By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
tEmpires come and go, but even long after they crumble, one can occasionally catch a glimpse of their past glory. Assuming that the Hapsburgs, monarchs of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire, were looking down from Heaven upon a field near the Brno airport this Sunday, one can assume they were smiling.
t(Officially speaking, Catholics can be reasonably sure that at least one Hapsburg had such a view from above. Karl I, the last Hapsburg monarch, was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2004.)
tPope Benedict XVI presided over an open-air Mass in Brno this morning that drew a crowd estimated at roughly 120,000, composed of Czechs, Slovaks, Poles, Austrians and Germans, thus representing several of the constituent elements of the old Hapsburg empire (minus, of course, the Hungarians). Though those peoples are now scattered into different nations, today’s Mass offered a reminder of a time when the common Christian faith of central Europe was also embodied in a common political identity.