VATICAN CITY, APRIL 14, 2003 (Zenit.org).- The Holy See took a decisive step in the path toward the beatification of Charles I, the emperor of Austria and king of Hungary, the last monarch of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
More than 80 years after his death, the Congregation for Sainthood Causes proclaimed his “heroic virtues” on Saturday, in the presence of John Paul II. For beatification, only a miracle attributed to Charles’ intercession is now necessary.
Born on Aug. 17, 1887, in Persenbeug, Austria, Charles was the eldest son of Archduke Otto and grandson of Emperor Franz Joseph I. When his uncle, Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, and Franz Joseph died, Charles was proclaimed emperor of Austria and king of Hungary in 1916, while World War I was in progress.
Five years earlier, Charles had married Princess Zita of Bourbon-Parma, who on their wedding day said: “Now we must take each other to heaven.” They had eight children.
During the ceremony of publication of the decree of heroic virtues, Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Sainthood Causes, described Charles as a “man of solid faith, who always sought the good of his people, and in his governance was inspired by the social doctrine of the Church.”
“He fostered justice and peace, and nourished a constant yearning for holiness. He was exemplary as husband, father and sovereign,” the cardinal concluded.
When the Austro-Hungarian Empire fell on Nov. 11, 1918, Charles abdicated from the Hungarian throne. He left Austria in March 1919 and was formally deposed by the Austrian Parliament in April. He lived in exile on the island of Madeira, Portugal, where he died in 1922 at age 34.