ROME – Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schönborn Friday weighed in on the breach of the US Capitol by pro-Trump rioters that took place nearly 10 days ago, condemning the violence and the lies he said caused the riot in the first place.
Schönborn, who has been Archbishop of Vienna for 25 years, sent a tweet referring to the US Capitol breach Jan. 15 saying, “Nothing justifies violence. Even less the lies that led to the violence. This is what happens when truth is no longer distinguished from lies. What a warning against the power of lies!”
His tweet included the link to a statement posted to the Archdiocese of Vienna’s website featuring comments he made to German television station Heute Jan. 15.
Someone whose theology Pope Francis has often praised and who is considered by many to be papabile, meaning a candidate to be elected pope, Schönborn in his comments said images from the US Capitol breach “can’t get out of my head.”
“How did that happen? Five people are dead, numerous injured, offices devastated, and the rule of law trampled,” he said, noting that many have blamed the violence on a “bad mob” who represent “the dregs of civilized humanity.”
“No, they weren’t! They were seduced, lied to,” he said, arguing that the people who stormed the US Capitol were “hammered” with the message that, “Those up there, government and parliament, stole your election. The elections were rigged. You have to fight back!”
Without naming US President Donald Trump explicitly, Schönborn asked, “Who kept telling you this on Twitter and all sorts of channels? The … president of the most powerful country in the world!”
Even before the US presidential elections took place in November, Trump, he said, had often insisted that “If I am not re-elected, it can only be election fraud. He called for a protest. At the end: ‘Go to the Capitol!’”
The crowd that stormed the Capitol building “was wrongly convinced that they were fighting the biggest electoral fraud in America’s history,” Schönborn said, adding, “Nothing justifies their violence. Even less the lies that led to the violence.”
“It comes to this when truth is no longer distinguished from lies. What a warning against the power of lies!” he said.
On Jan. 6, nearly two weeks ago, pro-Trump protestors contesting the results of the US presidential election stormed the nation’s Capitol building, interrupting the certification of the election results that cemented US president-elect Joe Biden’s win.
Protesters broke inside and vandalized the Senate chamber as well as numerous offices, including that of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. US Vice President Mike Pence and several other lawmakers were forced to evacuate.
A total of five people died as a result of the siege, including a police officer. Another officer fighting to keep the rioters at bay look his own life several days after the incident.
Trump has since been impeached for the second time, making him the first president in US history to be impeached twice, over accusations that he incited the insurrection. Should he be convicted by the US Senate, he could be prevented from running for office again in 2024.
Schönborn’s comments Friday make him the latest to speak out on the US Capitol incident, joining a host of other international leaders and church officials who condemned the violent siege, including Pope Francis.
In a recent interview with Italian television channel Tg5, the pope said he was “shocked” by the incident in a country “so disciplined in democracy.”
In his Jan. 10 Angelus address, given the same day the interview was published, Francis offered “an affectionate greeting to the people of the United States of America, shaken by the recent siege of the Capitol.”
He prayed specifically for the people who lost their lives “in that dramatic moment,” insisting that violence “is always self-destructive, always. Nothing is gained with violence, and much is lost.”
He then urged “the state authority and the entire population to maintain a high sense of responsibility with the aim of encouraging souls, promoting national reconciliation, and safeguarding the values of democracy rooted in American society.”
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