Druckansicht - Donnerstag 16. Dezember 2010
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The Apostolic Nunciature in Austria




Since 1913, the Apostolic Nunciature in Vienna has been situated in Theresianumgasse 31, in the 4th district of Vienna. Behind the façade, which was designed in the Renaissance style, lies the vestibule of the Nunciature where one can find the bust of Pope Pius X. His emblem and the double-headed eagle of Emperor Franz Joseph I. decorate the middle window adjacent to the balcony on the 2nd floor. Pope John Paul II. used to greet the gathering people from this balcony, and spent the night in the Nunciature. Pope Pius VI, who was the first pope to visit Austria in 1782, conducted the negotiations with Emperor Joseph II. in the Apostolic Nunciature which was situated in the Althann'schen Palace at "Am Hof" Sqare then. Nuntio Gennaro Pignatelli decided on the relocation of the nunciature. During World War II, the diplomatic relations between Austria and the Holy See had temporarily been interrupted but were restored by the appointment of Archbishop Maurilio Silvani as Nuncio by Pope Pius XII. The concordat which had been made in the nunciature in 1933 was amended in 1957/58. Since October 25, 2005, His Excellence Dr. Edmont Farhat has been holding the office of Apostolic Nuncio in Austria.




Whoever visits the Apostolic Nunciatur in Vienna in Theresianumgasse 31, in the 4th district of Vienna, enters the vestibule of the Nunciature through a huge entrance gate which adorns the façade designed in the Renaissance style. There, the bust of Pope Pius X. and a Latin inscription reminding of the foundation of the Nunciature in 1913 catch the visitor's eye. This Latin inscription says "As the Palace of the former Duke had come of age, Pope Pius X. built this Palace in the 11th year of His Pontificate to provide the Apostolic Nuncio with a new and spacious residence. The façade was planned by Pietro Palumbo, an architect who was well respected by the Roman Curia.


The emblem of Pope Pius X. and the double-headed eagle of Emperor Franz Joseph I. decorate the middle window adjacent to the balcony on the 2nd floor. On His journeys to Austria, Pope John Paul II. used to greet the gathering people from this balcony. And also Pope Benedict XVI., whose visit to Austria many people have been longing for, is going to appear on this balcony.


Pope Benedict XVI. is not the first Pope to visit Austria. Austria was the destination of an Apostolic journey four times. Pope John Paul II. visited Austria three times during his relatively long pontificate (1983, 1988 and 1998), and he always spent the night in the Apostolic Nunciature, the Embassy of the Holy See in Vienna.


The first journey of a Pope to Austria dates back 225 years. It was quite unusual in those time to undertake such a long journey but in 1782, Pope Pius VI. undertook the physical exertions to have a serious talk with Emperor Joseph II. who was a supporter of the ideas of Enlightenment. In 1781, Joeseph II. had passed a number of laws called "Toleranzpatent," which established a state religion limiting the church's freedom of action. Contemplative orders were closed, the orders were made subjects to the jurisdiction of the bishops, and the communication between the bishops and the Holy See was cut off. The radicalness of the church reforms of Joseph II. prompted the Pope to get His own picture of the catastrophic situation in Austria which the Apostolic Nuncio had described. The Pope stayed in the capital of the Austrian Monarchy for a whole month, from March 22 to April 22, and resided as the Emperor's guest in the Hofburg Palace, where Empress Maria Theresa used to live. The negotiations between the Pope and the Emperor were taking place in the Apostolic Nunciature, which was located in the Althann'schen Palace "Am Hof," not far away from the "Church of the Nine Choirs of the Angels." In front of this church, Pope Benedict XVI. will hold a prayer where Pope Pius VI. gave a blessing on Easter Day in 1782.


In the course of history, the former Palace of the Nunciature at "Am Hof" Square was at the centre of important political events. In this Nunciature, Nuncio Antonio Eugenio Visconti married Marie Antoinette, the daughter of the Empress Maria Theresa, and the crown prince of France, the later King Louis XVI., who was substituted by a representative.


Later, at the time of the Congress of Vienna in 1814/15, the essential talks between the Austrian State Minister Prince Metternich, the French Minster of Foreign Affairs Duke Talleyrand and the State Secretary of the Pope, Cardinal Consalvi, were taking place in the Nunciature at "Am Hof" Square. As a consequence of these negotiations, the Papal States, which had been conquered by Napoleonic troops were fully restored. In 1909, Nuncio Gennaro Pignatelli decided to sell the Apostolic Palace at "Am Hof" Square and invest the money in an estate at Theresianumgasse. In 1912, the Austrian Central Bank bought the building where the Apostolic Nunciature had been located, which was destroyed during an American bombing raid in 1945. Today, the Austrian "Kontrollbank AG" is located at this place. After World War I., the Church and the State of Austria developed a concordat, which was signed by the Cardinal Secretary of State Pacelli and Chancellor Dollfuß in the new building of the Nunciature in Theresianumgasse. Working and living in this Nunciature, Nuncio Gaetano Cicognani (1935-1938), on behalf of Pope Pius XI., argued against Austrian dependance on Nazi-Germany and supported Chancellor Schuschnigg. Cicognani even entered protest at the Austrian Government when the law on the unification of Austria and Nazi-Germany was passed in March 13, 1939, and German armed forces were marching into Austria.


Proof has been found in the archives of the Nunciature that, after Hitler's invasion in Austria, Pope Pius XI. instructed Nuncio Cicognani to call upon all Austrian bishops to avoid political statements and not to show friendliness to Hitler. On April 3, 1938, Nuncio Cicognani had to leave the country upon according notice of the newly installed Reichsstatthalter Seyß-Inquart. The now empty Nuciature was confiscated by the National-Socialists and the Department of Hydrology was moved in. On April 13, 1945, Soviet troops took the first floor but the Department of Hydrology did not have to give up its offices on the upper floors. Shortly after the end of the war, Pope Pius XII. put pressure on the four victorious powers to reinstall Austrian sovereignty. On June 28, 1946, the four victorious powers granted the Austrian Government the right to restore full diplomatic ties with other states.


On November 4, 1946, Pius XII. appointed Archbishop Maurilio Silvani the first Apostolic Nuncio of the Austrian Government of the Second Republic. The concordat which had been made in the nunciature in 1933 was amended in 1957/58 after numerous negotiations between the Vatican Secretary of State and the Austrian Government.


The current Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Edmond Farhat, is already looking forward to welcoming Pope Benedict XVI. In the Apostolic Nunciature with the words: "Benedictus, qui venit in nomine Domini!"


Marie Czernin

Apostolic Nunciature in Austria - Press Office


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