In a gesture of love, the Austrian Catholic Church gives the Vienna church of Mary the Victorius to the Coptic Orthodox Church
The imposing façade of the church of Mary the Victorious has graced the horizon of the city of Vienna for little less than a century-and-a-half today. A gem of architecture from the modern Gothic period, it boasts the second largest dome in Vienna. It dates back to 1870 and is among the tourist sites of the city.
The church combines architectural elements of the late Roman imperial basilica, of Byzantine Churches, of the French Gothic period, as well as centrally planned buildings with domes in the Renaissance baroque style. All are moulded into an overall harmony.
The basis of the church is an octagon, symbol for the heavenly Jerusalem. The 34m tall dome rests on eight massive but slender pillars. The main entrance features two towers built so as to keep an open view towards the huge dome around which runs wide space where one can walk and climb over ladders and through skylights into the lantern of the ridge turret. From there visitors have a magnificent view of Vienna and beyond, as far as the Vienna Woods.
“Great gift from God”
Now the church of Mary the Victorious, this pride of the Austrian Catholic Church, has passed into Coptic Orthodox hands, a gift from the former to the latter. The two churches enjoy exemplary relations.
Friday 20 May, Pope Tawadros II who is on a visit to Vienna for pastoral and medical reasons, consecrated the church of Mary the Victorious to the Holy Virgin and Archangel Michael in the Coptic Orthodox ritual. With him was Anba Gabriel, the Coptic Orthodox Bishop of Austria, and a number of Coptic Orthodox bishops in Europe.
The following day, a ceremony was held at the church to celebrate its handover to the Coptic Orthodox Church. Pope Tawadros II, Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church; and Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, Archbishop of the Catholic Church in Austria, presided over the celebration.
Cardinal Schonborn gave a word in which he expressed his warm sentiments for the Coptic Church whose presence in Vienna he described as a “great gift from God”. He said the Holy Family had visited Egypt and blessed her, and that the Coptic people were pious, hardworking, and loved their Church and pope exceedingly.
Cardinal Schonborn said that the church of Mary the Victorious was dear to the heart of Catholics who, by giving it to the Copts, gave them their heart. He thanked the Catholic congregation who had willingly made this ‘offering’, as Anba Gabriel termed this the act of love.
Love never fails
Cardinal Schonborn talked of St Mary the Victorious, saying that true victory can only be achieved through love not hate; victory, he said, cannot be attained by the violence of the sword but by “the love of Jesus Christ who died for us on the Cross”.
Pope Tawadros also spoke of love, saying that he considered this day a feast of joy and love between East and West. He thanked the Lord for His care for His people at all times, and thanked the congregation of the church of Mary the Victorious, and Cardinal Christoph Schonborn for the “beautiful act of love” they have done.
“In my visit to Pope Francis in Rome on 10 May 2013, we decided to pray for each other and to celebrate the day 10 May annually as the Day of Love. We have been doing this every year since then, on which day we also would call each other to commemorate the love between our two Churches. I now propose that Austria too should join us in celebrating this Day of Love on 10 May every year.
“This church carries a beautiful name: Mary the Victorious,” Pope Tawadros said. “As Cardinal Schonborn said, the Holy Virgin’s victory came through love alone. This church now strongly relays this message of love, for the Bible says: Love never fails.”
25 May 2015