Beatification Stokes Controversy Over Charles I's Legacy
In the eyes of his critics, Emperor Charles I, the last ruler of the Austro-Hungarian empire, was at best an incompetent fool, at worst a war criminal.
But in the Vatican's opinion he was a miracle-worker, and on Sunday Pope John Paul II will hold a ceremony in St Peter's Square at which Charles will be beatified, putting him on the home stretch to sainthood.
Since he became pope in October 1978, John Paul has created 482 saints and beatified another 1,337 people, more than all previous popes combined in the Roman Catholic Church's 2,000-year history.
But few individuals elevated to this status are more controversial than the last Habsburg emperor, who died in exile on the Portuguese island of Madeira in 1922 at the age of 34.
The miracle attributed to Charles concerns Sister Maria Zita Gradowska, a Polish-born Brazilian nun who is said to have recovered the power to walk in 1960 after praying to the late emperor.
Charles, who ruled from 1916 to 1918, also acquired a reputation in Catholic circles as a man of peace - he was supposedly the only European monarch who genuinely wanted to end the carnage of the first world war.
It is this image that many historians contest. Anton Pelinka, professor of political science at Innsbruck University in Austria, calls the beatification"ridiculous".
Under Charles's command, the Habsburg empire was allied with Germany against Britain, France, Italy, Russia and the US.
Charles personally led the empire's 20th army corps on the eastern front, while elsewhere Austrian forces used poison gas against the Italians.
According to the emperor's official beatification website,"no victory could give him satisfaction: the sight of all the destruction and mangled corpses was entirely unbearable for him".
comments powered by Disqus
- 115-Year-Old Shipwreck Finally Located Along Lake Superior's 'Shipwreck Coast'
- There’s no surge in immigrant children across the border
- A Chinese boy has made the discovery of a lifetime by stumbling across a 3,000-year-old bronze sword
- President Nixon Overrode Near Consensus of Senior U.S. Officials on Threat Posed by Israeli Nuclear Program in 1969
- Are Biblical Epics Epically Racist?
- Eric Hobsbawm is remembered as a polyglot of a kind that's vanished
- Once again Ken Burns turns to Geoffrey Ward to write his script, this time about the Roosevelts
- Historian warns that countries go into decline when they become rigid, oppress minorities, and become weak militarily
- NYT praises Kissinger’s new book as right for the times
- Critics question accuracy of new conservative-leaning social studies textbooks up for adoption in Texas