FaithWorld

from Photographers' Blog:

Demon face

Heitwerwang, Austria

By Dominic Ebenbichler

Tourists or foreigners have to look twice when attending a Perchten festival in the western Austrian region of Tyrol. Some probably think there is something wrong with the countryfolk - dressing up like demons, wearing head to toe animal skins and wooden masks, behavior that could easily be associated with some kind of a devil's cult. It just doesn't seem to be normal.

The explanation goes back to the years about 500 AD. Back then farmers performed pagan rites to disperse the ghosts of winter to help bring a fruitful harvest. They thought it might work with terrifying masks which should scare even ghosts. And what is more scarier than the devil himself? Right, nothing! Even ghosts have to be scared by the devil.

In 2012 not much has changed. Of course we know that scaring ghosts is not going to work, but traditions are deep-rooted and somehow people still believe in the power of pagan rituals. And in the countryside there is nothing more important than a good harvest, so why not help a good harvest along by getting rid of some winter ghosts one way or another. Old habits die hard I guess.

I come from the countryside and still live there, but never was very interested in those kind of traditions (maybe because my family are not farmers). Of course I knew about Perchten and things like that, but I was never about to perform in any kind of festival. I was however very interested to find out why people are still dressing-up like the devil and running through the streets, trying to scare adults and little children. I knew that the festivals would produce atmospheric pictures, but I also wanted to look behind the curtain to see if those people involved are still really normal men and women just like you and me. Thus I thought it would be best to follow the production of the costumes, masks and preparations for a festival.

It wasn't that easy to find a tannery producing the special costumes. But eventually I found one in Scheffau, Tyrol. The boss of the tannery is a women named Barbara Trenkwalder and she told me that they exclusively produce the costumes by hand out of sheep and goat coats. They need 11- 14 sheep for one costume, which seemed to be a lot to me. Three dressmakers need to work one full day to make one costume. Of course, the tannery produces some other products as well, but in the months of September to November the dressmakers almost solely work on the costumes.

from Photographers' Blog:

An egg by any other name

By Lisi Niesner

Egg. Or as it's known in other languages:
Ei, яйцо, jajiko, muna, uovo, ägg, yumurta, oeuf, αβγό, tojás, vajce, بيضة, aeg, jaje, ovo, yai, 雞蛋, telur, huevo

It's the hard-shelled reproductive body produced by a bird and especially by the common domestic chicken, which is the definition that first comes to our sense. Obviously an egg is much more than the daily of decision how we like to have our breakfast: scrambled, fried or poached. Tea enthusiasts use a tea egg and we call someone naughty a bad egg. We walk on egg shells when we act cautiously as well as using eggs for certain sayings: no two eggs are exactly alike, for example.

Even scientists, theologians and philosophers have spent quite a lot of time thinking, discussing and literally quarreling about the egg. The question of how life began has always bothered mankind; we come up with approaches and theories to answer one question in particular: which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Over 800 complaints to Austrian Catholic Church sexual abuse commission

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(The towers of Votivkirche church in Vienna August 10, 2010/Heinz-Peter Bader)

An Austrian commission investigating sexual abuse cases in the Roman Catholic Church said on Wednesday over 800 people had come forward to register as victims in the past year. Over a third of the cases have been settled, the head of the commission, Waltraud Klasnic, told a news conference. She said the number of complaints showed that the church must screen priests more carefully and look into their mental state before allowing them to qualify.

Klasnic said the commission, which was set up a year ago, was also looking into the structures that allowed such abuse and violence to occur, according to remarks carried by the Austria Press Agency (APA). Around three-quarters of the 837 complaints involved male victims. The commission does not pass legal judgment but hands over plausible cases to the authorities and most have the cases processed so far have involved compensation.

Abuse scandals in Austrian Catholic institutions have badly damaged the religion’s image with a record 87,000 people quitting the church in 2010. Hundreds of reports of child sexual abuse in Austrian Catholic institutions were triggered by the resignation of an arch-abbot in Salzburg last April after he admitted to sexually abusing a boy 40 years ago.

European far right courts Israel in stepped-up anti-Islam drive

street prayers (Photo: Muslims pray in the street during Friday prayers near an overcrowded mosque in the Rue des Poissoniers  in Paris on December 17, 2010/Charles Platiau)

Far-right political parties in Europe are stepping up their anti-Muslim rhetoric and forging ties across borders, even going so far as to visit Israel to hail the Jewish state as a bulwark against militant Islam.

Marine Le Pen of France’s National Front has shocked the French political elite in recent days by comparing Muslims who pray outside crowded mosques — a common sight especially during the holy month of Ramadan — to the World War Two Nazi occupation. Oskar Freysinger, a champion of the Swiss ban on minarets, warned a far-right meeting in Paris on Saturday against “the demographic, sociological and psychological Islamisation of Europe”. German and Belgian activists also addressed the crowd.

street prayers 2 (Photo: Muslims pray in the street during Friday prayers near the Et-Taqwa Mosque in Paris on December 17, 2010. REUTERS/Charles Platiau)

Geert Wilders, whose populist far-right party supports the Dutch minority government, told Reuters last week he was organising an “international freedom alliance” to link grass-roots groups active in “the fight against Islam”. Earlier this month, Wilders visited Israel and backed its West Bank settlements, saying Palestinians there should move to Jordan. Like-minded German, Austrian, Belgian, Swedish and other far-rightists were on their own Israel tour at the same time. “Our culture is based on Christianity, Judaism and humanism and (the Israelis) are fighting our fight,” Wilders said. “If Jerusalem falls, Amsterdam and New York will be next.”

Austrian far-right surges in Vienna vote

vienna elexAustria’s resurgent far-right party won over a quarter of the vote in Vienna’s provincial election as voters took their discontent to the ballot box, reflecting a wider European trend as voters concerned about the economic crisis and integration of Muslims turn to rightist parties. (Photo: Heinz-Christian Strache, top candidate of Austria’s far-right Freedom Party (FPOe), October 10, 2010/Leonhard Foeger)

Vienna’s Social Democrats under Michael Häupl, mayor since 1994, won 44.1 percent, losing their absolute majority while Heinz-Christian Strache’s far-right Freedom Party scooped up 27.1 percent, up from 15 percent in 2005. All the other main parties lost ground. The results suggest Freedom, which has called for a ban on mosques with minarets and on Islamic face veils, is returning to its strength of the late 1990s.

Analysts say that if the centrist parties keep losing support, they might start catering more to far-right concerns on social policy, mulling for example a ban on Islamic face veils in public and stricter limits on immigration.

Far-right anti-mosque video game triggers outrage in Austria

The picturesque Austrian province of Styria is overrun by huge mosques with minarets, if you are to believe an online video game designed for the far-right Freedom Party ahead of regional elections on September 26.

In a shooting range-style game, players have 60 seconds to collect points by putting a target over animated mosques and minarets that emerge from the Styria countryside and clicking a “Stop” sign. They also have the chance to eliminate bearded muezzin who call Muslims to prayer. A man reads a flyer during a demonstration against a proposed Islam centre in Vienna June 18, 2010. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

A man reads a flyer during a demonstration against a proposed Islamic centre in Vienna June 18, 2010/Heinz-Peter Bader

Austrian priests critical of Rome, want marriage allowed

The Catholic Church is stuck in the past and has handled the recent sexual abuse scandal poorly, according to a rare survey of 500 priests in Austria, which also showed a majority in favour of allowing them to marry and for women to become priests.

Vienna’s Cardinal Christoph Schönborn was rebuked by the Vatican on Monday for accusing a top official of covering up sexual abuse, but it appears he is not the only Austrian to question how Rome has handled the issue.

Only 21 percent of Austrian priests think that the Vatican has done a good job in terms of dealing with the problem, the survey by researcher GFK Austria showed. Around half said they were at odds with many aspects of the Catholic leadership, and 48 percent agreed with a statement that the church leadership was “helpless” and “lacking vision.”

Pope rebukes Austrian cardinal who accused peer of cover-up

schoenbornPope Benedict, still struggling to control the damage a sexual abuse scandal has done to the Catholic Church’s image, has bluntly told his top advisers that they should not trade accusations in public.

The Vatican issued an unusual statement on Monday in which it effectively said the pope had censured Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, who last month publicly accused another cardinal of covering up sexual abuse. (Photo: Cardinal Schönborn, 23 June 2010/Leonhard Foeger)

“Regarding accusations against a cardinal, we remind everyone that, in the Church, only the pope has the authority to accuse a cardinal,” said the statement, a rare case of the Church making its internal bickering public.

GUESTVIEW: No good deed goes unpunished

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Father Joseph Fessio, S.J. is founder and editor of Ignatius Press, which is the primary English-language publisher of the works of Pope Benedict XVI and which has published several books by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn. He is also publisher of Catholic World Report magazine. schoenborn 1

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn in Vienna, November 13, 2009/Heinz-Peter Bader

By Father Joseph Fessio, S.J.

Did Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna “attack” Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals and former Vatican secretary of state? If The Tablet weekly in London were your only source of information, you’d think so, because that’s what the headline screamed.

What happened?

Cardinal Schönborn, who like his mentor Pope Benedict is a model of openness and transparency, invited the editors of Austria’s dozen or so major newspapers to a meeting at his residence in Vienna. How many bishops can you name who have extended such an invitation to the press?

from India Insight:

Is caste behind the killing in Vienna and riots in Punjab?

Why did the murder of a preacher in a Sikh temple in Vienna spark riots in the faraway Indian state of Punjab, in which thousands took to the streets to torch cars, trains and battle security forces?

The root cause may lie in India's caste system that Sikhism officially rejects, but that still grips swathes of India's billion-plus people, including in Sikh-dominated Punjab state in northwestern India.

"Via Vienna, Sikh caste war returns, sets Punjab aflame" ran the headline of the Hindustan Times.