Cardinal König of Vienna Dies; Was Key Figure at Vatican II

Pope Remembers Him as a Man of Dialogue

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 14, 2004 ( Cardinal Franz König, who died in his sleep early Saturday at age 98, was remembered by John Paul II as a man of dialogue.

«His witness of the good news of Christ and his commitment to peace and reconciliation have radiated well beyond the borders of his homeland,» the Pope said in a telegram sent after he received news of the cardinal’s death.

The Austrian was the last living cardinal elevated by John XXIII. He was made a cardinal in the consistory of Dec. 15, 1958.

President emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Dialogue with Nonbelievers, and archbishop emeritus of Vienna, Franz König was born in Rabenstein on Aug. 3, 1905.

He was ordained a priest at 28. In 1952 he was appointed bishop of Sankt Pölten. In 1956, Pope Pius XIII named him archbishop of the Austrian capital, a post he held until 1985.

«He was especially concerned about supporting the faithful in Eastern Europe during the period of the unfortunate political division of the Continent,» the Pope said in the message, sent by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano. «At the same time, he is appreciated for having built bridges with the Churches of Eastern tradition.»

Cardinal König was a protagonist in the Second Vatican Council, speaking on various occasions on episcopal ministry and collegiality, liturgical reform, canon law, the laity and Mary.

According to some of John Paul II’s biographers, the Austrian played an important part in the conclave that elected Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Krakow as Pope.

Cardinal König made a significant contribution to the dialogue with nonbelievers and with the Orthodox Churches of Eastern Europe.

He was the author of important scientific publications. In 1951 he directed the three-volume work entitled «Christus und die Religionen der Erde» (Christ and Religions of the Earth). In 1956 he published «Religionswissenschaftliches Worterbuch» (Dictionary of Religious History).

The College of Cardinals now has 191 members, including 126 electors under age 80 who could vote for a new pope in a conclave.

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