Order day in Vienna

“We are sending a message of unity out into the world”

Illuminated by the morning rays of sunshine and largely deserted, Vienna’s inner district presented itself on Saturday morning. Only a few joggers and the early risers among the tourists crossed the inner courtyard of the Hofburg on April 21, 2018 at 7 a.m. when 13 postulants and 58 postulants of the Order of St. George and the traditional regiments took up their positions. The crowd, curiously eyed by individual passers-by, grew to around 450 people within half an hour, because the ladies and knights of the order still stood in rows of four behind the postulants. At the end of the procession, the Order’s government took up position, at the head of the Grand Master S.k.k.H. Karl von Habsburg and the deputy grandmaster S.k.k.H. George of Habsburg.

The morning silence soon gave way to the marching music of the approaching regimental band IR4, the traditional band of the Order of St. George. After the obligatory report to the Grand Master, the sounding of the imperial anthem and further marches, the formed march through the ditch to St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna followed after eight o’clock.

“The fascination of St. Georg knows no borders”

The subsequent service in the cathedral was attended by an estimated 800 visitors. In his sermon, military bishop Werner Freistätter emphasized three essential aspects of the work of St. George – the patron saint of the order. The ecumenical dimension of the saint, who was executed under Emperor Diocletian in 303, is remarkable. The martyr was venerated very early on in an unusually large number of regions, including the Middle East, Ethiopia, Egypt, the Merovingian Franconian Empire, Italy and soon also in the German-speaking area. “The fascination of St. Georg knows no boundaries ”, underlined Freistätter. In the Roman Catholic Church today he is regarded as a saint as well as in the Orthodox Church, and even in Islam he is regarded as an important prophet.

Christian chivalry is another, essential dimension of St. George: “The knightly ideal is characterized by helpfulness, kindness and standing up for the faith.” It also requires the “moderate use of armed force”, especially in this day and age. Those in need can obtain protection and help from the Holy. Last but not least, Freistätter also emphasized the martyrdom of George: He gave his own life for faith. This is an incentive to follow Christ unconditionally wherever one is. In all situations it is important to draw courage, strength and hope from faith.

Admission of four new Knights of Honor

The mass was followed by the festive investiture, at the beginning of which four personalities were named knights of honor, namely the well-known Viennese cathedral pastor Toni Faber, the Graz mayor Siegfrid Nagl, the former Bulgarian president Rossen Plewneliew and the former Lower Austrian governor Erwin Pröll . Afterwards the postulants appeared before the Grand Master after calling their names and were invested. With the completion of the investiture, the order had grown to a total of 700 women and knights.

In summery temperatures, the members of the order took their position on the now very busy Stephansplatz. The march finally led to the Palais Coburg, where 450 guests gathered for lunch in the historic casemates.

Resurgence of Central European Identity

After the afternoon break, the religious day culminated in its final climax at the gala dinner in the ceremonial hall of the Hofburg. Archduke Karl von Habsburg spoke in front of 400 guests about the commemorative year – 100 years at the end of the First World War. Austria’s development since then has been remarkable: “Contrary to all predictions from various sides, Austria did not go under, but developed fantastically, has grown together and today has a central role in Central Europe.”

The Archduke was also extremely satisfied with the development of the order. “Today we are undoubtedly able to revive the Central European identity. You can see that in our commanderies and in our growth. ”The knights must defend their values, their country and their continent. “Some of our new, recently invested knights are on the front line. That is why I would like to especially welcome two of my recently invested friends from the Ukraine here. You are two highly decorated generals who both did well in defending their European country against Russia. I am happy that you are both here, ”said the Grand Master to thunderous applause.

“I have a dream”

Archduke Karl was equally pleased about the investiture of the former Bulgarian President Rossen Plevneliev.

“Today we are experiencing several crises and conflicts,” said Plevneliev in his subsequent speech. Some are currently speaking of two crises in Europe, others of five or seven. “I think we have eleven crises.” Rossen Plevneliev mentioned, among other things, the conflicts with Russia and around Ukraine, the situation in Greece, Brexit, terrorism and the new flare-up of nationalism.

But it did not stop at pessimism. “We came together to share our passion for what we want to leave our children with. I have a dream and I want to share it with all of you now. If we solve even one of these eleven crises in our own way, in a European way, we can then signal to everyone: We can solve all problems.”

A unique peace project

The get-together that evening, the “passion we all share for Europe sends a message of unity out into the world. We know what used to go wrong in Europe and we know how to get it under control. We can be proud to have learned our lessons from history. ”Plevneliev emphasized that the founding fathers of the European Union were important role models. “Today we can prove to everyone that the European dream is a unique peace project. The world is watching us. It is time to regain our confidence.”

The procurator Baron Vinzenz von Stimpfl-Abele also briefly raised the floor: “Knights are also known for being able to celebrate properly, and I think we have more than enough reasons for this after this successful religious convention.” a started day should not end any less late. The party continued until after midnight.