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Last Austrian emperor's son to be buried in Vienna

17 july 2011, 11:26
Otto Habsburg, the eldest son of Austria's last emperor, was to be buried on Saturday at Vienna's Imperial Crypt in a funeral attended by royals and political leaders from all over Europe, AFP reports.

The funeral marks the end of a week of ceremonies as the body of Habsburg, who died on July 4 at his Bavarian home aged 98, was brought to the Austrian capital.

Vienna's archbishop Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn will celebrate a funeral mass at St. Stephen's Cathedral on Saturday afternoon. Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia, Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg and Prince Hans-Adam II of Liechtenstein, as well as former monarchs and representatives of the British, Spanish and Belgian royal families, are expected to be there.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, the prime ministers of Croatia Jadranka Kosor and Macedonia Nikola Gruevski, and European Parliament president Jerzy Buzek are also expected, as well as Austrian leaders.

While Habsburg's body will be buried in the crypt of his ancestors, his heart will find a separate resting place in the Benedictine Abbey of Pannonhalma in northwestern Hungary at a private family ceremony on Sunday.

Habsburg's wife Regina, who died last year, will also be buried in the Imperial Crypt on Saturday.

The last event in Vienna to merit such pomp was the funeral in 1989 of former empress Zita, wife of the last emperor Karl I and mother of Otto Habsburg.

Over the past week, a series of wakes and requiems were held along the route that took Habsburg's body from his home of Poecking in Bavaria to Vienna, with stops in Munich and the Austrian pilgrimage site of Mariazell.

Jewish, Muslim and Christian prayers were also held Thursday at the crypt, where ordinary people were able to pay their last respects.

Habsburg, who was exiled with his family after the fall of the Austro-Hungarian empire in 1918, was a strong proponent of Europe and served for 20 years as a member of the European Parliament.

An ardent anti-Nazi and anti-Communist, he also organised in August 1989 the now-famous "Pan-European picnic" near Hungary's border with Austria, during which some 700 East Germans were able to escape to the West, months before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Known abroad as Otto von Habsburg, he was just Otto Habsburg in Austria, after the state abolished his family's titles in 1919.

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