Archbishop and carollers visit mosque

Carol singers in Vienna were accompanied by Viennese Archbishop Cardinal Christoph Schönborn as they visited the city’s biggest mosque yesterday (Weds).The children, who collect money for impoverished countries in the traditional singing procession between New Year’s Day and Epiphany (6 January), and the highest representative of the Roman Catholic Church in Austria, were shown round at the mosque in Floridsdorf district by Austrian Islamic Denomination (IGGiÖ) President Anas Schakfeh and Omar Al Rawi, the Viennese Social Democrats’ (SPÖ) integration issues spokesman.Schönborn and Schakfeh decided to gather at the mosque to strengthen attempts of a peaceful coexistence of Christians and Muslims in Austria and all over the world. They condemned a suicide bomber’s attack on Copts who gathered at a church in Alexandria, Egypt. Twenty-three people were killed in the New Year’s Eve incident.Schakfeh said the visit of Schönborn was proof that an amicable communal life of Muslims and Christians was possible. Speaking about the recent assassination in Alexandria, he said: “What happened there contradicted the principles of humanity.”Schakfeh will resign as head of the IGGiÖ later this year. The Syrian-born, who is criticised by many Austrian Muslims as being too conservative in his views, caused a stir by calling for more mosques featuring minarets in all nine provincial capitals of Austria.Around 500,000 of the 8.5 million people living in Austria are Muslims, but – including the Vienna-Floridsdorf mosque – just four of the hundreds of mosques across Austria feature distinctive minarets.The right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ), which has been campaigning against Muslims for years, benefited from the heated public debate which was started by Schakfeh’s statements in the Vienna city parliament election in October. The party headed by Heinz-Christian Strache garnered 25.77 per cent in the ballot, up by 10.94 per cent compared to its performance five years earlier.Meanwhile, around 85,000 children are currently going from house to house across Austria to garner money for development aid projects in Guatemala as part of the Catholic Church’s traditional Sternsinger carol singers initiative.More than 300 million Euros were garnered by the campaign for poor people in Third World countries since 1954. Last year’s 14.48 million Euros were a new record sum of donations by Austrian households to the initiative.