The archbishop of Salzburg, Franz Lackner O.F.M., has been elected new president of the Austrian bishops’ conference. He follows on the archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn O.P.
Franz Lackner has a many-faceted CV: Born in 1956, he started a training as electrician, served as a UN soldier in Cyprus from 1978 to 1979, joined the Franciscan order in 1984, was ordained to priesthood in 1991 and later became professor of Metaphysics at the Cistercian Philosophical-Theological University at Heiligenkreuz (close to Vienna). In 2002 he became auxiliary bishop of Graz-Seckau, and eventually archbishop of Salzburg in 2013. Since 2015 he had been vice-president of the bishops’ conference. During the recent months it was widely assumed that he would follow Cardinal Schönborn as president. New vice-president is Manfred Scheuer, bishop of Linz, who had been professor of Dogmatics in Trier (Germany) from 2000 to 2003, bishop of Innsbruck from 2003 to 2015, and bishop of his home diocese Linz since January 2016.
For a long time, Cardinal Schönborn had been considered papabile. A Dominican friar since 1963, he had been professor of Dogmatics in Fribourg (Switzerland) since 1975, became editorial secretary for the Catechism of the Catholic Church in 1987, auxiliary bishop in Vienna in 1991, and eventually archbishop of Vienna in 1995 after multiple allegations of sexual abuse of children against his highly controversial predecessor Cardinal Hans Hermann Groër O.S.B. In 1998 he was elected president of the bishops’s conference and held this post for 22 years. He was–and still is–member of several Papal congregations and councils. After a cancer surgery and a severe lung disease in 2019, he announced his retirement as president of the bishops’ conference. He turned 75 in January 2020, and Pope Francis asked him to remain in his office as diocesan bishop for the time being.