karlzita

A few years ago I had the honour of being present at the beatification of Blessed Karl of Austria. It was fascinating to see the Emperor’s son and heir Otto von Habsburg kneeling before St John Paul II at his father’s beatification knowing that the Pope’s father was a fiercely loyal soldier in the service of Emperor Karl and that Karol Wojtyla was named after the last Emperor. When, less than a year later, John Paul II drew to his death, it looked like he was going to die on the very same day as the saint for whom he was named. I was in two minds about this. I had always been uneasy about Bl. Karl’s death on 1st April given that his enemies, irritated by his sanctity, mocked him and treated him as a fool in his life. As it happened John Paul II did not give him the feast of his heavenly birthday but instead made his feast day 21st October the day of his marriage (perhaps in anticipation of the beatification of the Empress Zita). It would have been fitting for John Paul II to have the same heavenly birthday as his name saint but I had the same reservations about the Pope having 1st April as a feast. In the event John Paul II died on 2nd April 2005. I thought then how sad that Karl had not been given 1st April so they could have had feast days side by side. In the event, when Benedict XVI beatified John Paul II (an event for which I was not present though I made it to the canonisation) He gave him not the day of his death but the day of his papal inauguration as his feast day. This was sublimely providential for the anniversary of John Paul II’s papal inauguration is the day after the wedding anniversary of Blessed Karl and Empress Zita. Thus Karl and Karol ended up with adjacent feast days after all and so Emperor and Pope, united in name and in death, are now united in glory in heaven and in the praises of Church upon earth.

johnpauliiratzinger