An Austrian cardinal who is one of the frontrunners to be the next pope has warned of an “Islamic conquest of Europe”.
According to reports of his speech to mark the 333rd anniversary of the Battle of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn said: “Will there be an Islamic conquest of Europe? Many Muslims want that and say: Europe is at its end.”
“God have mercy on Europe and on thy people, who are in danger of forfeiting our Christian heritage,” the cardinal reportedly prayed.
He claimed that this was already being felt “not only economically, but above all, in human and religious matters”.
The speech was made on Sunday at the “Holy Name of Mary” church festival, which marked the 333rd anniversary of the Battle of Vienna in 1683 in which Christian forces defeated the Ottoman Empire army.
Cardinal Schönborn, 71, is a conservative who was a former student of Pope Benedict XVI – and has even been referred to as the former pope’s “spritual son”.
Last year, the Austrian parliament adopted legislation amending laws on Muslim organisations to ban foreign sources of financing and require imams to be able to speak German.
The law aims to promote what conservative Integration Minister Sebastian Kurz called an “Islam of European character”, by muting the influence of foreign Muslim nations and organisations, but giving Austrian Muslims more legal security in practising their faith.
In April this year, the parliament passed a controversial, hardline new law to restrict the right of asylum, allowing authorities to reject most claimants at the border.
The government is now able to declare a “state of emergency” over the migrant crisis and limit any successful asylum claim to three years.
Austrian police stage riot drills as the country prepares to ‘apply the brakes’ on immigration Play! 01:15
Austria’s main political parties on Tuesday proposed holding the country’s presidential election re-run on December 4, after it was delayed because of a problem with the glue on postal votes.
The last election result from May was annulled after Austria’s highest court in July upheld the narrowly defeated far-right’s claims of procedural irregularities.
And in a fresh twist, the government was on Monday forced to postpone October’s planned re-run after it emerged that the envelopes for postal votes were not sticky enough, meaning they could easily be reopened.
In the May election, Norbert Hofer of the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) narrowly lost by just 31,000 votes to independent ecologist Alexander Van der Bellen.
If he wins this time, Hofer would become Europe’s first far-right head of state since 1945.
The role of Austria’s president is largely ceremonial but not entirely. He or she can in theory sack the government – something that Hofer has in the past threatened he would do.