Blessed Charles I of Austria
Blessed Charles I of Austria
Blessed Charles I, the last Emperor of Austria
Saint Constantine and Blessed Charlemagne are not the only members of the royal class to be honored by the Catholic Church. Another Emperor who happens to also be a Catholic Blessed is Blessed Charles (sometimes Karl) I of Austria. As a Blessed we have assurance that Blessed Charles I is in Heaven; however, he should only be publicly venerated in certain places and used in conjunction with certain specific liturgical exercises. In the case of Blessed Charles I it is permissible to publicly venerate him in Austria.
Charles was born on August 17, 1887 in the Castle of Persenbeug in Austria. Charles was raised as a devout Catholic throughout his childhood and gained a strong devotion to the Eucharist and to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In 1911 he married and had eight children with Princess Zita of Bourbon-Parma.
Charles became the heir to the throne of Austria in 1914 when his Uncle, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was assassinated in Sarajevo in the event that eventually led to World War I, one of the bloodiest and most brutal wars in the history of mankind. Two years later, in the middle of what was later known as "The Great War" Charles became Emperor and King of Austria-Hungary.
Blessed Charles I was the only leader during World War I who supported Benedict XV's peace efforts and saw war as "something appalling". He thought of his office as a holy service to his people, and he worked to create social reform and implement Christian charity. He is the only only leader during World War I who banned his army's use of poison gas, which caused mass death and often caused battles to be incredibly long and drawn out, with neither side able to make headway through the poison.
In March of 1919, he was exiled to Switzerland when Austria set up a Republic, although he never officially abdicated his throne. Twice he tried to return to power in 1921, but because he had no political allies and because he was risking civil war, he gave up the attempts. From his exile in Switzerland he tried to do his best to prevent the rise of communism in central Europe. He was exiled again to the island of Madeira, Portugal in November of 1921. He died of pneumonia on the island on April 1, 1922 in the presence of his wife and nine year old son Otto. His remains are still kept in Madeira.
Charles I had his first official miracle certified on December 21, 2003 (he was already a Venerable at this time, meaning the Church was open to the possibility of his eventual Sainthood being declared). He healed a Brazilian nun of debilitating varicose veins after she prayed for his beatification. On October 3, 2004 Pope John Paul II beatified him and on January 31, 2008, the Church officially certified that a second miracle could be attributed to Charles I, a second miracle cure of a Baptist woman in Florida (one of the only times the Catholic Church confirmed a miracle cure of a non-Catholic). The second miracle is necessary if Charles I is to be eventually canonized officially. The feast day of the last King and Emperor of Austria-Hungary is October 21, the anniversary of his marriage.