“It’s certainly not an easy task”

Austria”s Gurk-Klagenfurt diocese is rocked by crises. The diocese has now been without a bishop for a year and a half. But now it has become known that the former Carinthian Caritas director Josef Marketz could become the new bishop of Klagenfurt.

Interviewer: Who is Josef Marketz, who could now become the new bishop of Klagenfurt??

Klaus Prompers (journalist): The 64-year-old is a Carinthian Slovene who also studied at the same high school with his fellow Carinthian Slovene Peter Handke, though of course years apart – Handke is in his 70s. People who know him well describe him as an affable, likeable parish priest who, however, has had quite a career within the church, rising to the position of episcopal vicar and, since 2014, as head of Caritas in Carinthia, which is a relatively large.

One must keep in mind that the diocese of Klagenfurt is one of the largest and at the same time the richest diocese in Austria. That, after all, brought the problems for former Bishop Schwarz, who is now bishop in Sankt Polten in Lower Austria. A man of whom many say: He will manage it well. And many are obviously pleased that it is first of all a bilingual bishop, who can speak both Slovenian and Austrian German and in this respect can approach both population groups well. And he may be able to stop the fact that in the previous year alone there were 16.8 percent departures from the church in Carinthia.

Interviewer: It has not yet been officially confirmed that Marketz will be the new bishop. What makes the media so sure that this is true??

Prompers: Basically himself. He admitted to the "Kleine Zeitung" in Graz and Klagenfurt that he had been in Rome last weekend. And on inquiry of another tabloid newspaper he suggested that the information could be correct. Even if we do not have it yet really official in the narrower sense: Here in Vienna it is to be heard that both Cardinal Schonborn and Nuncio Pedro Lopez Quintana are somewhat annoyed that this news has already leaked out in such a way. But nevertheless it seems to be true that in all probability on Candlemas next year, i.e. on the 2nd day of the month, there will be a new bishop. February, Josef Marketz will be consecrated as the new bishop in Klagenfurt.

Interviewer: In the process, he would take over a very broken diocese. He has a difficult task to take on, doesn’t he??

Prompers: That is certainly not an easy task. First, because there are a lot of resignations, top in the sense of the quota of church resignations in the whole of Austria. Secondly, because of the disorder in the finances, which must now be put in order, and thirdly, because of the discord between the various parties involved as a result of the replacement of the former bishop Schwarz. He will certainly have to intervene in a very mediatory way, but he probably can’t do that very badly, because so far he has kept relatively out of all the squabbles.

He has always stressed that he is the Caritas director, so he has his hands full. And from therefore he wants to take a position neither in the one nor in the other direction. That is, he did not want to condemn or prejudge Bishop Schwarz, nor did he want to take the position of Guggenberger, the vicar general and then head of investigations within the diocese. He has kept a low profile, and some say he is certainly a very good pastor, but he needs a strong vicar general to manage the administration, because he is not very good at it, even though he is the director of Caritas.

Interviewer: This does not mean that the controversy over the personnel of Alois Schwarz, the former bishop of Klagenfurt, is off the table now. How does it go on?

Prompers: There are no sure indications yet. There are rumors, however, that he may soon be given either a strong vicar general or even an episcopal coadjutor to assist him. Although he seems to have found quite a good reception in his new diocese of Sankt Polten – I keep hearing that he is well received there by the people. But that is also what many have said before in Klagenfurt. The only problem is: he has this past. And the corruption and economic prosecutor’s office is still investigating him in two cases. These are not yet concluded. I ame that the Roman Curia is waiting to see what comes out of it in the end, whether it would actually possibly come to criminal proceedings in a case of embezzlement. Only then, I think, will Rome explain how they will deal with Bishop Schwarz. But it may well be, according to insiders, that a supervisor will be placed next to them. At the moment it is not yet possible to say exactly what that will look like.

Remarkable seems to me also with Marketz that he did his doctorate with Paul Zulehner,among many other study stations he has had, in Rome and in Jerusalem. So he is a man of the church who can certainly be called rather progressive. As Caritas director, for example, he was very critical of the EU’s stance on refugee policy in 2015, saying, "It can’t be that we all have to pay for the problems here because the European Union can’t agree on how to deal with refugees. We can’t just do things in Africa, we have to help the people who come here as well. So a very Christian point of view, in my opinion, which he has represented there and has probably also represented offensively, without making huge headlines outside the diocese.

The interview was conducted by Michelle Olion.

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