Archduke Karl of the house of Habsburg-Lorraine was born on August 17th, 1887 at Persenbeug Castle in Lower Austria. He was the eldest son of Archduke Otto Francis of Austria, himself the son of the younger brother of the reigning emperor. At his birth, Karl was far down the line of succession of the Empire, and it was unlikely that he could reign. He received a good education and was raised as a fervent Catholic, but was not destined to assume high political power and therefore received no specific training in State affairs. Like his father, he became an officer in the Austro-Hungarian army and was sent to Prague with his regiment. Between 1906 and 1908, he continued his studies in law and political science, in parallel with his military obligations. In 1911, Karl married Princess Zita de Bourbon-Parme. She had an audience shortly before the wedding with Pope Pius X, who made an astonishing statement predicting her future ascension to the throne.
After the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo on June 28th, 1914, Archduke Karl became heir to the throne. His great-uncle, the Emperor Franz Josef, then undertook to prepare the young man for the affairs of the state. War did not facilitate this political education. Upon the death of Franz Josef in November 1916, Archduke Karl succeeded the throne, becoming Emperor Karl I of Austria, IV of Hungary and III of Bohemia.
As early as 1917, he secretly began peace negotiations with France, which did not succeed. The difficulties were growing, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire was experiencing internal unrest and high tensions between its ethnic groups. Regarding domestic politics, despite the difficult situation, the emperor put in place social legislation inspired by Christian social teaching. With regard to foreign policy, his actions in favor of peace made it possible to put an end to the conflict by avoiding a civil war that would have caused thousands of deaths.
On November 11th, 1918, the Emperor issued (under duress) a proclamation recognizing the right of the Austrian people to determine a new form of government and "renounced any participation in the administration of the State" without abdicating. Two days later, he made a similar proclamation for Hungary. On November 12th, the Independent Republic of Germany-Austria was established, followed by the Democratic Republic of Hungary on 16 November. The Emperor left for Switzerland and published the Feldkirch Manifesto, denouncing the decisions of the National Assembly. In response, the Austrian parliament passed the Habsburg Act permanently prohibiting Emperors Karl and Zita from returning to Austria and confiscating all their property. After two attempts to regain the Hungarian throne, the imperial couple were exiled to Madeira, where their seven children joined them two months later. There, their living conditions were extremely modest. Emperor Karl spent the last years of his life trying to re-establish the monarchy.
In 1922, he contracted bronchitis, which rapidly degenerated into pneumonia. He suffered two heart attacks and died in Funchal on 1 April 1922 in the presence of his wife (who was pregnant) and his son, Crown Prince Otto, who was nine years old. His last words to his wife were: “I love you so much.” His body still rests on the island of Madeira, despite attempts to move him to the imperial crypt of the Habsburgs in Vienna. Empress Zita died in Zizers, Switzerland, on March 14th, 1989.
The cause of beatification was opened in the Archdiocese of Vienna in 1949 where the witness of his holiness was collected. As part of the trial, his grave was opened in 1972, and his incorrupt body was discovered.
On October 3th, 2004, Pope John Paul II proclaimed Karl of Habsburg blessed. Here are his words: “The decisive duty of the Christian is to seek in all things the will of God, to recognize it and to follow it. The statesman and the Christian Karl of Austria set themselves this challenge every day. He was a friend of peace. In his eyes, war seemed like a horrible thing. Having come to power in the turmoil of the First World War, he tried to promote the peace initiative of my predecessor Benedict XV. From the beginning, Emperor Karl conceived his office as a holy service to his subjects. His main concern was to follow the vocation of the Christian to holiness also in his political action. It is for this reason that social assistance was so important to him. " He is now known as the Blessed Emperor Karl of Austria or Blessed Karl of Austria and celebrated on October 21, the day of his marriage with Zita.
In 2008, a second miracle through the intercession of Blessed Karl of Austria was recognized, paving the way for the future canonization.
A stigmatized Ursuline nun, Mother Vicencia Fauland, had prophesied that Archduke Karl would have much to suffer and would be violently attacked. This sister lived in Hungary, in Sopron where the young Karl spent part of his childhood. She had then predicted that one day, he would become emperor. Beginning in 1895, a prayer group was formed around her that supported the young Karl from childhood through prayer and sacrifice.
After the death of Emperor Karl of Austria, the prayer group that interceded since his childhood formed the League of Prayer of Emperor Karl of Austria for the Peace of Peoples and presented the cause of beatification. The prayer community was recognized by the Church in 1963.
The first mission of the League of Prayer is to perpetuate the prayer of Emperor Karl, who, during his life and by his death, promoted and strengthened the faith of many people. The other mission of the League of Prayer is to support the cause of the canonization of Blessed Karl of Austria, called the Emperor of Peace. The members of the League of Prayer undertake to live by the example of Blessed Karl, doing the will of God, seeking peace in all areas of life and making reparation for acts contrary to peace.
Heavenly Father, in the person of Blessed Karl, Emperor of Austria, You have given Your Church and the people of God the example of a life of discernment and spirituality on a convincing path of courage. His public actions as emperor and king, his personal actions as head of the family, were firmly based on the teachings of the Catholic faith. His love for the Eucharist was believed in the time of trials and helped him to unite with the Sacrifice of Christ in the sacrifice of his own life for his peoples. Emperor Karl honored the Mother of God and loved praying the Rosary throughout his life. May he strengthen us with his intercession when discouragement, pusillanimity, loneliness, bitterness and depression trouble us. Allow us to follow the example of your faithful servant, and to serve our brothers and sisters without ego, following Your will. Hear and respond to my request … (state your intention here).
Grant to Blessed Karl of Austria the honor of canonization, for the glory of Your Name, that of the Blessed Virgin Mary and may Your Church be blessed.