardinal praised the Pontiff Emeritus’ mastery, who, just as the most renown Dominican theologian Saint Thomas Aquinas, “has the ability to explain things in all simplicity and clarity in the light of reason.”