Austrian cardinal warns of Islamic conquest of Europe

Archbishop of Vienna says the continent is ‘gambling away its Christian heritage’

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Catholic archbishop of Vienna, has warned that Europe is “gambling away its Christian heritage” and could soon face another attempted Muslim conquest.

He made his remarks as Austria marked the 333rd anniversary of the Battle of Vienna that ended the second Ottoman siege of the Habsburg city and the routing of the Muslim Ottoman empire in Europe.

“Will there be a third attempt at an Islamic takeover of Europe? Many Muslims think and wish this and say: ‘this Europe is over’,” said the cardinal in a homily in Vienna’s St Stephen’s Cathedral.

With the retreat of Christianity in Europe already palpable, he asked God: “Do not reject this Europe that produced so many saints . . . do not reject us because our beliefs have become so tepid. Lord have mercy on Europe and its people, in danger of gambling away their Christian heritage.”


The cardinal, a theologian and reformer, is considered a moderate and not known for barnstorming speeches. However, in recent interviews he has said that terrorism today “rightly or wrongly carries the label of Islam” and called for debate about the teachings and impact of Islam on European daily life.

Migration crisis

He said it was clear that Europe was facing a crisis of faith and that, thanks to the migration crisis, would sooner rather than later face a major identity question: “What will become of Europe?”

From July to September 1683, Ottoman troops laid siege to Vienna for the second time in 150 years and attempted to tunnel their way into the Habsburg imperial city.

The invaders were routed and pushed back on September 12th, 1683, thanks to the joint efforts of Austrian, Holy Roman Empire and Polish troops lead by Polish King John III Sobieski. The allied troops continued their successful military campaign and pushed the Ottomans out of Hungary and the Balkans, ending Muslim rule in Europe.

On Monday evening, Austria’s far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ), and the country’s strongest political grouping, held a party marking the anniversary. With an eye on the migration crisis, the event was held under the heading: “September 12 1683: defending the Occident, then as now”.

Some 90,000 asylum seekers arrived last year in Austria, a country of eight million, and some 3,000 are still arriving monthly now, but Vienna has vowed to close its doors at 24,000. This is not the first time the cardinal has entered the migration debate. Last month he urged Austria’s Muslim leaders to condemn Islamist violence more clearly, saying that “many expect, correctly, a clear position from Islam authorities”.

In a survey of Austrian-Turks published on Wednesday, some 85 per cent said they were frustrated with rising Islamophobia in the country, with 43 per cent no longer willing to live in the country. The survey was carried out by the Union of European Turkish Democrats, an organisation said to have close ties to the Erdogan government.

Derek Scally

Derek Scally

Derek Scally is an Irish Times journalist based in Berlin