By Hilary White
VIENNA, September 22, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - When pro-life demonstrators in Vienna marched to City Hall earlier this month to protest the hosting by the mayor of a celebration for a notorious local abortion facility, one prominent member of Austria's pro-life world was not present.
Bishop Andreas Laun, an auxiliary of Salzburg, told marchers at a Mass prior to the event that he had been forbidden to attend the demonstration by the cardinal archbishop of Vienna, Christoph Schönborn.
Bishop Laun is one of the recipients of the Von Galen Award, an honor given by Human Life International "to a Catholic prelate who has been a voice of conscience for his society." He said at the Mass that preceded the rally, "Cardinal Schönborn has told me on the phone that he does not want that I participate in the demonstration. I replied to him, 'This topic can hardly be discussed on the phone,' and [thought] that I will not be able to convince him. Since Schönborn is the archbishop of Vienna, I have to respect his decision according to canon law."
Bishop Laun said he respected the cardinal's decision and added, "There is a blessing on all legitimate forms of obedience in the Church." He had been scheduled by rally organizers to speak at the demonstration and to lead prayers outside City Hall.
While Schönborn sent a letter to the city's Mayor, Michael Häupl, protesting the party marking the 30th anniversary of the abortion facility, pro-life leaders in Austria have accused him of trying to limit the numbers attending the demonstration, according to coverage by local Gloria TV.
Dr. Tom Ward, president of the National Association of Catholic Families (NACF) and a friend of Bishop Laun, told LifeSiteNews.com, "I have very great respect for Bishop Laun who has been consistently pro-life.
"I would be surprised if such a gentle, strong and balanced bishop as Laun would be intemperate in his speech. And Bishop Laun is terribly long suffering and uncompromising in the Austrian hierarchy, for his witness to the truth about life and marriage."
The rally was organized by a coalition of European pro-life groups including Human Life International, Tradition Family and Property, Doctors for Life, the Austrian political party Die Christen, Youth for Life and the Centre for Bioethical Reform (Europe). Rally organizers said they were "shocked" to hear that Bishop Laun had been asked not to attend.
In an email to LSN, organizers noted that Cardinal Schönborn did not offer any reason for Bishop Laun's absence or send a replacement, "a fact which caused much perplexity among the demonstrators." The rally carried on with about 500 pro-life people and 300 pro-abortion counter-demonstrators separated by crowd control barriers and about one hundred police officers. Eyewitnesses reported that the pro-abortion demonstrators hurled insults and blasphemies as well as water-filled condoms and eggs at the pro-life demonstrators and their billboards.
View a video of Bishop Laun's comments click here.
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