After the midday Angelus on August 27, 2017, Pope Francis received — in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace — the participants in the congress of the International Catholic Legislators Network (ICLN), based in Austria, who were accompanied by Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn.
The Pope had already received this group in previous years, on the occasion of meetings organized at Frascati, near Rome, recalled the Holy See Press Office, which did not report the content of the Pope Francis’ “brief” allocution.
It is a Network of International Catholic Legislators, which was born in 2010 under the patronage of the Archbishop of Vienna, and of David Alton, Catholic member of the House of Lords of Great Britain. The Network’s President is Christiaan Alting von Gesau.
In an interview on Vatican Radio (Bernd Hagenkord), Cardinal Schoenborn said that it is “an informal group of men and women who wish to engage very conscientiously in politics as believers. They often have something else in common: they are a minority in their Parliaments. However, they are bearers of important subjects and values and their intention is to carry out their service as Catholics.”
The President of the Conference of Austrian Bishops highlighted their bond with Rome: “The Popes have always encouraged us: Pope Benedict as well as Pope Francis have received us each year. And these Catholic parliamentarians are very encouraged by the Church’s ‘yes’ to their engagement because often they feel quite alone in their Parliaments and find themselves in difficult situations. Therefore, they feel encouraged by these yearly meetings, in their personal faith as well as in their political action,” he said.
For the Austrian Archbishop, the Network is now well established and is growing, in particular in Africa: in Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Malawi. “These meetings are always a very good occasion for discussion and exchange of ideas. The fact that persons from all the Continents come together clearly does good to all, also because contacts and friendships are born,” he continued.
The Cardinal stressed that the first objective of the annual meetings is to “strengthen the faith” with “intense religious moments, such as daily Mass, the praying of the Rosary together, Eucharistic Adoration, and the possibility to going to Confession. Hence, it also has spiritual support.”
In regard to the subjects addressed during these meetings, they are those that “most worry the parliamentarians” and they are reflected upon “thanks to experts that lead seminars whose function is to help political reflection”: protection of human life and of the family, the crisis of refugees, persecuted Christians . . .
Cardinal Schoenborn said that one of the topics addressed “since the beginning” has been the persecution of Christians. “By now, alas, is has become a phenomenon on a global scale. Many countries, from which these parliamentarians come, are affected or are countries engaged in aiding Christians of other countries,” explained the Archbishop of Vienna.
“I can say that the informal network is a success; it’s a beautiful initiative and I would say it’s a blessing,” concluded Cardinal Schoenborn.