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Joachim Cardinal Meisner


Sermon given at the Requiem for

His Eminence Hans Hermann, Cardinal Groër

in Maria Roggendorf on April 5th, 2003


Kardinal MeisnerDear Brethren and Sisters,

Hans Hermann, Cardinal Groër's walk along the roads of this world was completed when he passed away to God, our Father. Like a tired pilgrim Cardinal Groër was allowed to return to God the Father's house after a pilgrimage of almost 84 years. When a child is born he cries a lot, but his fellowmen, his parents and relatives are happy about the birth of a new human being. At the end of one's life, when the human being dies, it should be the other way round. For he who leaves to meet his Father should rejoice. His fellow human beings, however, should be sad and shed tears, because a faithful man has left them. This happened to Mary. If you how ever stood in front of the wonderful altar of the Holy Virgin by Veit Stoss in the Church of Our Lady in Cracow, you will not be able to forget the Easter smile an Mary's face, as she falls dying into the arms of the weeping Apostles.

Many of us feel like this when we think of our late fellow priest and Cardinal, Hans Hermann Groër. His last decade of life was over-shadowed by the dark cloud, under which many suffered with him. Cardinal Groër was destined to follow our Lord along His Stations of the Cross, as Simon of Cyrene had done. He was steeped in the Lord's bitter Passion, which, however, protected him from bitterness. Along those Stations of the Cross he knew himself completely bound with Mary, the Lord's Mother, who had also been pierced by the sword of pain. Because of this he became a qualified companion in suffering for many people under the Cross.

So many people from far and near came to him to ask for guidance for their lives. Especially the hard pressed and the burdened, the despised and the crucified found in him a Christian and a brother who was at their side and showed them their way to the future by virtue of his spiritual authority. Maybe this was the reason why Cardinal Groër became one of Austria's much sought after confessors, even until shortly before his death. Was this not the true believers' testimony, with their Feet and hearts, for the priest and bishop Hans Hermann Groër? The Bible tells us, Blessed are the dead, who die in the Lord ...; for their Works follow them. (Apoc. 14:13)

We need not say many words at Cardinal Groër's casket in Maria Roggendorf. The facts speak for themselves: The pilgrimage basilica in its beauty, the Benedictine priory at the same place, the Cistercian nuns' abbey, Marienfeld, in the neighbourhood: They would not exist without Cardinal Hans Hermann Groër. They have become places that help people to experience a bit of heaven on earth and earth to be a bit more inhabitable. From Maria Roggendorf a monthly pilgrimage movement spread all over Europe and beyond, so that believers gather at 600 places month after month to be led to Christ by Mary according to her piece of advice, Whatever he shall say to you, do ye. (Jn 2:5)
    At his casket we have indeed more reason to give thanks than to lament. Cardinal Groër was not a man with a strong constitution or thick skin; rather he was easily wounded and overly sensitive. Therefore he was deeply wounded, even stigmatized by the incidents during his last years as Archbishop of Vienna. Since that time he was as though branded, wounded and even stigmatized. And when Peter writes in his first letter, ... by whose stripes you were healed (1 Peter 2:24), this may be the reason that Cardinal Groër was sought again and again as a pastor, confessor and spiritual director. A man who had recovered the sense of his life after meeting Cardinal Groër told me that he had always left him as a better man than he had been before.

In the days when the dark cloud gathered over his life and he sank into loneliness and contempt, the Salesian nuns of Rennweg in Vienna came to him and brought him St. Francis de Sales' episcopal ring as a sign of their unbroken confidence in him. I know how much he was strengthened, consoled and moved by this sign of sympathy, compassion and sharing of his sufferings. Months later he gave me St. Francis de Sales' ring.1 He wanted to thank me for accompanying him along his path under the dark cloud. I was deeply embarrassed and affected by that, because I did not have the feeling of having accompanied him intensely enough.

Today I am taking back the late Cardinal's ring as a sign of gratitude for his faithfulness under the Cross of the Lord. From now on this ring shall belong to Our Lady of Roggendorf. It is the ring of St. Francis de Sales and of the late Cardinal Hans Hermann Groër. Like Mary, his heart was pierced by the sword of sorrow. As Mary did, so do we hope and request for him the joy of final communion with Christ who died and rose again from the dead. Not the crown, but the ring of faithfulness shall serve as a sign of this. Amen.


1 Cardinal Meisner visited His Eminence Cardinal Groër at his exile in Goppeln (Germany) an the eighth of September - the Feast of the Birth of the Virgin Mary, 1998.


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