The coronavirus crisis has brought the world to a tragic, grinding halt. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t tiny specks of hope on the horizon, such as in Austria, where a cardinal has insisted that the question of women in Church leadership positions remains open.

– Patience despite Pope’s reluctance in post-Amazon Synod exhortation

Archbishop of Vienna Christoph Schönborn was speaking Sunday March 22 on Austrian state television.

The cardinal said he could understand many in the Church were frustrated by the Pope’s skipping over the issue of greater responsibility for Catholic women in his post-Amazon Synod apostolic exhortation Querida Amazonia, but he asked for patience to heal what he called the wound of women’s invisibility in the Church.

The main concern of Pope Francis at the Amazon Synod was the ecological question, “because the death of the Amazon rainforest is the death of the whole world”, Schönborn said, by way of explanation of the pontiff’s reluctance to approve of the women deacons the Synod had voted for by an overwhelming majority.

That said, the cardinal added that Francis did address in his text some aspects of women’s leadership in the Church, praising, for example, the “strong and generous women” who make an “indispensable contribution” to the Church and society in the Amazon region.

However, Schönborn did acknowledge that he was worried about men’s dominance in all world religions and how that reality might fit with the ever-growing recognition of women’s dignity and rights in wider society.

“How will religions deal with this? We have to ask ourselves this question. But I don’t have an answer now”, the cardinal admitted.

– Coronavirus crisis “will certainly change the face of the earth”

In other comments in the interview Sunday, Cardinal Schönborn referred to the coronavirus pandemic, and said “this crisis will certainly change the face of the earth”, as The Tablet reported.

Not only will the COVID-19 outbreak lead to a questioning of globalisation and the lack of solidarity between nations, the prelate predicted, but it will also push us all into a reflection on our personal lifestyles.

One only had to look these days at the dramatic drop in pollution in those cities around the world now under quarantine.

“Is it really necessary to fly to London for a weekend shopping spree? Or to spend Christmas in the Maldives or on the Seychelles? Are going on luxury cruises with up to 4000 people on board really a role model lifestyle?

“The sky over Vienna hasn’t been as clear as it is today for a long time without the usual contrails”, Schönborn observed.

The cardinal added that fully supported the Church’s decision to put off sacramental celebrations until the end of the crisis, as well as the government’s move to implement social distancing regulations.

As to when the end to the pandemic will come, Schönborn warned that “this will be will depend on how disciplined we are”.

“The government has told us hundreds of times to contact as few people as possible, to distance ourselves from others and to keep washing our hands”.

The cardinal added that the strict quarantine measures in place in Austria had impacted him personally, since he can no longer travel across the country with his family to visit his mother for her 100th birthday.

The Austrian Bishops were due to meet March 16-19 to elect a successor to Schönborn, 75, as Episcopal Conference head.

Due to the coronavirus crisis, however, their meeting was postponed, and Schönborn will temporarily stay on as Austrian Bishops’ chairman.

Next on Novena:

Catholic voices in Germany, Austria cry out for more power for women in Church: “It only needs one bishop who says: ‘I’ll do it’”

Austrian laity ask bishops for more synodality, women in Church leadership

Austrian female theologian demands “women’s quota” in Church leadership positions

Austrian Catholic women join sisters in Germany, Switzerland and Italy in demanding equal access to ordained ministry

Primacy of conscience, equality, freedom of expression… Austrian Catholics draw up “charter of fundamental rights in the Church”

Austrian theologian takes heart from German “synodal path”, suggests similar Church reform process for own country

Austrian cardinal says Last Judgment about having fed hungry and clothed naked, not sexual orientation


Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.