|Archduke Otto and his wife Archduchess Regina lie in state at the shrine of Mariazell|
As Vienna prepared for the funeral of Otto von Habsburg on Saturday, an ambivalent mix of nostalgic sentiment and republican criticisms highlighted that Austria is still a country grappling with its imperial past.Here is a letter of condolence from Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI to Otto's oldest son, Karl von Habsburg:
The final putting to rest of the last Habsburg crown prince is set to end two weeks of elaborate wakes, masses and processions. The oldest son of the last Austro-Hungarian emperor died on July 4 in his adopted home of southern Germany. A requiem is scheduled to take place in Vienna's main cathedral, with Austrian President Heinz Fischer, an army honour guard and assorted European royals in attendance. The remains of von Habsburg and his wife Regina, who died last year, will then be carried to the family crypt in a procession, accompanied by conservative groups wearing historic military uniforms. The heart of Otto, the son of Charles I, is to be entombed a day later in Hungary.
Army lieutenant general Christian Segur-Cabanac expressed no qualms about organizing the military honours for the late 98-year-old, whose princely title expired when nobility was abolished in 1919. 'This is about ending the frictions in the Austrian republic's dealings with the Habsburgs,' the general said of the guards' deployment. He referred to the recent decision by parliament that finally allows Habsburg family members to run for president. However, some criticism has mounted over the elaborate ceremonies. The left-wing Republican Club said the family event seemed to resemble a state funeral, pointing out that von Habsburg never held an official position in Austria. Others argued that the pomp is simply an expression of nostalgia for the 'good old times,' before the empire covering much of eastern Europe fell apart after World War I
To His Royal Highness, Archduke Karl of Austria:Share
With deepest sympathy have I learned about the passing of your father, His Royal Highness Archduke Otto of Austria. In this hour of sadness at your painful loss, I am united with you and all the royal family in prayer for the dead. During his long and full life, Archduke Otto has been a witness to the changing face of Europe. Trusting in God and aware of a significant heritage, he has been a committed European tirelessly working for freedom, for the unity of peoples and for a just order in this continent. May the Lord reward him for his diverse acts for the good of mankind and give him the fullness of life in his heavenly kingdom. Through the intercession of Mary, the mother of God, I offer an Apostolic Blessing to all family members and to all who mourn Archduke Otto, and who pray for his eternal salvation.
Benedictus PP. XVI