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00Monday, June 1, 2009 6:19 AM



September 26-28, 2009


Saturday, September 26


09.20 Departure for Prague from Ciampino airport.


11.30 WELCOME CEREMONY at International Airport of Stará Ruzyně
- Address by the Holy Father.

Church of St. Mary, Prague
- Greeting by the Holy Father

Presidential Palace.

Presidential Palace.
- Address of the Holy Father.

Cathedral of Saints Vitus, Wenceslas and Adalbert.
- Address by the Holy Father.

Sunday, September 27


08.45 Departure from the International Airport of Prague for Brno.


09.20 Arrival at Turany Airport in Brno.

10.00 HOLY MASS at Turany Airport.
- Homily by the Holy Father.

- Words by the Holy Father.

12.45 Departure from Brno airport for Prague.


13.20 Arrival at the international airport.

Throne Room, Archbishop's Palace
- Address by the Holy Father

Vladislaw Hall, Prague Castle
- Address by the Holy Father

Monday, September 28


08.50 Visit to the Church of St. Wenceslas

for the Feast of St. Wenceslas, Patron of the Czech Republic
Melnik Esplanade
- Homily by the Holy Father
Melnik Esplanade
- Address by the Holy Father


13.15 Lunch with the bishops of the Czech Republic and the papal entourage
Archbishop's Palace, Prague.

16.45 Farewell, Apostolic Nunciature of Prague

Stará Ruzyně International Airport
- Address by the Holy Father

17.45 Departure for Rome


19.50 Arrival at Ciampino airport.

NB: Italy and the Czech Republic are in the same time zone.

The Vatican released the final program for the Czech visit on 7/3/09.

May 1, 2009


The Czech bishops conference has opened an English-language site for the papal visit in September.


Although no official announcement has been made, the site banner indicates that the Pope will be visiting Prague, Brno and Stara Boleslaw.

All the material posted here today comes from the site.
[My thanks to Maklara who is keeping us abreast of the preparations in Prague.]


The motto and logo of the papal visit express its theme and spirit, as well as the general Christian attitude.

The motto is: 'Love of Christ is our strength'.

Christianity doesn't push itself by power, it doesn't struggle for gaining dominance over anyone. It respects the freedom of every person, but it is strong and firm, in trying to win over evil through the power of love.

The logo expresses that we are bearers of the tradition of Prince Wenceslaus (represented by the heraldic symbol of the eagle), patron saint of the Czech nation, who promoted Christian values.

We stand by his flag as a sign of our nation's spiritual life. The flag's spear is directed upwards, to permanent values and noble aims, and it bears the colours of the Czech Republic (blue - red - white) and of the Vatican (gold - white), because the journey is also a state visit, with the Czech nation welcoming one of the most important persons in the world, the leader of the Catholic Church.


The commemorative medal will be a present to VIP guests as well as a valuable souvenir for visitors. It is available in gold or silver (both 0.999 purity).

It was designed by Daniela Kartáková (born 1965), a well-known sculptor, conservator and medalist, who also designed the commemorative medal for John Paul II's 2005 visit to the Czech Republic. She also has a home in Carrara, Italy, site of one of the world's best marble quarries.

The front features a portrait of Benedict XVI with his Latin name, and the Vatican coat-of-arms. The back depicst St. Wenceslas, based on the Gothic statue of the saint by Petr Parléř in the Prague cathedral. The inscription gives the year of teh visit and the names of the three cities to be visited by the Pope.

More information on the medal is available at the website about the medal, www.medaile-benediktxvi.cz (CZ), where it may also be ordered.

00Monday, June 1, 2009 6:26 AM

ON SEPT. 26-28

May 30, 2009

The Vatican Press announced today that the Holy Father will be visiting the Czech Republic (Prague, Brno and Stara Bleslav) on Sept. 26-28, pre-announced earlier this month by the Czech bishops conference (CBK).

The Pope formally accepted the invitation of the Czech President and the CBK during an audience at the Vatican today with President Vaclav Klaus, his wife and delegation.

00Friday, July 31, 2009 5:05 AM

Not the least of the writing tasks for the Holy Father during his current vacation are the drafts for the papal texts to be delivered when he visits the Czech Republic in September. By the same token, the Church in that country is deep in preparations for the Sept. 26-28 visit. The English service of Czech Radio has a situationer:

Preparations underway
for Pope's autumn visit

By Christian Falvey

July 15, 2009

2009 is a year of big visits for the Czech Republic. After receiving the new American president Barack Obama in April, the country is now preparing for another extremely important visitor: His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, who will be making several stops in the country over three days in September.

The papal visit from September 26 to 28 will be the first for the new pope, and preparations are already in full swing. Much of the program has been especially planned according to the Pontiff's wishes, during which he will visit the country’s main pilgrimage sites and other sites of particular interest to him.

Karel Štícha, from the office coordinating Pope Benedict’s visit, said: “The Pope will visit two important cities in the CR, first he will celebrate Holy Mass in Brno, which is the capital of Moravia, and then he will visit Stará Boleslav, a well-known city in Central Bohemia, and in this city, on the day of St. Wenceslas, he will celebrate Mass for the people from the region.”

Stará Boleslav is of huge significance to Czech Catholics as it marks the site where the patron St. Václav, a.k.a. Good King Wenceslas, was murdered by his younger brother, thus dying a martyr.

This stop on Pope Benedict’s tour of the country will be a major event, with 30,000 people tentatively expected, and thus a lot of the planning is focused on international transit to and from Stará Boleslav, as well as on many other areas.

“We are in the process of negotiation with the companies that are able to construct the structures necessary to prepare for Holy mass and we are also in the process of negotiating with the state authorities about cooperation on infrastructure and the logistical preparations and so on.”

Prague, of course, will not be off the Holy Father’s list of things to see. Here, he requested a special stop at the Church of Our Lady Victorious which houses the Infant of Prague, a statue of the infant Christ that is revered around the world. Father Petr Šleich heads the Carmelite Priory of the Infant Jesus of Prague*.

[The visit to the image is the Pope;s first event in Prague after the airport arrival ceremony.]

“It’s not an honour for the Infant Jesus of Prague to be visited by the Holy Father, but in this special case it’s an honour for the Holy Father to visit the little Jesus in this place which is so widely known and beloved by so many faithful on every continent today, and for centuries already.

"I think it is a great encouragement for all those Christian people in many countries who love this image of the little Jesus, they can see that the Church really appreciates their devotion, their trust in the little Jesus, and that they are not alone in this, that even the Pope himself shares their attitude.”

The Czech Republic is a famously non-religious country, with 59% of the population agnostic, atheist or non-denominational.

Nonetheless, the roughly 2.5 million Catholics in the country will doubtless be joined this autumn by their brethren from the neighbouring Catholic bastions of Slovakia and Poland and the Pope’s homeland of Germany.

The papal visit to the Czech Republic is sure to be a big one. John Paul II visited the Czech Republic three times. [He must have felt such concern for what had become of the once very Catholic Czechs after four decades of life under Communism.]

*I have had occasion to note a couple of times in the past how widespread is the devotion to the Infant Jesus in my country, the Philippines, where he is known as the 'Santo Nino', the Spanish words for Holy Child.

And therefore, for most Filipino Catholics who can afford to travel, Prague would rank among their first three pilgrimage choices after Rome and Lourdes, precisely for the Infant Jesus of Prague.

What I did not realize till now is that the original Santo Nino venerated by Filipinos is more than a century older than the image found in Prague, though both of them were made by Spanish artisans.

Indeed, our Santo Nino - a carved wooden statue barely 12 inches high - was a gift given by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 to the chieftain of the local tribe on Cebu, the Philippine island where he first went ashore.

The missionaraies with him managed to baptize this chieftain, his wife, and followers. The image was a gift to mark that baptism. However Magellan was eventually speared to death in an encounter with another tribe under a chieftain named Lapu-Lapu who resisted the foreigners.

The Spaniards did not return to the Philippines until 1565, and miraculously, they found the statue in a hut that had been burned during the fighting that preceded this actual colonization of the island. A church was built on the site where the statue was found, and the church has become the Minor Basilica of the Santo Nino de Cebu.

The Infant Jesus of Prague, on the other hand, was a gift to a Bohemian noblewoman from her Spanish mother. In 1648, the 19-inch-tall image was turned over to the Carmelites of the Church of Our Lady of Mary Victorious in Prague. However, it is thought that the statue may have been made as early as 1340.

In fact, the oldest continuing Santo Nino devotion is Spain's Santo Nino de Atocha (Madrid) commemorating miracles in the 13th century attributed to a little boy dressed as a pilgrim turning up to help Christians persecuted by Muslims.

The Santo Nino devotion has taken hold particularly in Latin America, and if the Philippines had not had its own older Santo Nino tradition, it would certainly have received it eventually during the three centuries of Spanish rule, when the cultural osmosis was mostly from Latin Amnerica (particularly Mexico) to the Philippines, rather than directly from Spain.

I have Googled the query but there does not seem to be any comparable Infant Jesus devotion in Germany, not even in Bavaria. The references mention St. Therese of the Child Jesus, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Anthony of Padua, and St. Teresa of Avila as devotees of the Infant Jesus.

00Friday, July 31, 2009 6:06 AM

Pope to speak Italian
and English during Czech visit

PRAGUE, July 22 (Translated from SIR) - There has been discussion over the language that Pope Benedict XVI will use when he visits the Czech Republic in September.

The news agency Kathpress said that the Pope has decided not to use German for any of his public events, and some quarters in the Czech media have questioned this.

The Czech portal idnes.cz quoted one of the Czech organizers for the papal trip as saying that the decision was made in the Vatican in view of delicate Czech-German relations at the moment.

Thus, the Pope will be using Italian and English when he speaks in public. However, he will be speaking in German with Czech President Vaclav Klaus during their meetings.

However,the liberal Prague newspaper Mlada fronta Dnes criticized the caution as unnecessary saying that friction between German and the Czech Republic has been dissipated by now.

It points out that German politicians, including Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Horst Koehler have not hesitated to use German even when visiting Israel.

In an editorial, the newspaper said that by speaking German when he comes to visit, the Pope would confirm that the 'dark days' are over.

Benedict XVI will be the first Pope
to pay tribute to St Wenceslas

PRAGUE, Pope Benedict XVI will be the first Christian church leader head to pay tribute at the shrine of St Wenceslas, the patron saint of Czechs, during his visit to the Czech Republic in September, church representatives told journalists Friday.

The Pope will visit Stara Boleslav in central Bohemia, on September 28, the day when Czechs commemorate the martyr death of St Wenceslas who was killed there in 935.

Two of Benedict XVI's predecessors visited Stara Boleslav, one of the oldest and most important places of pilgrimage in the Czech lands, but it was before they became Pope, journalists were told.

In 1588 Stara Boleslav welcomed cardinal Ippolito Aldobrandini who later become Pope Clement VIII. And in 1929, Angelo Roncalli came to Stara Boleslaw as a priest. In 1958 he became Pope John XXIII.

[I wonder why John Paul II, who visited the Czech Republic three times, did not go to Stara Boleslaw which is just outside Prague.]

Pope Benedict XVI will visit the 11th-century Basilica of St Wenceslas before saying Mass in an open square on September 28.

He will then address pilgrims of the annual St Wenceslas pilgrimage that is expected to attract some 30,000 people this year.

The thousand-years old tradition of Stara Boleslav pilgrimages was interrupted during the Communist era. The pilgrimages resumed as soon as teh Communist regime collapsed in 1989.

The Pope will stay in the Czech Republic on September 26-28.

"The Holy Father must take care of all the people - this is the nature of his work. This means he must take care even of the 'sinners' - that is us," former Czech foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg, who is planning to go to Stara Boleslav, told CTK.

He was alluding to the fact that majority of post-Communist Czechs consider themselves atheists.

120,000 expected
at Brno Mass

Brno, June 29 - The space at Brno-Turany's airport at which Pope Benedict XVI will say Mass on September 27 will look from teh air like a carpet with a network of diagonal paths that divide the area into sectors, Brno bishopric representatives told journalists today.

The space with a capacity of 150,000 people was designed by architect Marek Stepan who specialises in sacred architecture.

The area will be bisected by an axis that connects an old wayside shrine and a ten-metre anchor depicting hope, journalists were told.

The wayside shrine is the sole historical element in the airport complex, Stepan said.

The statue of the Virgin Mary from the pilgrimage church in Turany will have a place of honour on the altar, Stepan said.

It is believed that the statue was brought to Moravia by the missionaries Cyril and Methodius in the 10th century. Their followers who were persecuted had to hide it. It was allegedly found by a man working in a field near Turany in 1050.

This will be the first visit by a Pope to Brno. The bishopric expects some 120,000 believers, including Slovaks, Poles, Ukrainians and other foreigners, to attend the Mass.

Also participating will be some 1000 priests and dozens of bishops from various parts of the world.

About 1300 journalists are expected to cover the event.

Pope Benedict XVI will visit the Czech Republic on September 26-28. Besides Prague and Brno, he will also go to Stara Boleslav, central Bohemia, where St Wenceslas, the patron saint of Bohemia, was killed on September 28, 935 (or 929, according to some sources).

00Friday, July 31, 2009 6:19 AM

More security - and more crowds
expected for Benedict XVI
than Czechs had for Obama

PRAGUE, July 26 (CTK) - Security measures during Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the Czech Republic in September will be even stricter than during U.S. President Barack Obama's visit in the spring, today's issue of the daily newspaper Pravo quotes police protection service head Lubomir Kvicala as saying.

"We expect many more people to come to public spaces, therefore the measures will be greater than during President Obama's visit," Kvicala said.

Obama attended an informal EU-United States summit in Prague last April.

The Pope will be in the Czech Republic on September 26-28.

Pravo writes that it will principally be the Mass that Benedict XVI will celebrate at the Brno-Turany airport on Sunday, September 27, that will place big demands on protection.

Brno Bishop Vojtech Cikrle estimates that some 120,000 people will attend it.

Obama's speech outside Prague Castle was attended by some 15,000 people.

00Monday, September 14, 2009 6:27 PM

Pope Benedict to present gift to Child of Prague statuette

Child of Prague will receive new gold crown

First steps of Benedict XVI in Czech Republic will lead to Prague’s famous place of pilgrimage which is visited by hundred of pilgrim from tens of countries. To visit Church of Our Lady Victorious in Karmelitska Street (street is named after Carmelite Monastery to which church belongs) and pay respect to Child of Prague statuette, popular especially in Hispanic world, was personal wish of Holy Father. After bowing and praying in front of statuette, he’ll hand Child of Prague his gift.

Traditional custom is to give Child of Prague clothing with royal attributes. It is reported to have about hundred of outfits, many of which have been donated as express of gratitude by worshipers round the world. The statuette has two golden crowns; first coronation took place in 1651. Prior of Carmelite Monastery by Child of Prague Pater Petr Šleich says: “Coronation with crown given by pope is the highest liturgical esteem, which Child of Prague could be given.

According to legend, Child Jesus miraculously appeared to Spanish monk who shaped statuette then. Another story tells statuette belonged to property of Saint Theresa of Jesus. Historical fact is statuette of Child Jesus was given to Duchess Maria Marinque de Lara (Spanish noblewoman who married Czech aristocrat) as wedding gift from her mother. Her daughter famous Czech noblewoman Polyxena von Lobkowicz then gifted precious statuette in 1628 to Carmelite Monastery by Church of Our Lady Victorious.

00Monday, September 14, 2009 6:35 PM

Pope's speech in Czech Republic may be based on encyclical - Archbishop

Prague - Public speeches by Pope Benedict XVI within his visit to the Czech Republic on September 26-28 will probably be based on his new encyclical, Prague Archbishop Miloslav Vlk said today during the presentation of its Czech translation.

Cardinal Vlk, along with Olomouc Archbishop Jan Graubner, today also presented a unique rosary of gold and Bohemian garnets, which the Bohemian and Moravian will donate to the Pope at the close of his visit.
The Pope's new encyclical, his third in a row, called Caritas in Veritate (Love in Truth) was published on July 7. Its name connects two essential phenomena of the Christian revelation - love and truth.
The text of the encyclical deals with current social issues in the world, including the roots of the economic crisis and globalisation, Vlk added.

Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, archbishop of Prague, with Papa during bishop' synod

Experts from diplomatic circles also indicated that the Pope would draw from the encyclical during his visit to the Czech Republic and that he might also touch upon the 20th anniversary of the collapse of the communist regime in Europe.

The Czech translation of the Papal Encyclical of some 100 pages was issued by the Carmelite publisher's three weeks ahead of the Pope'arrival in the Czech Republic.

Vlk said, commenting on the encyclical, that the Pope's main goal is not to moralise and criticise what is wrong, but to offer solutions.
"It is an extraordinary encyclical because of its wide scope. This is unusual for the Pope," Vlk noted.

Czech state-church relations settlement priority - Cardinal

Prague - Czech Catholic Church Cardinal Miloslav Vlk told Radio Impuls today that progress in the still non-ratified Czech-Vatican treaty could only be achieved after relations between the state and the church were settled in the Czech Republic.

Vlk pointed to a bill on the settlement of the state-church property relations that in his view had narrowed space for church freedom.
"The relevant draft amendment is still on the government's table," he said.

Regarding the question of property settlement between the state and churches that has not yet been achieved, Vlk said it was the question which burdened not only churches but also towns and villages and the whole state.

The bill on the settlement of property relations between the state and the church appeared in the Chamber of Deputies last spring but it has only been debated in the first reading.
A group of deputies around Vlastimil Tlusty (elected for the Civic Democrats, ODS) sharply criticised the government-proposed bill which was approved by the government last April.

Under it, the government wants to return about one-third of the churches' property that was nationalised after the 1948 communist coup. Instead of the remaining property, the churches are to receive 83 billion crowns during the next 60 years, or approximately 270 billion crowns with interests.

On Tlusty's initiative, a parliamentary commission was established to examine the proposal before it was to be Vsubmitted to the parliament again. The commission then did not recommend that the Chamber of Deputies passed the legislation.

The Czech Republic is one of a few European countries not to have ratified an inter-governmental treaty with the Vatican.
The document that defines the position of the Roman Catholic and Greek Catholic churches in the Czech Republic was signed in 2002. However, it has so far been only ratified by the Vatican.
The ratification process in the Czech Republic has not yet been completed as the Chamber of Deputies refused to ratify the document in 2003.

The deputies pointed out that the treaty was disadvantageous for the Czech state and violated the equal position of churches.
Vlk said in June that he firmly believed that the Vatican considered the wording of the treaty definitive and that it saw no reason to change anything in it.

The Vatican believes that the Czech Republic should ratify the document in its current wording, Vlk then said.

Today he said that Pope Benedict XVI was of the view that the negotiations on the treaty had been completed and that it would be good if its ratification were completed in the Czech Republic.
However, no talks between the Czech Republic and the Vatican on the treaty have been scheduled for the period of the Pope's visit to the Czech Republic in late September.

Nevertheless, it cannot be ruled out that Vatican State Secretary Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer will discuss the topic at their meeting during the Pope's visit, Vlk said.

00Monday, September 14, 2009 6:55 PM

Czech bishops do not know whether Pope will talk about Romanies

Prague/Washington - The Czech Bishops' Conference' Ales Pistora told CTK today he does not know whether the Pope will mention the Romany issue during his visit to the Czech Republic, in reaction to a call by Jews and Hindus in the United States on Benedict XVI that he speak about Romanies.

"It is not known beforehand what theme Pope Benedict XVI will choose for his message to the Czech public," Pistora, the bishops’ conference spokesman, said.

Benedict XVI will visit the Czech Republic on September 26-28.
Representatives of Jews and Hindus in the United States claim Romanies in the Czech Republic live in an atmosphere similar to apartheid, The Jerusalem Post writes today.

Hindu representative Rajan Zed and Rabbi Jonathan B. Freirich claim in their joint statement that Romanies in the Czech Republic face violent attacks, stereotypes, racism, prejudices, a growing gap between them and the other Czechs, beatings, bad quality housing, systemic unemployment, persecution, social exclusion and segregation at school.

Zed and Freirich claim that Romanies are denied service in restaurants, shops and in discos, the state refuses to protect them against oppression and they undergo forced sterilisation.

Pistora reminded that Czech bishop Vaclav Maly said previously he is concerned about the growing aggressive manifestations of certain political parties and groupings aimed against minorities in the Czech Republic, mainly against Romanies of late.

Maly was reacting to an arson attack against a Romany family in Vitkov, north Moravia, in April, in which three people suffered burns.
The worst hit was a two-year-old girl who suffered burns to 80 percent of the surface of her body. She was recently awoken from induced sleep, but her condition is still serious.

"I express solidarity with all who will stand up to this dangerous trend using peaceful and legal means and who will speak up for the afflicted. The church is not indifferent and it stands in this effort on the side of all people of goodwill," Maly said.

Zed and Freirich wrote that for believers it is a sinful and morally unjustifiable if they do not pay attention to how Romanies are maltreated.

They said if the Pope raised the maltreatment of Romanies during his Czech visit, this would have a great effect.

Romanies, most of whom come from India, started to migrate to Europe around the 11th century.

Note from Teresa: The Romanies are colloquially called 'gypsies'. In many countries of Europe, they live in trailer parks, and many live from begging on the streets, often with their children.

Havel to attend Czech personalities' meeting with Pope

Prague - Former Czech president Vaclav Havel is among the personalities invited to a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI during his forthcoming visit to Prague, and he plans to attend the event hosted by the Presidential Office, Havel's secretary Sabina Tancevova told CTK today.

The meeting in the Spanish Hall of Prague Castle on September 26 will be attended by representatives of the Czech political and social life and also diplomats.

A private meeting of Havel and the Pope has not been planned for now, but it cannot be ruled out, Tancevova said.

00Monday, September 14, 2009 7:28 PM

Pexeso "Benedict XVI in Czech Republic"

Popular game (called also Memory or Concentration) is availiable on-line on web of the Episcopate of Brno here

Episcopate of Brno have prepared in the occasion of visit of Benedict XVI special game for children and even for adults. Game contents 24 pictures which are connected with Pope Benedict, his office and with places he will attend during his apostolic trip in Czech Republic.

You can even play it on-line on website of the Episcopate of Brno.


In case you are successful and you properly uncover and sort all couples of pictures, you will be awarded with the same applause Pope usually received during General Audiences in Rome.

If you like more paper form of “pexeso”, you can buy it in Brno Airport as souvenir and remembrance for papal mass. It will cost 10 crowns. (less than €0,5) You can also order more than 20 pieces of game before Papal visit on address: Biskupství brněnské, Diecézní katechetické centrum, Petrov 5, 601 43 Brno.


What a fantastic start! And obviously, Gloria did facilitate your registration so you could post.

THANKS A MILLION in behalf of all the other English-speaking readers who would otherwwise not get these items!


00Tuesday, September 15, 2009 3:05 PM

Even radiotelegraphists to promote visit of Holy Fater in the Czech Republic

Two radiotelegraphists from nearby of Brno choose interesting way of promotion of visit of Holy Father in the Czech Republic. For a short-term they changed usual call signs of their amateur radio stations OK5MM (operator Ing. Vít Kotrba) and OK2BEW (operator Karel Pažourek) and they asked Czech telecommunication office for extraordinary call signs OL16BND and OL16B for whole September 2009. With broadcasting on short waves both telegraphists has became rarities and they has attracted attention among their colleagues round the world immediately because prefix OL is used only for absolutely unique occasions.

Text messages from Pope

Every morning you can receive on your cell phone text message from Pope Benedict XVI. More precisely text message do not send Holy Father himself but Episcopate Brno sends chosen quote from his papal encyclics. And this service is much appreciated.

Project named “Daily SMS from Pope” has intent to tune faithful to visit of Benedict XVI and his celebrations in Brno, which takes place on 27th September in airport Brno Tuřany.

According to spokeman of Brno Episcopate Martina Jandlová the majority of quotes are chosen to be an inspiration for thinking even for people who are not believers. A text message is for free and can be received from 5th September until 25th September.

Thoughts of Benedict XVI are chosen from his three encyclics: Deus Caritatis Est, Spe Salvi and Caritas in Veritate.

00Tuesday, September 15, 2009 3:10 PM

Papal visit in light of anniversaries

Twenty anniversary of falling communist regime and canonization of St Agnes of Bohemia aren’t the only anniversaries, remembered by faithful this year

Benedict will arrive in the Czech Republic in year we remember many important anniversaries in Christian life of country. The visit of Holy Fathers takes place twenty years after fall of communism in our country

Among other significant dates belong:
• 20. Anniversary of canonization Agnes of Bohemia by pope John Paul II on 12th November 1989 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agnes_of_Bohemia

• 40. death anniversary of Cardinal Josef Beran on 17th May 1969 who was persecuted by both regimes, nazi and communist and is buried in the grotto of St. Peter's Basilica

• 280 years from canonization of St John of Nepomuk by pope Benedict XIII on 19th March 1729

• Archiepiscopate of Prague was founded before 665 years on 30th April 1344

• 1010 years from St Adalbert’s canonization by pope Sylvester II in 999

• 1140 years from death St Cyril (Konstantin) on 14th February 868
00Tuesday, September 15, 2009 7:07 PM
Hello Maklara

We visited Prague in August and found it really beautiful. We visited the church with the Child of Prague and the museum with all the clothing. We met there a rather funny and nice franciscan missionary.

Thanks for the posts
00Friday, September 18, 2009 2:18 PM

Sorry to insert these items from the BENEDICT NEWS thread belatedly. I did not realize I failed to cross-post on 9/13/09, when these wre originally posted.

Pre-visit news about the Holy Father's coming visit to the Czech Republic has been really few and far between. The official site dedicated to it by the Czech bishops' conference is multilingual, but the translations from Czech always lag.

So it falls to Fr. Lombardi of the Vatican Press Office to prime us for the visit, which takes place in two weeks, in his editorial today for Octavo Dies, the weekly CTV news roundup:

Benedict XVI's trip
to the heart of Europe

by Federico Lombardi, SJ
Translated from
the Italian service of

Sept. 12, 2009

Before long, the Pope will be travelling once more for a brief but intense visit - to the Czech Republic from Sept. 26-28.

He will be going to the heart of Europe, to a country with an ancient and great cultural tradition to which Christianity made an essential contribution. A country that these days is marking the 20th anniversary of the end of the postwar Communist regime and the peaceful rebirth of democracy. A country where secularization is so widespread that the practice of religion has been reduced to a minority.

There are many strong messages that the Holy Father could address to believers and men of good will in that country. Certainly, to encourage a Church to be lively and courageous in its testimony to the faith, that can diffuse hope and fraternal love around it, particularly to the younger generations.

There will be an appeal to sincere ecumenism that can give credibility and depth to what believers can contribute to building the future in a secularized society.

This is a prospect of great cultural and moral significance, in order that the process of European unification may not be limited to material and economic aspects, but carry with it the wealth of shared values that are necessary to guarantee the dignity of the human being.

The Czech Republic's national day - which is the reason for the choice of the dates for the Pope's trip - is dedicated to the martyr St. Wenceslas. There can be no more effective way to recall that Christianity has given and can continue to render heartfelt and invaluable service to the most profound core and hopes of the Czech people, of every people.

From the papal visit site:

Bishops of Bohemia and Moravia
to present the Holy Father
with a unique rosary

Sept. 2 - The Bishops of Bohemia and Moravia had a unique rosary made as a gift for the Holy Father. The present will be handed over to him at the close of his visit. The rosary is made of pure gold and Bohemian garnets.

The rosary cross is a variation on the crosses from the period of Cyril and Methodius found by archaeologists in Moravia and bears two inscriptions in Glagolic letters.

The front side holds a verse from the Prologue to the Gospel of St. John: The Word became flesh, and the other side says: Christ has risen from the dead. Both quotations relate to the beginning and end of the earthly life of Christ.

The foot of the cross, where saints in adoration are usually depicted, also holds the initials of both brothers from Salonika, K and M, in Glagolic letters.

The cross and the large rosary beads, which are made of gold according to decorative buttons from the same period, serve as a commemoration of the Moravian part of the papal visit. The cross is the work of goldsmith and metal chaser Jan Kazda.

The front side bears a picture of the Madonna and the Child, based upon a late Gothic relief in the town of Stará Boleslav which was declared the Palladium of the Bohemian Lands 400 years ago, in 1609. The picture is accompanied by the names of the main themes of the visit in Latin: Fides, Spes, Caritas (Faith, Hope, Love). This part of the rosary was made by sculptor and world-famous medalist Milan Knobloch.

The back side of the round connecting rosette holds a portrait of St. Wenceslaus based on the Gothic statue of the saint by Petr Parléř in the St. Wenceslaus chapel in the Prague Cathedral and the Bohemian and Moravian land emblems, complemented by the motto of the papal visit: "The Love of Christ is Our Strength."

The rosary will be made by the company Triga-K, the producer of medals for Czech state decorations.

Based on the rosary rosette, the following unique medals will be issued:

•300 numbered pieces in pure silver, weighing 28 g each;
•150 numbered pieces in pure gold, weighing 1/2 of troy ounce, i.e. 15.55 g each;
•90 numbered pieces in pure gold, weighing 1 troy ounce, i.e. 31.1035 g each.

Relevant numbered certificates will be issued to all the medals sold. The yield of the sale will be used to finance the activities of the Czech Catholic Charity.

I must say the Czechs really know how to make souvenirs literally worth their weight in gold! Short of being in the Czech Republic for the visit, the rosary rosette and the official medal for the visit (shown in the banner)make quite an attractive souvenir set cum investment.

Place reservations closed for papal Masses
but anyone can obtain a place ticket
at the Mass location itself

Place reservations for papal masses were closed on Aug. 31, 2009 and no more applications are being accepted; neither it is possible for priests to ask for concelebrating. Registration forms are now being processed and place tickets are being printed.

However, there is enough space for all pilgrims in Brno as well as in Stará Boleslav, hence it is possible just to come for the Mass and get a ticket at the entry. Obviously, only places far from the altar will be available.

Pilgrims can come on Sunday, Sept. 27, to the Brno-Tuřany Airport and get a place ticket at the entrance. However, only sectors far from the podium will be available. It is suggested to arrive as early as possible, preferably at 5 am.

Pilgrims can come on Monday, Sept. 28, to the "Proboštská louka" in Stará Boleslav and get a place ticket at the entrance. However, only sectors far from the podium will be available. It is suggested to arrive as early possible. The area will be opened starting at 4 am.

00Friday, September 18, 2009 7:22 PM

Posted earlier today in the BENEDICT XVI news thread.

John Allen comments on the Czech and Malta trips in his weekly column today.

The Czech Republic:
Not an easy mission
for the Pope

Sept. 18, 2009

Pope Benedict XVI hits the road again next weekend, travelling to the Czech Republic Sept. 26-28. One highlight will be his participation in the Feast of St. Wenceslaus on Monday, Sept. 28, which is a national holiday. St. Wenceslaus is the patron saint of the Czech Republic.

In strictly capitalistic terms, if religion were a "product," the Czech Republic would arguably be one of the worst markets for that product anywhere in the world.

Although secularization has spread all across Europe, Austrian sociologist Fr. Paul Zulehner reports that the former East Germany and the Czech Republic are really the only places where atheism has become in effect the "state church," meaning the conviction of a majority and the strongest culture-shaping force.

(The standard quip is thus that in East Germany and the Czech Republic, atheism is the only proven success of the erstwhile Communist regimes.)

Here's one sign of the times: The Prague Post, the country's leading English-language paper, has asked me to write an op-ed piece in advance of the trip, the working title of which is: "Does the Pope still matter?"

When the Pope travels to other parts of the world, local media usually ask me to speculate on how he might try to deploy his influence. Only in some pockets of Europe am I asked to comment on whether he still has any.

Benedict XVI also faces several more immediate challenges.

For one thing, a draft concordat between the Holy See and the Czech Republic is still in limbo after being rejected by the Czech parliament in 2003, on the basis of objections from some politicians that it made too many concessions to the Catholic church. (Among other things, there are still church-state disputes over property confiscated under the Communists.)

Czech President Václav Klaus, whom Benedict will meet on Sept. 26, is also a prominent Euro-skeptic and critic of claims about manmade global warming -- both positions tough to reconcile with the Vatican's official diplomatic line.

I'll be in the Czech Republic to cover the trip; watch the NCR Web site for my daily reports.

In the meantime, the Vatican says that Benedict XVI is considering a trip to Malta next April to commemorate the 1,950th anniversary of St. Paul's famous shipwreck on the tiny Mediterranean island. Officially, Malta is 98 percent Catholic, making it among the most Catholic societies on earth in terms of "market share."

Pope to be accompanied by 100 people
on visit to Czech Republic

VATICAN, Sept. 17 (CTK) - Pope Benedict XVI will be accompanied by a 29-member group of the Vatican representatives, including Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, and people from the International Catholic Centre, as well as up to 70 journalists, the Vatican administration has told CTK.

Benedict XVI, 82, and his team will fly to Prague aboard a plane of the Italian Airlines. He will return to Rome by a Czech special plane.

The Pope's team will also include a personal doctor, his assistant, two interpreters, an official photographer and three experts in liturgical ceremonies.

On the other hand, Benedict XVI never takes a personal cook to his trips abroad as he is not on a special diet, a clerk from the Vatican administration, told CTK.

The Vatican also confirmed that Benedict XVI would spend two nights in the Czech Republic in the seat of the Vatican diplomatic mission in Prague, Federico Lombardi, spokesman for the Vatican state secretariat, told CTK.

Two bulletproof "papa-mobiles" (cars specially adjusted for the Pope) were sent to the Czech Republic two weeks ahead of the visit. A Czech policeman is to drive them.

Hundreds of Czech policemen will protect the Pope during his three-day visit to the Czech Republic on September 26-28.

The security measures are to be as tight as during the April visit by U.S. President Barack Obama to Prague.

Among the media representatives to accompany the Pope will be a reporter of the Italian daily L'Osservatore Romano, technicians from the Vatican radio and a photographer from the Vatican TV.

Former Papal Nuncio to Prague Giovanni Coppa will also be in the Pope's delegation.

The Pope will arrive in the Czech Republic on Saturday, September 26. On Sunday morning, September 27, he will celebrate a mass for tens of thousands of pilgrims at the Brno-Turany airport.

On September 28, the day of St Wenceslas, patron Saint of Bohemia, the Pope will celebrate a public mass in Stara Boleslav, central Bohemia, where St Wenceslas died a martyr death in 935.

Czech church and political representatives are preparing various gifts for the Pope that will be presented at a press conference in Brno this afternoon.

The Bohemian and Moravian bishops have ordered a unique rosary for for the Pope. Its rosette will become a pattern for special silver and golden commemorative medals that will be issued on this occasion.

The Pope will pay a visit to the Czech Republic for the first time after 12 years.

The predecessor of Benedict XVI, Pope John Paul II, visited the Czech Republic in 1995 and 1997, and in 1990 he paid a visit to the former Czechoslovakia.

00Saturday, September 19, 2009 8:58 AM

Czech church seeks to reconcile Czechs, Germans - Cardinal Vlk

Passau - The Czech Catholic Church has sought to achieve reconciliation between the Czech Republic and Germany since the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1991 but it has failed to achieve it in society, Cardinal Miloslav Vlk writes in the German daily Passauer Neue Presse.

In an interview published before Pope Benedict XVI's forthcoming visit to the Czech Republic Czech Catholic Church Primate Vlk says that reconciliatory gestures by church dignitaries have found no response among politicians.

The pope will visit the Czech Republic on September 26-28.
The daily says that the Pope comes from Bavaria where many Germans who were transferred from the former Czechoslovakia after World War Two have settled.

It points out that voices have appeared in the Czech Republic that Benedict XVI could be the mouthpiece of Sudeten Germans.
"I will respond to this with a counter-question of whether there are any proofs of this," Vlk writes.

After the war, bishops called on the then government not to implement the collective guilt principle in the deportation of Germans and adopt a human approach. They wrote this in their pastoral letter and in a memorandum which they sent to the cabinet, Vlk writes.

Documents of the former communist secret police, StB, confirm that the Czech and German bishops held talks in 1968 on a reconciliatory meeting of both countries' Catholics in Litomerice, north Bohemia, Vlk writes.

He says that the Czech Catholic Church resumed its contacts with the Bavarian church in 1990, shortly after the 1989 Velvet Revolution that toppled the communist regime in Czechoslovakia.

The two countries' Bishops Conferences exchanged letters with mutual excuses for past atrocities.

The preparedness for reconciliation is visible in the church circles, Vlk says.

"We hoped that we were giving a sign to civic society by this. But we have failed," Vlk says.

The reason is the former communist regime that "cultivated the idea of alleged German revanchism" in society and provoked the impression that people on the other side of the border threaten security and want to take everything away from Czechs, Vlk writes.

The church reconciliatory gestures had no impact on politics, he says.
"Politicians on both sides, but especially in the Czech Republic, did not perceive it as the key moment. On the contrary. They have used nationalism as a trump card in elections and during other events," Vlk says.

The Pope whose mother tongue is German will not speak German during his visit to the Czech Republic but will opt for Italian and English.
According to the media, the reason is that he does not want to open old wounds from the past in Czechs.

However, this is a myth, Vlk says.

He says the Pope wants to address young people who mainly speak English. Italian is a language close to liturgy, Vlk added.
Vlk's interview today was published a few hours before Czech President Vaclav Klaus's participation in a debate with Vienna Archbishop Christoph Schoenborn in the office of the Passau publishing house.
00Monday, September 21, 2009 1:52 AM

Pope Benedict asks faithful
to accompany him with prayers

At the Angelus today, Pope Benedict XVI asked the faithful to pray for the spiritual success of his coming trip to the Czech Republic. Here is a translation of his words:

Starting next Saturday, Sept. 26, to Monday, Sept. 28, God willing, I will make an apostolic trip to the Czech Republic. I will stay in Prague, the capital, but I will also be going to Brno in Moravia, and Stara Boleslav, site of the martyrdom of St. Wenceslas, the principal patron saint of the nation.

The Czech Republic is geographically and historically in the heart of Europe, and after having gone through the tragedies of the past century, like the entire Continent, it needs to rediscover the reasons for faith and hope.

In the footsteps of my beloved predecessor John Paul II who visited that country three times, I, too, wish to render homage to their heroic witnesses for the Gospel, ancient and recent, and I encourage everyone to move forward in love and truth.

I thank all those who will accompany me with prayer on this trip so that the Lord may bless it and make it fruitful.

00Tuesday, September 22, 2009 2:56 PM

A couple of items from the Czech news agency CTK:

Pope Benedict in Brno:
In his 3 trips to Cezch Republic,
John Paul II did not visit
the second largest Czech city

CTK used this striking photograph to illustrate the story.

Brno, Sept. 19 (CTK) - Pope Benedict XVI will go to Brno on his Czech visit, because he may hope that the Mass he will celebrate at Brno-Turany airport may attract lots of believers as well as non-believers in the relatively religious part of the country, trip organizers said at a news conference today.

Participants in the conference also said the Pope may want to show appreciation for a diocese that is dynamically developing, and to honor the second largest Czech city, which his predecessor never visited.

In three trips to the Czech Republic, John Paul II visited Prague, the capital; Olomouc, north Moravia; Velehrad, south Moravia; and Hradec Kralove, east Bohemia.

Jaroslav Sebek, from the Czech Science Academy Historical Institute, said participation in the Mass in Turany may be record-setting. OrganiZers expect some 100,000 people.

Cardinal Miloslav Vlk told today's issue of daily Mlada fronta Dnes that the idea for a visit by Benedict XVI to the Czech Republic was first raised in 2005.

"In our country there is a low number of believers and the Pope is coming to encourage us," Vlk said.

Benedict XVI will arrive in the Czech Republic at the invitation of President Vaclav Klaus on Saturday, September 26.

On Sunday 27 he will celebrate an open-air Mass in Brno.

On Monday, September 28, the Pope will take part in the celebrations of St Wenceslas Day in Stara Boleslav, central Bohemia, the place where Wenceslas was murdered in 935.

St Wenceslas is the patron saint of Czechs.

Archbishop of Prague presents
Czech translation of CIV

Prague, Sept. 2 (CTK) - Public speeches by Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to the Czech Republic on September 26-28 will probably be based on his new encyclical, Prague Archbishop Miloslav Vlk said today during the presentation of its Czech translation.

Cardinal Vlk, along with Olomouc Archbishop Jan Graubner, today also presented a unique rosary of gold and Bohemian garnets, which the Bohemian and Moravian will donate to the Pope at the close of his visit.

The Pope's new encyclical, his third in a row, called Caritas in Veritate (Love in Truth) was published on July 7. Its name connects two essential phenomena of the Christian revelation - love and truth.

The text of the encyclical deals with current social issues in the world, including the roots of the economic crisis and globalisation, Vlk added.

Diplomatic circles also think the Pope will touch upon the 20th anniversary of the collapse of the communist regime in Europe.

The Pope will celebrate two great public masses - in Brno, the second largest city in the Czech Republic, and in Stara Boleslav, central Bohemia, in honour of St Wenceslas, patron Saint of Bohemia, who died a martyr death in this town.

The Czech translation of the Papal Encyclical of some 100 pages was presented three weeks beforethe Pope'arrival in the Czech Republic.

Vlk said, commenting on the encyclical, that the Pope's main goal is not to moralise and criticise what is wrong, but to offer solutions.

"It is an extraordinary encyclical because of its wide scope. This is unusual for the Pope," Vlk noted.

Czech church and political representatives are preparing various gifts for the Pope.

The bishops had a unique rosary created for him. Its rosette will become the shape of special commemorative medals issued on the occasion of the Pope's visit.

This will be the first Papal visit to the Czech Republic in 12 years.

The predecessor of Benedict XVI, Pope John Paul II, visited the Czech Republic in 1995 and 1997, and in 1990 he paid a visit to the former Czechoslovakia.

Vatican reports higher number
of Czech Catholics than census

Prague - The Vatican has reported that over three million Catholics live in the 10-million Czech Republic, that is ,almost one-third of its population, but the real number of active believers is probably low, according to the latest census, experts addressed by CTK have agreed.

The latest population census in 2001 showed that over 2.7 million people profess the Catholic religion in the Czech Republic, which was almost 1.3 million fewer than in 1991.

The Vatican press centre released the information, based on the Holy See's statistical data as of December 31, 2008.

A total of 10.38 million inhabitants, including 3.29 million Catholics lived in the the Czech Republic as of that date, says the Papal press centre in a report released by the Czech Bishops' Conference on its website.

However, the number of Czech Catholics stated by the Vatican appears to be based on the number of baptised children, whereas the current number of observant Catholics woregularly attend divine services is not known and will probably be lower, experts told CTK.

"The Catholic Church considers everyone who is baptised its member. These people do not have to claim they belong to the Church in a census," Jiri Gracky, from the Czech Bishops' Conference, said.

The Vatican has used data from individual dioceses, Gracky added.

There are no available data on the number of Catholics during the 20-year Communist era except for the 1950 census.

Religion expert and theologist Ivan Odilo Stampach says there is an immense difference between the number of people who say they follow the church and real believers.

According to the Vatican press centre, there are nine church administration units in the Czech Republic, five Bohemian and three Moravian dioceses and the Apostolic Exarchate of the Greco-Catholic Church, with 2576 parishes and another 70 pastoral centres.

A total of 20 bishops, including three Greco-Catholic ones, 1370 diocesan and 586 monastic priests, 116 monks and 1609 nuns serve the Czech Republic. Besides, 184 theology students are preparing for the priest's profession. However, Opatrny says the number of candidates for priesthood is not rising in the country.

00Tuesday, September 22, 2009 6:44 PM

Pope's trip to Czech Republic
takes him to a highly secularized nation

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY, Sept. 19 (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI is traveling to the Czech Republic at the end of September, making a three-day visit to a nation that is widely viewed as Europe's least-religious country.

The Sept. 26-28 trip was scheduled to coincide with the feast of St. Wenceslas -- a 10th-century prince who is credited with bringing Christianity to the Czech people.

It will be a religious pilgrimage for the Pope, who will make stops in the capital to see the Infant of Prague at the Church of Our Lady of Victory and in Stara Boleslav to celebrate the feast of St. Wenceslas, patron saint of Czechs.

Pope Benedict also will speak to political and cultural leaders in Prague and meet with President Vaclav Klaus. It will be his first papal visit to the Czech Republic and his 13th trip outside Italy.

He will reach out to the country's Catholics with Masses in Brno and Stara Boleslav, hold meetings with bishops and celebrate vespers with religious and lay groups. He also will address ecumenical representatives, young people and scholars.

These occasions will offer the Pope numerous opportunities to draw on many recurring themes of his pontificate: the importance of reviving Europe's Christian roots, the relevance of a millenniums-old faith for addressing today's current ills, and the need to promote a political and social culture based on love, hope and solidarity.

The 82-year-old Pope has made it a custom to visit a Marian pilgrimage site in Europe every September. This year he will visit Stara Boleslav -- a town 15 miles northeast of Prague and home to the Shrine of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.

The highlight of the trip will be the Sept. 28 Mass and feast day celebration of St. Wenceslas. The gathering coincides with the country's national pilgrimage to Stara Boleslav, which attracts the attention and interest of the whole nation, including political and cultural leaders.

Sept. 28 is a day when patriotic sentiment and religious devotion merge as the country celebrates Czech statehood. The national pilgrimage to Stara Boleslav -- the town where St. Wenceslas was murdered by his brother -- has become an extremely popular event over the past decade and has turned into "a manifestation of unity in a common Christian spiritual tradition," according to the Czech bishops' Web site.

Like the Church in other former communist nations, the Church in the Czech Republic suffered under Soviet control after World War II. Church properties were confiscated and the problem of restituting or compensating for the seizures still has not been wholly resolved.

For example, Prague's historic St. Vitus Cathedral, where the Pope will celebrate vespers Sept. 26, still belongs to the state despite a long legal battle between the Church and the country's courts.

In 1946, about 80 percent of the Czech people identified themselves as Catholic, and 50 percent of them went to Mass regularly, according to local church statistics. In 1991, two years after the country's peaceful struggle for independence and democracy with the Velvet Revolution, 38-40 percent declared themselves Catholic. That trend continued to spiral downward to 26-30 percent today, with only 5 percent saying they regularly attend Mass.

When the Pope's trip to the Czech Republic was announced in 2006, Martin Horalek, a spokesman for the Czech bishops, said the papal visit would be a great opportunity to rebuild the Catholic faith "at a time when our church's position has suffered, leaving it weak in numbers."

The drastic decline in church attendance has often been blamed on the decades of Communist repression and its efforts to blot out religious faith. But some say the crisis of Catholicism includes the Church's failure to seize new opportunities ushered in by the wave of democracy.

The Czech ambassador to the Vatican, Pavel Vosalik, said after the fall of communism in the Czech Republic that an overwhelming majority of citizens did identify with Christian values and principles.

But as the country got caught up in building a free and democratic nation, those common ideals got lost in the shuffle, and society quickly became secularized, he told Vatican Radio Sept. 14.

Vosalik said he believes the country still holds a deep belief in God and religion, but that it has lost its connection to the Catholic Church.

Starting in the 1990s, "the Church missed the opportunity, missed the momentum when the nation was very open and was willing to communicate" with the Catholic Church, he said.

The Church especially failed to reach out to young people, who never experienced communist oppression, in a language they could understand and with a message they wanted to hear, he said.

[This failure to connect probably reflects most on the hierarchy in the Czech Church - John Paul II made three visits to the Czech Republic, two of them after the end of the Communist regime. No one could have better known how to encourage a rebuilding of the faith after two decades of Communist atheism.

But the Pope can only set the message and the tone - it is up to the local Church to act on it. And so, likewise, Benedict XVI's visit may generate enthusiasm for a few weeks or months, but if the local Church is unable to build on that momentum, it will largely be wasted.]

He said he spoke with Pope Benedict about these issues and told him how Church leaders needed to look at "how they could improve their communication with the population" and find new ways of getting their message across that would resonate with the modern age.

"I see the visit as a very important step toward building and reopening channels for communication between society and the Catholic Church," the ambassador said.

The pope is optimistic about the Czech Republic's resolve in overcoming obstacles. In an address to Vosalik when he presented his credentials as the new ambassador to the Vatican last year, the Pope praised the Czech people's strong sense of solidarity, which enabled them to overthrow totalitarianism and build a democratic nation.

But the Pope said true progress can only come about with the values and hope that the church offers every generation -- a message he is likely to repeat to the Czech people in person.

00Thursday, September 24, 2009 11:46 AM

Posted earlier in the BENEDICT thread.

A trip in history to rediscover
the Christian roots of Europe

by Mario Ponzi
Translated from
the 9/23/09 issue of

PRAGUE - Only the last details are lacking, but Prague is ready to receive Benedict XVI, the second Pope to visit the land of the Bohemians and Moravians.

In the Church of St. Mary of Victory, the vestments of the image of the Infant Jesus of Prague are freshly pressed. The Cathedral dedicated to St. Vitus, St. Wenceslas and St. Adalbert has been completely re-scoured.

The great altar on the field adjoining the airport of Brno has been completed, and the great iron Cross which will be left there to commemorate the visit has been set into place.

And in Stara Boleslaw, they have completely prepared the esplanade along Melnik road that will hold at least 100,000 persons expected for the papal Mass to be celebrated at the site of St. Wenceslas's martyrdom.

Yesterday, Sept. 22, Fr. Federico Lombardi, Vatican press office director, explained details of the Pope's program in the Czech Republic.

He recalled that this will be the fourth time the Czech Republic welcomes a Pope. Papa Wojtyla made three trips - in 1990, 1995 and 1997.

Even for Benedict XVI, it will be a second visit. On March 30, 1992, he was in Prague as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to take part in a seminar on the Catechism of the Church.

He gave a lecture entitled "That God may be everything in everyone: Christian faith in eternal life".

Benedict XVI's visit to the Czech Republic - his 13th trip as Pope outside Italy - will take place From Sept. 26-28.

He will arrive in Prague on Saturday, Sept. 26, at the international airport Stara Ruzyne. It has some historical significance for the Czechs. Like many other places in this land, it has been a theater of confrontation and encounter of all the good and all the bad that has marked this nation's history.

Through this airport, all who had been forced to flee various dominations returned from exile to reanimate the life of the nation in re-found freedom. It was also from this airport that the Soviet army came in to occupy Prague.

Nearby are two other places that are equally symbolic. On the one hand, the Benedictine monastery of Brevnov, founded by St. Adalbert in 993, remains as testimony to a millennary effort to promote culture in the land, besides being a symbol of its Christian roots.

On the other hand, there is the prison of Ruzyne, symbol of totalitarianism and the cruelty of totalitarian regimes, but also of the spiritual strength of those who opposed it. Here, tbe students who rebelled in 1939 were massacred, and in the 1950s, this is where enemies of the regime were interrogated.

After the welcome ceremony, Benedict XVI will proceed to the Church of Our Lady of of Victory, which houses the image of the Infant Jesus of Prague, who has a worldwide following of devotion. That is why the Church is always full of foreign pilgrims. Here, the Pope will meet with a group of families.

After a brief rest at the Apostolic Nunciature - his residence during his three-day visit - the Pope will pay a courtesy visit to the President of the Republic at the presidential residence in the world-famous Prague Castle.

After meeting the President, he will meet with the civilian and political authorities and the members of the diplomatic corps.

Afterwards, the Pope will walk to the Cathedral of Prague - part of the monumental complex and 200 meters away from the Castle - to celebrate Vespers, his last event on Day 1.

The Cathedral of Prague is an imposing Gothic edifice which in its present form dates back to 1334. A project of the King of Bohemia, Charles IV, it was executed by the architects Mattia di Arras and Pietro Parler. The Kings of Bohemia rest in its crypt, along with
Czech patron saints Wenceslas, John Nepomuceno, and Adalbert.

It was last restored in 1929 for the millennial anniversary of St. Adalbert. Today, the cathedral is dedicated to Saints Vitus, Wenceslas and Adalbert.

The following morning, Sunday, the Pope will go to Brno, the Republic's second largest city, capital of Moravia. It is also the Czech city with the greatest number of Catholics.

On a large field adjoining the airport, the Pope will celebrate the mass of the XXVI Sunday in ordinary time. He will return to Prague after the Mass.

In the afternoon, he will have two meetings. The first will be with representatives of other religions. This will take place in the Throne Room of the Archbishop's Palace, where he will receive representatives of the ecumenical council.

Afterwards, he will return to Prague Castle, about 300 meters from the Archbishop's Palace, where, in Vladislavsky Hall, he will meet with representatives of the academic world. They will include the rectors of Czech universities and representatives of their professors and students.

On Monday morning, September 28, which is the Czech National Day, the Pope will travel by car to nearby Stara Boleslaw to celebrate the Solemnity of St. Wenceslas in the place where he was martyred, a destination for annual pilgrimages to a place many Czechs consider to symbolize the birth of their nation.

Before celebrating Mass, the Pope will visit the Church of St. Wenceslas, erected on the place where he was killed by his own brother Boleslaw. [Strange that the place is named after the assassin, not the saint!]

In the Church, he will meet with about 20 old priests invited by the Czech bishops' conference.

After the Mass, a youth representative will greet the Pope in the name of his colleagues, to start the part of the program reserved for the Pope to meet the youth.

The Holy Father will return to Prague in time for lunch with the Czech bishops at the Archbishop's Palace.

He will leave for Rome in the afternoon, after a farewell ceremony at the airport. He is expected to be back in Castel Gandolfo by 8 p.m.

Meanwhile, the Office of Liturgical Celebrations has posted online the missal for the Czech trip. The principal language used is Latin.

00Thursday, September 24, 2009 7:02 PM
Attendance of Pope' Czech masses to exceed expectations-Maly

Prague - The attendance of the two masses that Pope Benedict XVI will celebrate during his forthcoming visit to the Czech Republic is likely to exceed the expectations, Czech Catholic Bishop Vaclav Maly told journalists.

Benedict XVI will visit the Czech Republic on September 26-28.
His mass in Brno-Turany airport will be attended by 100,000 people and some 1000 clergy, Maly said.

Some 50,000 church-goers and 700 clergy will attend the mass that the Pope will say in Stara Boleslav on Sunday, September 28. Believers from Slovakia, Poland, Germany and Austria will be among participants, Maly said.

"I personally am surprised and I would say that it would be an unexpectedly big number of people," Maly said.

He said that more people would attend Benedict XVI's masses in the Czech Republic than during his visit to Austria.

However, Maly admitted that if it took place in Slovakia the Pope's visit would attract even greater number of church-goers as Slovakia is a religious society.

"No comparison with Poland is possible because Poland is still a country in which the majority of the population declare themselves Catholic Church goers," Maly said.

The Pope will mention the topic of the fall of totalitarian regimes in central and eastern Europe 20 years ago in his masses and he will also focus on the relation of freedom and faith.

The topic of faith, hope and love will be the main spiritual topics of the Pope's masses and they will be emphasised in the masses, Maly said.

Benedict XVI's forthcoming visit is his first visit to the Czech Republic in the capacity as the Pope and the first papal visit to the country after 12 years.

The last papal visit was paid to the Czech Republic by Benedict's predecessor, John Pope II, in 1997.
00Friday, September 25, 2009 4:09 AM



The Czech Republic (Česká republika),short form Česko, is a landlocked country in Central Europe. The country borders Poland to the northeast, Germany to the west and northwest, Austria to the south and Slovak Republic to the east.

The capital and largest city is Prague (Czech: Praha). The country is composed of the historic regions of Bohemia and Moravia, as well as parts of Silesia. The Czech Republic has been a member of NATO since 1999 and of the European Union since 2004. From 1 January 2009 to 1 July 2009, the Czech Republic held the Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

Following the Battle of Mohács in 1526, the Czech lands fell under Habsburg rule, later becoming part of the Austrian Empire and Austria–Hungary. The independent Republic of Czechoslovakia was formed in 1918, following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire after World War I.

After the Munich Agreement, German occupation of Czechoslovakia and the consequent disillusion with the Western response and gratitude for the liberation of the major portion of Czechoslovakia by the Red Army, the Communist party won A plurality (38%)[4] in the 1946 elections. In a 1948 coup d'état, Czechoslovakia became a communist-ruled state.

In 1968, the increasing dissatisfaction culminated in attempts to reform the communist regime. The events, known as the Prague Spring of 1968, ended with an invasion by the armies of the Warsaw Pact countries (with the exception of Romania); the troops remained in the country until the 1989 Velvet Revolution, when the communist regime collapsed.

On 1 January 1993, Czechoslovakia peacefully dissolved into its constituent states, the Czech Republic and Slovak Republic.

The Czech Republic is a pluralist multi-party parliamentary representative democracy. President Václav Klaus (photo in the strip above) is the current head of state. The Prime Minister is the head of government (currently Jan Fischer). The Parliament has two chambers: the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. It is also a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Council of Europe and the Visegrád Group.

The Czech Republic made economic reforms such as fast privatizations. Annual gross domestic product growth has recently been around 6%. The country is the first former member of the Comecon to achieve the status of a developed country (2006), according to the World Bank. The Czech Republic also ranks top among the former Comecon countries in the Human Development Index.


Prague (Czech: Praha) is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic.

Situated on the River Vltava [the Moldau] in central Bohemia, Prague has been the political, cultural, and economic centre of the Czech state for more than 1100 years.

For many decades during the Gothic and Renaissance eras, Prague was the seat of two Holy Roman Emperors and thus was also the capital of the Holy Roman Empire.

Today, the city proper is home to more than 1.2 million people, while its metropolitan area is estimated to have a population of over 1.9 million.

Since 1992, the extensive historic centre of Prague has been included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.

Nicknames for Prague have included "the mother of cities" (Praga mater urbium, or "Praha matka měst" in Czech), "city of a hundred spires" and "the golden city".

[I find it one of the world's most beautiful cities, still full of Old World charm, like Vienna and Budapest, the two other great cities of the once mighty Austro-Hungarian Empire.]

The area of Prague has been settled since Paleolithic times. The city became the seat of the dukes and later kings of Bohemia. Under emperor Otto II the city became a bishopric in 973. Until Prague was elevated to archbishopric in 1344, it was under the jurisdiction of the Archbishopric of Mainz. It was an important seat for trading where merchants from all of Europe settled, including many Jews.

In 1257, Malá Strana (the Lesser Quarter) was founded in Prague on a place of an older village in the future Hradčany area. occupied by Germans mostly. The new district was on the opposite bank of the Staré Město ("Old Town"), which had a borough status and was defended by a line of walls and fortifications.

The city flourished during the 14th century reign of the king of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV of the new Luxembourg dynasty. He ordered the building of the New Town (Nové Město) adjacent to the Old Town. The Charles Bridge was erected to connect the new district to Malá Strana.

Monuments by Charles include the Saint Vitus Cathedral, the oldest gothic cathedral in central Europe, which is actually inside the Castle, and the Charles University. The latter is the oldest university in central Europe.

Prague was then the third-largest city in Europe. Under Charles, Prague was, from 1355, the actual capital of the Holy Roman Empire, and its rank was elevated to that of archbishopric (1344). It had a mint, and German and Italian merchants, as well as bankers, were present in the city.

During the reign of King Wenceslas IV (1378–1419), Jan Hus, a theologian and lector at the Charles University, preached in Prague. In 1402, he began giving sermons in the Bethlehem Chapel. Inspired by John Wycliffe, these sermons focused on reforming the Church.

Having become too dangerous for the political and religious establishment, Hus was summoned to the Council of Constance, put on trial for heresy, and burned in Konstanz in 1415.

Four years later Prague experienced its First Defenestration (the act of throwing someone out the window as a political protest - in this case, the city's councillors out the window of the New Town Hall), when the people rebelled under the command of the Prague priest Jan Želivský. Hus' death, coupled with Czech proto-nationalism and proto-Protestantism, had spurred the so-called Hussite Wars. In 1420, peasant rebels, led by the general Jan Žižka, along with Hussite troops from Prague, defeated the Bohemian King Sigismund, in the Battle of Vítkov Hill.

In the following two centuries, Prague strengthened its role as a merchant city. Many noteworthy Gothic buildings were erected, including the Vladislav Hall of the Prague Castle.

In 1526, the Kingdom of Bohemia was handed over to the House of Habsburg: the fervent Catholicism of its members was to bring them into conflict in Bohemia, and then in Prague, where Protestant ideas were at the time having increasing success.

These problems were not preeminent under Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II, elected King of Bohemia in 1576, who chose Prague as his home. He lived in Prague Castle where his court saw invitations to astrologers and magicians, but also scientists, musicians, and artists. Rudolf was an art lover too and Prague became the capital of European culture.

This was a prosperous period for the city: famous people living there in that age include the astronomers Tycho Brahe and Johann Kepler, the painter Arcimboldo, the alchemists Edward Kelley and John Dee, the poetess Elizabeth Jane Weston, and others.

In 1618, the famous Second Defenestration of Prague provoked the Thirty Years' War, a particularly harsh period for Prague and Bohemia. Ferdinand II of Habsburg was deposed, and his place as King of Bohemia taken by Frederick V, Elector Palatine; however the Czech army under him was crushed in the Battle of White Mountain (1620) not far from the city. Following this in 1621 was an execution of 27 Czech lords (involved in the Battle of White Mountain) in Old Town Square and an exiling of many others. The city suffered subsequently during the war under Saxon (1631) and Swedish (1648) occupation.

Prague began a steady decline which reduced the population from the 60,000 it had had in the years before the war to 20,000. In the second half of the 17th century Prague's population began to grow again. Jews had been in Prague since the end of the 10th century and, by 1708, they accounted for about a quarter of Prague’s population.

In 1689, a great fire devastated Prague, but this spurred a renovation and a rebuilding of the city. In 1713–1714, a major outbreak of plague hit Prague one last time. The economic rise continued through the 18th century, and the city in 1771 had 80,000 inhabitants. Many of these were rich merchants who, together with noblemen of German, Spanish and even Italian origin, enriched the city with a host of palaces, churches and gardens, creating a Baroque style renowned throughout the world.

The Industrial Revolution had a strong effect in Prague, as factories could take advantage of the coal mines and ironworks of the nearby region.

The revolutions that shocked all Europe around 1848 touched Prague too, but they were fiercely suppressed. In the following years the Czech nationalist movement (opposed to another nationalist party, the German one) began its rise, until it gained the majority in the Town Council in 1861. Prague had German-speaking near-majority in 1848, but by 1880 the German population decreased to 14% (42,000), and by 1910 to 6.7% (37,000), due to a massive increase of the city's overall population caused by the influx of Czechs from the rest of Bohemia and Moravia and also due to the assimilation of some Germans.

At the beginning of the 20th century Czech lands were the most productive part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire with 80% of Empire's industrial production and some Czech politics began with attempts to separate it from Habsburg empire.

World War I ended with the defeat of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the creation of Czechoslovakia. Prague was chosen as its capital and Prague Castle as the seat of president (Tomáš Masaryk). At this time Prague was a true European capital with highly developed industry. By 1930, the population had risen to 850,000.

Hitler ordered the German army to enter Prague on 15 March 1939 and from Prague Castle proclaimed Bohemia and Moravia a German protectorate.

For most of its history Prague had been a multiethnic city with important Czech, German, and (mostly Czech- and/ or German-speaking) Jewish populations. From 1939, when the country was occupied by Nazi Germany, and during World War II, most Jews either fled the city or were killed in the Holocaust.

At the end of the war Prague suffered several bombing raids by the U.S. Air Force. Over 1000 people were killed and hundreds of buildings, factories and historical landmarks were destroyed (however the damage was small compared to the total destruction of many other cities in that time).

Once the outcome of the war was decided and it was known that Germany would surrender to the allies, Prague revolted against the Nazi occupants on 5 May 1945 two days before Germany capitulated, on May 7. Four days later the Soviet army entered the city. The majority of German population either fled or was expelled in the aftermath of the war andw Prague fell under the militayr na dpolitcal control of the Soviet Union.

In 1967, the new secretary of the Communist Party, Alexander Dubček, proclaimed a new deal in his city's and country's life, starting the short-lived season of "socialism with a human face". It was the Prague Spring, which aimed at the renovation of institutions in a democratic way. The Soviet Union and its allies reacted with the invasion of Czechoslovakia and the capital in August 1968 by tanks, suppressing any futher dissent.

In 1989, after riot police beat back a peaceful student demonstration, the Velvet Revolution crowded the streets of Prague and the Czechoslovak capital benefited greatly from the new mood.

In 1993, after the split of Czechoslovakia, Prague became the capital city of the new Czech Republic. In the late 1990s Prague again became an important cultural centre of Europe and was notably influenced by globalization.

In 2002 Prague suffered from widespread floods that damaged buildings and also its underground transport system.

Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, Prague has become one of Europe's (and the world's) most popular tourist destinations. It is the sixth most-visited European city after London, Paris, Rome, Madrid and Berlin.

Prague suffered considerably less damage during World War II than some other major cities in the region, allowing most of its historic architecture to stay true to form.

It contains one of the world's most pristine and varied collections of architecture, from Art Nouveau to Baroque, Renaissance, Cubist, Gothic, Neo-Classical and ultra-modern.

00Friday, September 25, 2009 1:18 PM

Posted earlier in the BENEDICT XVI NEWS thread.

Cardinal Spidlik says the Pope's visit
will help to unite Europe spiritually

Translated from
the Italian service of

Sept, 24, 2009

PRAGUE - Final preparations are being put into place in the Czech Republic for the visit of Pope Benedict XVI on September 26-28. He will be going to Prague, the capital; Brno, capital of Moravia; and Stara Bloleslaw, the site where the Czech patron saint Wenceslas was martyred.

His feast day on Sept. 28, the Czechs' National Day, is the occasion for the Pope's visit. Sergio Centofanti reports from Parague:

Prague is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Serenely built, as Rome was, on the gentle slopes of seven hills, it is traversed by the sinuous Moldau River, which reflects the imahes of a parst that speaks to us of a Christian faith translated into Romanic, Gothic and baroque architecture. A pearl in the heart of Europe.

In these lands more than a thousand years ago, the brothers Cyril adn Methodius began their mission to lay down the first bridges between the Judaic-Greco-Latin world and that of the Slavs, inventing an alphabet for the Slavic languages so that the Slavs could read teh Gospel in their own languages.

The two brothers did not have an easy time of it, nor those who sought to emulate them. This is a land of martyrs. St. Wenceslas, who was killed because the Gospel does not favor teh interests of the powerful. St. Ludmilla, his grandmother, who was strangled to death simply because she gave her family Christian advice. St. Adalbert, pierced by a lance for preaching that Jesus was God made man. St. John Nepomuceno, who was drowned in the Moladau for refusing to reveal a secret of the confessional to the king. St. John Sarkander, who was tortured and killed because during the religious wars, he refused to be on any side but God's.

It is a land of pain and rebirth. In Brno, at the foretress prison of Spielberg, the Italian patriot Silvio Pellico, after eight years of suffering, rediscovered his faith and forgave his persecutors, and wrote the book "My Prisons", which was the first treatise on the rights of detained persons.

It is a land that has been vilated by two totalitarianisms, Nazism and Communism - both of which sold the illusory claim of building a world against God and without God.

Twenty years ago, the regime imposed by the Soviets fell, putting an end to the illusion that communism could rid mankind of all social adn economic cares.

And twenty years ago, John Paul II made his first of three visits here, and canonized Agnes, teh Bohemian princess who in the 13th century gave away all her goods to the poor so she could follow Christ's way of the Cross.

Mankind's anxieties have been well described by the great writer Franz Kafka, born in Prague, who lived during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In his works (Metamorphosis, The Trial, The Castle), man is overcome by a mysertious fate that he must expiate without knowing why. By an irresolvable evil that crushes life in the meanderings of a daily existence without sense.

John Paul II, in his three trips to this country, proclaimed the Truth which liberates man from this unsupportable weight and from teh violence that comes fron it. He announced the mercy of God. Which requires that man himself should forgive.

He asked forgiveness and offered forgiveness - for sufferings caused by the Church (he explicitly mentioned the Czech reformer Jan Hus who was burned at the stake in 1415)), and for the sufferings the Church underwent.

God's forgiveness has its own logic, its own grammar, and generates thlughts and actions that are completely new. Above all, it has its own mysterious timing to bear fruit which contemporary man, impatient in his perpetual haste, is unable to understand.

Benedict XVI comes to this land in the footsteps of John Paul II, with the same call not to be afraid, not to doubt, to always start from the basis of faith - the timing belongs to God. A Czech proverb says the mills of God work slowly but surely.

One of the outstanding personalities of teh Church in the Czech Repuublic today is Cardinal Thomas Spidlik, botn in Brno 90 years ago. A Jesuit, he was forced to work in the quarries under both the Nazis and the Communists. He became a priest at age 30 ddespite difficulties of all kinds.

A world-famous theologian who became known for his books on teh spirituality of teh Oriental Churches, he lives and works at the Centro Aletti in Rome with Fr. Marko Ivan Rupnik (artist of the mosaics in the Padre Pio shrine in San Giovanni rotondo).

For almost 50 years now, he has worked with Vatican Radio, dlivering a meditation every Friday. John Paul II MAde him a cardinal in 2003.

Left photo, the two Czech cardinals Spidlik and Vlk (Archbishop of Prague); right photo, Cardinal Spidlik.

Helen Destombes spoke to Cardinal Spidlik about the Pope's trip:


John Paul II came here 20 years ago, after the Berlin Wall fell, and later wehen Communism itself collapsed and the new Europe was born. He said then that the purpose of his visits was to work for the spiritual unity of Europe.

Benedict SVI comes here 20 years later, to Prague, which is the geographical center of Europe. and so it makes us reflect once more: we need to build a Europe that is spiritually united.

The Pope's visit is not political but spriitual. The Czechs are a people of Oriental origin who have lived the past 2000 years in a wEstern civilization and culture. We can conciliate these two mentalities so that Europe - which for so long was divided in two - can become one Europe again.

Here's a 2004 report from Prague Radio about Cardinal Sidlik shortly after he got the red hat.

The second Czech cardinal

The Czech Republic has had two Catholic cardinals since the ordination of Tomas Spidlik in 2003. This week, Cardinal Spidlik was in the Czech Republic for the first time since then.

Ironically, his visit coincided with a spat between the Czech state and the Vatican after President Vaclav Klaus had rejected a draft treaty between Prague and the Holy See. [NB: The treaty is still pending give years later.] Despite this, Cardinal Spidlik is philosophical about his homeland's relations with the Catholic Church:

"I explained it to our President with a very simple comparison - when two young people get married, I tell them they love one another but that this will pass. I then tell them that they will have difficulties, which will pass also, but that they should never stop speaking to one another. When people keep talking to one another then the issue will be resolved."

Cardinal Spidlik is well known in the Czech Republic from his days as a broadcaster for Vatican Radio during the communist era. He is also a renowned scholar of Eastern spirituality. One of the reasons for his visit was to give a lecture on spirituality in the European Union. This is something Cardinal Spidlik feels is lacking despite closer economic integration:

"Europe is unifying economically and politically, but we have not achieved the spiritual unity of Europe. And that is something that we can anticipate, because in 2000 years we have amassed many beautiful things."

Cardinal Spidlik believes that Europe should focus on the ethical ideals that contributed to the continent's development so that it can establish common spiritual values. It could then present these to the rest of the world and use them as a bridge between the East and West.

Despite his own deep religious convictions, Cardinal Spidlik comes from one of the most secular countries in Europe. Although statistics show that a majority of Czechs claim to be atheist, Cardinal Spidlik doubts whether this actually proves that Czechs have really turned their backs on their Christian heritage and embraced modern rationalist values:

"Statistically, it is very relative. For instance, Czechs don't like to say that they are religious, but what they feel in their hearts is another issue. The Czechs are in the centre of Europe. They have always had western German civilization, but their origins are in the east. I always say that they have the German head and the Slavic heart. And when these are not sufficiently in harmony with each other, the consequences are catastrophic. We must find harmony and not be in conflict."

And what about the other Czech cardinal? Hre's a news item from CTK last February - weeks after it was known the Pope would be visiting the Czech Republic.

Czech Cardinal Vlk joins criticism
of Pope over Holocaust denier

Prague, Feb. 2 (CTK) - Czech Cardinal Miloslav Vlk has joined the critics of Pope Benedict XVI's decision to lift the excommunication of a Holocaust denier, British bishop Richard Williamson, Vlk has written on his website, daily Lidove noviny (LN) reported.

Prague Archbishop Vlk, primate of the Czech Catholic Church, wrote that Vatican had made an impression of having played down the step.

Vlk recalled that at the beginning he defended the Pope's "gesture of mercy" lifting the excommunication of four schismatic bishops, and tried to stand up against the wave of criticism it had stirred up.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, who is responsible for relations between the Vatican and the Jews, admitted that the Pope had not consulted his step with him, Vlk wrote.

"No one has apparently taken Bishop Williamson's opinions into considerations during this act," Vlk added.

"As a Catholic bishop I definitely condemn any anti-Semitism as it is incongruous with the Catholic Church's doctrine," Vlk wrote.

[But Williamson's anti-Semitism had nothing to do with why he was excommunicated! The Pope lifted the excommunication - that doesn't mean he condones everything that each of the four bishops stands for or does, if they do wrong!

In this case, it did not mean - even if the Pope knew about Williamson's negationism beforehand - that he was condoning it by lifting the excommunication. Why is it difficult for anyone with common sense to see that?

Lifting the excom from the four bishops was a class action, arising from the fact that all four were illegally ordained together on the same occasion. If in the meantime, one of them had been found to advocate apartheid or slavery, he cannot be exempted from the class action exercised by the Pope because objectionable socio-political views have nothing to do with why he was excommunicated to begin with. ]

LN writes that Czech theologist Odilo Stampach is of the view that the stance of Vlk and other Church dignitaries is very surprising, as the Roman Catholic Church is traditionally considered a strictly hierarchical structure with the Pope on the top having everything in control.

Stampach said the resistence towards the Vatican was a positive signal, proving that the Church is opposing the "retreat from the reform course," Lidove noviny writes .

[Tsk-tsk! Cardinal Spidlik's reference to the Czech's 'German education' is showing itself in the liberal Lehmann/Zollitsch-like reasoning of Stempach.]

The Vatican decided to lift the 20-year-long excommunications of four traditionalist bishops on January 14. The most controversial of them is Williamson who in an interview denied the existence of gas chambers and the extent of the Holocaust. This is why his rehabilitation leashed stormy criticism.

The Pope condemned Williamson's words and expressed solidarity with the Jews at a general audience on January 28.

I wonder if Cardinal Vlk - and any of the other dissident bishops for that matter - ever wrote the Pope after the March 10 letter to all the bishops, to at least acknowledge they got the letter even if they could not bring themselves to apologize for their distinct and deliberate lack of communion with the Successor of Peter.

BTW, The newsphoto agencies had these measly two photos today (two because there are two of each kind) to illustrate 'preparations' in Prague for teh Pope's visit. Looks to me like just a couple of picutres taken at the Church of Our Lady of Victory, home to the miraculous image of the Infant Jesus:

Why do they never take pictures of the posters and streamers that are usually in abundance for a papal visit? Even during the visit itself, they somehow manage to avoid taking pictures of these objects that most characterize a papal visit - in a way that hardly ever happens for anyone else, not even by a President of the United States!

00Friday, September 25, 2009 8:00 PM


I know I saw a story somewhere about the 'costume changes' for Prague's miraculous image of the Infant Jesus (and will post it later). Meanhile, Reuters's Per Josef took these photos as a Carmelite from the Infant Jesus shrine at Prague's Our Lady of Victory church replaced the statue's robes for the red ones in which Pope Benedict XVI will venerate the image tomorrow.

Preparing the Mass site
at Brno airport

The iron Cross will be left in place afterwards as a permanent marker of the Pope's Mass on Sept. 27.

00Friday, September 25, 2009 8:33 PM

This is really a tribute to Cardinal Vlk, so I am not posting it in the BENEDICT thread. I wonder, though, if Allen was aware of Vlk's open opposition to Pope Benedict's initiative towards the Lefebvrians after militant Jews complained about Bishop Robinson. (See earleir story I posted from the Czech news agency CTK about such opposition in February.

The German shepherd
will bid farewell
to a 'wolf in winter'

Sept. 25, 2009

Pope Benedict XVI, the first German pontiff since the 16th century (or the 11th, depending on whether you count Adrian VI, born in Utrecht while it was still part of the Holy Roman Empire), has sometimes playfully been dubbed "the German shepherd."

To extend that zoological pun, this weekend in the Czech Republic, the German shepherd will share his stage with a wolf -- albeit a wolf by now in winter.

Left photo shows Cardinal Vlk bearing the cranium of St. Wenceslas at last year's celebration of the Czech national saint's feast.

At 77, and struggling with spotty health, Cardinal Miloslav Vlk of Prague (whose last name in Czech means "wolf") has announced that this will be his last major public event, and that he expects to be replaced by the end of the year. In effect, Benedict's visit is also Vlk's swan song.

One of the most remarkable Catholic prelates of the 20th century, Vlk is that rare figure whose biography seems to perfectly crystallize the larger dramas of his time. He's also perhaps the closest thing to an alter ego of the late Pope John Paul II on the European scene, so a look at Vlk's story may also offer some insight about the state of the Church, and John Paul's legacy, in the early 21st century.

Like John Paul, Vlk's path to ecclesiastical prominence was circuitous, shaped by the vicissitudes of life behind the Iron Curtain.

Born in South Bohemia in 1932, Vlk's original dream was not of the priesthood. Unlike the young Karol Wojtyla, however, who aspired to the theatre, Vlk's fantasy was to be an airplane pilot. By the time he got to middle school, a sense of vocation to the priesthood had begun to flower instead.

Following the 1948 Communist takeover of what was then Czechoslovakia, entering the seminary wasn't an option. Vlk therefore worked in a car factory and completed his military service, before earning a Ph.D. in library science and becoming a professional archivist.

It wasn't until 1964 that he could begin studies for the priesthood, leading to ordination in 1968 during the short-lived "Prague Spring".

After that brief window of hope was slammed shut by a flotilla of Soviet tanks, Vlk was marked as a potential enemy of the regime. In 1971, he was exiled to a string of remote mountain parishes; by 1978, he was denied permission to act as a priest altogether.

For the next decade, "Citizen Vlk" ministered in an underground catacombs church, while working during the day as a window-washer in downtown Prague. He later said that he was sustained during this period by the spirituality of the Focolare movement, founded by Italian laywoman Chiara Lubich and emphasizing unity across political and religious divisions. Vlk would later become one of Focolare's best friends, chairing its annual meeting of bishops.

His taste of repression inclined Vlk to be skeptical of the Vatican policy of Ostpolitik, or outreach to the Soviets, under Pope Paul VI and his Secretary of State, Cardinal Agostino Casaroli.

Papal biographer George Weigel, however, said that Vlk's critique was always "more thoughtful than you'd get from a true wild man of the resistance church." If nuanced, Vlk's anti-Communism was no less steadfast; as recently as 2006, he suggested that Communist parties perhaps ought to be banned in the same way that being a Nazi is against Czech law.

While he wasn't a protagonist of the 1989 "Velvet Revolution," which swept the Communists from power, Vlk was sympathetic to its aims. He would later carve out a warm relationship with dissident intellectual Vaclav Havel, an avowed agnostic who became the last president of Czechoslovakia and the first president of the Czech Republic.

(Despite his agnosticism, Havel also has some common ground with Pope Benedict XVI. The pope's motto is "co-workers of the truth," while Havel described his political philosophy, shaped in the context of an Orwellian regime, as "living in truth.")

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Vlk's upward movement was swift. John Paul II named him the Bishop of Ceské Budĕjovice in Budweis in 1990 (so yes, Vlk was briefly a "Budweiser"), and then in 1991 tapped him as the archbishop of Prague.

Vlk became a cardinal in 1994, by which time he was already a heavyweight in the global Church. Elected president of the Council of European Bishops' Conferences in 1993, he would hold that post for almost eight years, succeeding the legendary Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini of Milan.

For the next decade, Vlk was widely tipped as a possible successor to John Paul II. In the end, however, his role in the conclave of April 2005 that elected Pope Benedict XVI was mostly as a footnote: he was the lone cardinal-elector whose last name didn't contain a single vowel.

In another parallel to John Paul II, Vlk rocketed to international influence and celebrity status while never being quite able to shake two persistent streams of criticism: Catholic traditionalists, who see him as a liberal modernizer, in his case literally a wolf in shepherd's clothing; and liberals of both the Catholic and secular variety, at least some of whom who regard Vlk as a conservative stick-in-the-mud.

Perhaps fueled by his formation with Focolare, unity has been a central passion of Vlk's career. His episcopal motto is Jesus's prayer from the Gospel of John, "That they may all be one."

Vlk took a lead role in promoting reconciliation between Czechs and Germans, no small challenge given that, in some ways, Czech nationalism has been defined over the centuries in terms of resistance to perceived German (and Austrian) aggression.

Czechs and Germans still fall into cycles of mutual recrimination for the German occupation of Czechoslovakia during World War II and the post-war expulsion of more than two million ethnic Germans from the Sudetenland. An estimated 300,000 Germans died in what is today regarded as a classic instance of "ethnic cleansing."

Vlk pioneered an exchange of letters between the Czech and German bishops in the early 1990s, apologizing for past wrongs and offering forgiveness. Vlk styled that exchange as a model for civil society. For his efforts, Vlk was awarded the Grand Cross of Merit by then-German President Roman Herzog in 1999.

In a recent interview, Vlk acknowledged that Czech-German tensions are, despite his best efforts, still very much alive, reflected in speculation in some Czech media that Benedict XVI is coming to their country as "the voice of Sudeten Germans." (To this day, the Germans who were expelled, and their descendants, seek compensation from the Czech government.)

In what is arguably a sign of sensitivity, organizers have announced that Benedict XVI will not speak German while in the Czech Republic, but rather English and Italian. (For the record, Vlk says that's because English is more familiar to young Czechs, and Italian is "closer to the liturgy.")

Vlk has also been an ardent champion of Christian unity. His breakthrough success on that front came in 1999, when Vlk was instrumental in crafting an apology by John Paul II for the "cruel death" of the famed medieval Czech reformer Jan Hus.

Burned at the stake as a heretic in 1415 during the Council of Constance, Hus is considered a forerunner of the Protestant Reformation as well as a father of the Czech nation. In his 1999 speech, John Paul expressed "deep sorrow" for Hus' death and praised his "moral courage."

That act, which built upon consistent statements and gestures from Vlk, was widely praised for ushering in a new ecumenical climate, not just in the Czech Republic but across Eastern and Central Europe.

Vlk's interest in unity also naturally led him to broad support for European unification and for the Czech Republic's entry into the European Union, a position which at times put him at odds with conservative leaders.

(For some European Catholics, anti-EU activism is a signature issue, analogous to the anti-abortion struggle for Catholics in the United States. In those circles, the EU is seen as a vehicle for imposing secularism. Vlk is not unsympathetic; in a recent interview, he said that the rejection of an EU treaty by Irish voters came because the EU has "dropped its Christian roots." He also warned that the religious tone in Europe will increasingly be set by Muslims unless Christian values are restored.)

A defining feature of Catholicism in Vlk's part of the world is that the tensions which shaped the c\Church elsewhere after the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), between reformers and traditionalists, were largely frozen in place during the Communist era. As long as Catholics were struggling to keep the Church alive vis-à-vis a hostile regime, they simply didn't have time to fight amongst themselves.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Church thus experienced its own form of "shock therapy," as developments and fissures that evolved over several decades in the West erupted all at once in the 1990s -- which meant, in practice, that they all happened on Vlk's watch.

In many ways, Vlk came down on the side of the reformers. One small example: Communion in the hand wasn't widely introduced in the Czech Republic until the mid-1990s, and even then a coalition of traditional priests tried to discourage it. Vlk shot them down, saying it had become normal practice elsewhere, and there was no reason why the Czech Republic should stand apart.

Vlk has been a champion of lay activism, again informed by his experience of the Focolare. He's also been an outspoken proponent of the need for the Church to come to terms with its own failures.

In 2007, when a scandal erupted in Poland based on revelations that some clergy had collaborated with the secret Communist-era police, Vlk condemned the popular conservative radio outlet Radio Maryja for trying to "sweep the whole thing under the carpet."

For his part, he's called for the Czech church to be a "house of glass," including cooperating with government inquiries about the role its clergy played under the Soviets.

Vlk has been sharply critical of the rise of far-right and xenophobic sentiment in Central Europe, joining Jewish protests in 2007 when right-wingers planned a march through Prague's Jewish quarter on the anniversary of Kristallnacht.

In 2006, Vlk criticized a group of Lefebvrite Catholics who staged a conference in Prague, accusing them of sympathies for "anti-Semitism and neo-Nazism." Local organizers fired back that Vlk showed "ill will to socially ostracize Catholics who point to the negative consequences of liberalization processes in the church."

Vlk's reputation as a "man of the council" was cemented by his role in changing the theological climate at Prague's Charles University. During the 1990s the Catholic theological faculty under Fr. Vaclav Wolf was seen as a bastion of traditionalism.

According to local sources, Wolf had discouraged the admission of laity to theology programs, and had insisted upon a largely pre-conciliar curriculum -- a situation which not only produced intra-Catholic division, but also led to threats in 2001 of a loss of accreditation from the state's Education Ministry.

In 2002, Vlk withdrew Wolf's canonical license as a theologian. That led to the appointment of a new Jesuit dean who, as Vlk put it, would preside over "an open faculty which will cooperate with church and civil authorities in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council." (Wolf appealed to Rome, but Vlk's action was upheld.)

Inevitably, however, Vlk didn't move far or fast enough for everyone's taste. In 1999, one of the Czech Republic's best-known progressive priests, Dominican Fr. Odilo Stampach, announced that he was abandoning Roman Catholicism to affiliate with the Old Catholic Church in protest over what he described as harassment about his orthodoxy.

(Stampach taught at Charles University, where he repeatedly clashed with Wolf. Stampach has also been perhaps the most flamboyant voice calling upon the Church to come clean about its role during the Soviet era, including the alleged collaboration of priests with the secret police.)

Again to some extent like John Paul II, many of Vlk's defining successes came early, while his later years have been more ambivalent, marked as much by frustration as triumph.

Most notably, Vlk has fought a decade-long, and still unsuccessful, battle to work out a new legal framework for the Catholic Church in the Czech Republic, which would include resolution of some $6 billion in Church property confiscated under the Communists and never returned.

That includes almost a million acres of forest which formed the Church's traditional economic base. In 2004, Vlk agreed to waive restitution of much of that property in exchange for financial compensation, and at one stage a deal seemed within reach that would have paid the Church roughly $4.8 billion over sixty years (with interest, the final total would have been close to $15 billion).

That plan fell apart in Parliament due to opposition from leftist forces -- including, naturally, the Communists. It was merely the latest setback for Vlk, who seemed initially optimistic about a new climate for the Church post-1989, but who has since grown increasingly bitter.

More than once, Vlk has suggested that Czech politicians actually prefer the status quo, since in the absence of compensation or restitution of its property, the Church remains financially dependent upon the state.

Priests' salaries in the Czech Republic, for example, are paid by the government. A serious compensation package, Vlk has hinted, would give the Church an independence which some politicians fear.

(By the way, that suspicion is not simply paranoia. When the Communists began paying priests' salaries in 1949, it was with the explicit aim of making them more compliant. One consequence of the proposed compensation deal is that salary subsidies would be gradually phased out.)

To date, the Czech Parliament has also not ratified a new Concordat, or basic treaty, with the Vatican, making it the lone Central European state to fail to do so.

Things became so testy that in 2005, when John Paul II died, Vlk spurned suggestions that he call for a national day of mourning. "If this government wants to make a gesture," he snapped, "let it approve the Czech-Vatican treaty."

In 2006, the Czech government claimed the power to approve, or to reject, the opening of Church facilities such as parishes and charities, a move Vlk strenuously opposed. One year later, Vlk publicly defined Church-state relations in the Czech Republic as the worst of all Central European post-communist societies.

At a deeper level, Vlk shared John Paul's dream that the newly liberated nations of the Soviet sphere, where Catholics paid in blood to keep the faith alive, would awaken the West from its spiritual torpor, and he has also shared John Paul's disappointment that this dream has gone largely unrealized.

"We discovered that God was near when the rest of the world had forgotten us," Vlk said a decade ago. "Today, people are searching for religion the world over … not just religious theories, but the true living God. That's where our experiences may prove helpful in a Western context."

Instead, both John Paul and Vlk watched as the missionary tide in Europe flowed mostly in the opposite direction: the East assimilated Western values, lifestyles and patterns of consumption, without shipping much spiritual energy in the other direction (except, perhaps, for the growing number of Polish priests serving abroad.)

Truth to be told, the Czech Republic probably wasn't ever destined to become a spiritual exporter. According to Austrian sociologist Fr. Paul Zulehner, the Czech Republic and the former East Germany are the only two zones of the erstwhile Soviet sphere where state-sponsored atheism was an unqualified success.

Today, some 60 percent of Czechs say they have no religious affiliation, and while a third of the population is nominally Catholic, levels of Mass attendance and other indicators of religious vitality are notoriously low. For the last several years, more priests have died in Prague each year than were ordained.

Meanwhile, Czech society is rapidly embracing a Dutch-style ethos of tolerance. A domestic partnership law for gay couples was adopted in 2006, legal abortion is inexpensive and widely accepted, and polls show growing support for the legalization of euthanasia.

Echoing John Paul once more, Vlk has warned Czechs about divorcing freedom from truth -- becoming intoxicated with liberty, but failing to ask what ultimate ends that liberty ought to serve.

"All kinds of things have been transformed," Vlk rued not long ago, "but no one bothered about the transformation of hearts."

Faced with these disappointments, local observers say that Vlk has become a bit more withdrawn, especially in the face of health difficulties. (Vlk took an extended convalescence in 2008 due to heart problems, which he said were compounded by exhaustion.)

At least in terms of Vlk's public image, the populist prelate who once merrily revealed that as a young man, "various girls swirled around me, and one fell in love with me," has to some extent receded.

Czech journalist Petr Tresnak lamented in 2007 that Vlk has become a "crashing bore," and that in Vlk's twilight, the Czech church "shows zero internal life, movement or creativity."

As the clock winds down on Vlk's tenure, speculation inevitably has turned to who might come next as Archbishop of Prague. Local media have pointed to three names: Bishop Dominik Duka of Hradec Králové, a Dominican who spent time in Czech jails with Vaclav Havel during the Communist era; Archbishop Jan Graubner of Olomouc, widely seen as the leader of the local Church's conservative wing; and Norbertine Abbot Michael Josef Pojezdný of Prague's Strahov Monastery.

While there's certainly something to be said for each, most observers concede that none is likely to capture the same international spotlight as Vlk.

That's not to suggest, however, that the "wolf in winter" is quite done yet. Vlk seems eager to use this weekend's visit of a German Pope to deepen healing between Czechs and Germans.

With typical candor, Vlk recently said that neither society has done enough to promote reconciliation, because nationalist resentments remain too valuable a "trump card" for politicians.

Vlk is also hardly sitting out the current political crisis in the Czech Republic, which has seen a deal to allow new elections to replace an unpopular interim government fall apart at the last minute.

This week, Vlk published a column urging Czech voters to scrutinize the moral character of political candidates, looking past their "often nonsensical and naive promises for which there is no ground."

The current crisis, Vlk opined, is a logical consequence of the entire course of post-1989 development, which prioritized economic development over moral renewal.

Whatever balance sheet historians eventually draw, Vlk will inevitably loom as one of the great Catholic personalities of his time. If his batting average of success and failure isn't quite as high as that of his mentor, John Paul II, it's worth recalling that John Paul got to take his swings all over the world, while Vlk was fated to play in what is, by Catholic standards, definitely not a hitter's park -- the thoroughly secularized Czech Republic, where atheism, for all intents and purposes, is the state church.

One suspects that most Czechs, whatever their theological or ideological inclinations, will be cheering for Vlk's informal exit this weekend to go well. Certainly few figures in recent Catholic memory have done more to earn a rousing sendoff.

00Saturday, September 26, 2009 12:12 AM

The occasion for Benedict XVI's visit to the Czech Republic is the feast day of St. Wenceslas, patron saint ot the Czech Republic, whose feast day since 2002, is also the Day of Czech Statehood.

Who was St. Wenceslas?

Wenceslas, also spelled Wenceslaus; Vaclav in Czech. Duke, martyr, and patron of Bohemia, born probably 903; died 28 September, 935.

His parents were Duke Wratislaw, a Christian [said to have been converted by Saints Cyril and Methodius], and Dragomir, a heathen. He received a good Christian education from his grandmother (St. Ludmilla).

After the death of Wratislaw, Dragomir, acting as regent, opposed Christianity, and Wenceslas, being urged by the people, took the reins of government. He placed his duchy under the protection of Germany, introduced German priests, and favoured the Latin rite instead of the old Slavic, which had gone into disuse in many places for want of priests.

Wenceslas had taken the vow of virginity and was known for his virtues. The Emperor Otto I conferred on him the regal dignity and title. For religious and national motives, and at the instigation of Dragomir (his mother), Wenceslas was murdered by his brother Boleslaw. [What a bizarre story!]

The story of the murder in Wikipedia: "In September of 935 (in older sources 929) a group of nobles allied with Wenceslaus's younger brother, Boleslav in a plot to kill the prince. Boleslav invited Wenceslaus to the feast of Saints Cosmas and Damian in Stará Boleslav, where three of Boleslav's companions murdered Wenceslaus on his way to church. Boleslav thus succeeded him as the Duke of Bohemia."

The body, hacked to pieces, was buried at the place of murder, but three years later Boleslaw, having repented of his deed, ordered its translation to the Church of St. Vitus in Prague.

The gathering of his relics is noted in the iturgical calendars on June 27, their translation on March4, and his feast day on Sept. 28.

Here is a more detailed account from Monarchs by William Sylvester::

Center photo, the altar of St. Wenceslas, one of 25 in in St. Peter's Basilica.

Wenceslas was born around 907 in Stochov Castle near Prague, in what is now the Czech Republic, the eldest son of Prince Ratislav and his wife, Drahomira.

Ratislav became king in 915 after the death of his father Borivoy. Preoccupied with matters of state, the king and queen left their son to be raised by Ludmila, his paternal grandmother.

Brought up at his grandmother’s castle, Wenceslas reveled in the outdoor life, helping with the harvest and preparing bread and wine for religious purposes, a task he enjoyed all his life.

Ludmila was a fervent Christian and educated her grandson in the Christian faith much to the distress of his mother who was a pagan. In the following years Ratislav and Drahomora brought four daughters and a son, named Boleslav, into the world.

When Wenceslas was only thirteen his father died in battle and his mother became regent. It did not take long before Drahomira showed her true colors and reverted back to her pagan religion.

The confusion resulting from Ratislav’s sudden death and the animosity between the old pagan and new Christian nobles, enabled Drahomira to consolidate her position.

She began persecuting the Christian priests in the kingdom, attempted to reinstate her religion and had Ludmila strangled in her castle at Tetin in September 921.

Drahomira now tried to undo what her mother-in-law had done and began including Wenceslas in her pagan ceremonies. The young prince, however, secretly continued with his private Christian services. He garnered support from the Christian nobles and when he turned 18 they rose in rebellion and deposed his mother.

One of his first acts was to reinstate the Christian religion and end the persecution of the priests. The young king’s Christian beliefs permeated his reign and he soon became renown for his acts of charity, especially the help he gave to the poor whom he sheltered and clothed.

All was not well within the king’s domain, however, for many of his pagan nobles still resented the return to Christianity, amongst them was his brother Boleslav.

The last straw was when Wenceslas, believing it was in the best interests of his people, swore fealty to King Henry I, the king of Germany and a Christian monarch. He felt that it was better to willingly recognize Henry than he forced to by conquest. His nobles were enraged at this, feeling that Bohemia should be a nation unto itself and not part of a foreign king’s empire.

Meanwhile, brother Boleslav was becoming troublesome. He had been raised with pagan beliefs and had the support of the pagan nobility. The same nobles responsible for the murder of Ludmila now had influence over the young prince.

The birth of Wenceslas’s son, which pushed Boleslav down the line of succession, was used to convince the king’s brother that if he did not act soon he would loose all chance to becoming king. They convinced Bolesalv that he should join them in their plot against Wenceslas.

The conspirators invited Wenceslas to attend a feast (of Saints Cosmas and Damina) that was to be held in the chapel of Boleslav’s castle. Though warned in advance that his life might be in danger, Wenceslas decided to ignore the warning and put his trust in God to see him safe.

When the Liturgy was over, the king was preparing to return to his own castle when Boleslav invited him to remain and join him and his friends in a drink. Wenceslas agreed and stayed for the rest of the day. As darkness fell he accepted his brother’s invitation to stay the night even though he had been warned of a plot against him.

The next morning, September 20, 929, he awoke, found himself still alive and set off for the chapel for his morning prayers. Boleslav and his henchman caught him alone and unarmed and stabbed him to death on the steps of the chapel.

Boleslav, who was now king, had his brother’s body interred in the church of St. Vitus and the chapel of St. Wenceslas was constructed around his tomb. In time the good king, though he had reigned for only five years, became the patron saint of Czechoslovakia.

St Wenceslas popular among all Czechs
25 September 2009

Vaclav Square in Prague's Old Town is dominated by the equestrian statue of St. Wenceslas, with the National Museum in the background.

Prague, Sept 24 (CTK) - Saint Wenceslas, the patron saint of the Czech state whose day will be celebrated on Monday, is highly popular among Czechs, including those who are not church-goers.

This year, the mass following a pilgrimage to Stara Boleslav, central Bohemia, will be celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI who will arrive in the Czech Republic on Saturday.

In 2008, the pilgrimage recalled the 1100th anniversary of St Wenceslas's birth.

St Wenceslas fairs that were not organised during the era of Czechoslovak communism will be held in many Czech towns and villages during the weekend and on Monday, St Wenceslas Day and Date of Czech Statehood, which has been a national holiday since 2000.

"The cult of St Wenceslas is of crucial importance. He heads the Czech patrons, he is the most popular of them and his cult is the most widespread and has the longest tradition in the Czech lands," art historian Jan Royt told CTK.

As early as the 12th century, St Wenceslas was declared the eternal king of the Czech land.

Royt recalled that the cult of St Wenceslas was common both among Catholics and Utraquists, a moderate faction of the Czech Hussite reform movement.

The Hussites followed the teachings of Czech church reformer John Huss who died at the stake in 1415.

Thanks to 14th century Emperor Charles IV, statues of St Wenceslas can be found not only in all Czech regions but also in current Germany and Italy, Royt said.

He said the fact that St Wenceslas was a political saint probably contributed to his popularity.

"He was a respected politician and martyr, a representative of the Premyslid dynasty in heaven," Royt said, referring to the Czech dynasty that ruled Bohemia from the 9th century to the early 14th century.

St Wenceslas was murdered in Stara Boleslav by his opponents, probably on September 28, 935.

In the English-speaking world, the saint is immortalized in the Christmas carol 'Good King Wenceslas', written by John Mason Neale, a warden at Sackville College in England, and published in 1853. Sung to the tune of a popular 13th century Latin hymn to spring, it has been recorded by everyone from Joan Sutherland to the Beatles.

Good King Wenceslas looked out, on the Feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even;
Brightly shone the moon that night, tho' the frost was cruel,
When a poor man came in sight, gath'ring winter fuel.

"Hither, page, and stand by me, if thou know'st it, telling,
Yonder peasant, who is he? Where and what his dwelling?"
"Sire, he lives a good league hence, underneath the mountain;
Right against the forest fence, by Saint Agnes' fountain."

"Bring me flesh, and bring me wine, bring me pine logs hither:
Thou and I will see him dine, when we bear them thither."

Page and monarch, forth they went, forth they went together;
Through the rude wind's wild lament and the bitter weather.

"Sire, the night is darker now, and the wind blows stronger;
Fails my heart, I know not how; I can go no longer."

"Mark my footsteps, good my page. Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter's rage freeze thy blood less coldly."

In his master's steps he trod, where the snow lay dinted;
Heat was in the very sod which the saint had printed.
Therefore, Christian men, be sure, wealth or rank possessing,
Ye who now will bless the poor, shall yourselves find blessing

00Saturday, September 26, 2009 5:56 AM

Posted earlier today in the BENEDICT thread.

Pope Benedict to confront secularism
on his visit to the Czech Republic

by Jeffrey Donovan

ROME, Sept. 25 (Bloomberg) -- Pope Benedict XVI will confront secularism when he visits the Czech Republic, a former communist nation with a centuries-long history of religious and ideological conflict where the percentage of Roman Catholics is declining.

The Catholic leader, who speaks out often about the risk of secular Europe losing its Christian roots, arrives in Prague tomorrow for a three-day visit to one of the few European countries yet to ratify a treaty on relations with the Vatican.

The trip is his first as Pope to the Czech region, the theater of religious wars from the 15th to 17th centuries, and comes 20 years after the fall of the Soviet-backed regime in Prague.

“The Czech Republic is geographically and historically in the heart of Europe, and after having endured the dramatic events of the previous century, it needs, as does the entire continent, to rediscover the reasons for faith and hope,” Benedict said on Sept. 20 in Castelgandolfo, south of Rome, site of the papal retreat.

Benedict’s trip comes as religious practice is at a historic low in the country, where the government and the Catholic Church have yet to resolve a dispute over the restitution of property confiscated by the former communist authorities.

Atheist groups have called the visit a violation of the secular constitution, while critics of the Vatican’s ban on artificial means of birth control plan to hand out 10,000 condoms during a papal Mass in Brno on Sept. 27, the CTK news agency said on Sept. 24.

The Pope will focus his trip on the country’s dwindling Catholic population, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said. He “will encourage the local church to bring hope and vitality to a very secularized environment,” Lombardi told reporters in Rome on Sept. 23.

Benedict, 82, will address Czech political leaders and Prague-based diplomats in a speech in English tomorrow at Prague Castle. While German was spoken widely in the Czech lands of Bohemia and Moravia before World War II, the German-born pontiff will speak in public only in English, Italian and Czech during the visit, Lombardi said.

About 100,000 people, including pilgrims from neighboring countries, will attend the Mass in Brno, the capital of Moravia, the country’s most Catholic region, Czech Bishop Vaclav Maly told reporters in Prague yesterday.

Some 50,000 will be present when the Pope leads a ceremony celebrating St. Wenceslaus, the Czech patron saint, on Sept. 28 in Stara Boleslav, north of Prague, Maly added.

“His themes will touch on Europe, on the construction of Europe, on its Christian roots, and on democracy and freedom” in Europe after the collapse of the Soviet bloc in the autumn of 1989, Lombardi said.

He added that the Pope won’t discuss relations with the Czech state or the property dispute, though such issues may come up in a meeting between Prime Minister Jan Fischer and Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s secretary of state.

The Catholic Church has a tumultuous history in the region. Jan Hus, a forerunner of the Reformation, was burned at the stake by Catholic officials in Constance in 1415, becoming a national martyr. His death helped set off two centuries of religious wars that devastated the area.

Centuries of Austro-Hungarian rule that sought to re-impose Catholicism also left a lasting mark, said Father William S. Faix, a U.S.-born Catholic priest at St. Thomas Church in Prague.

In 1939, about 80 percent of the population was baptized Catholic, Faix said, adding that the number had fallen to 40 percent by 1990 and stands at just 20 percent of today’s population of 10 million.

The Czech Republic was the second-least religious country in Europe, after Estonia, according to a 2005 Eurobarometer poll, which found that only 19 percent of Czechs believed in God.

“The Czech nation was under the tutelage of the Hapsburgs from 1526 to 1918, and they did use religion as a source of centralization, and this created a sense of resentment on the part of the Czech people,” Faix said in a telephone interview. “They felt manipulated, ideologically and politically, and this was only exacerbated by the communist regime.”

Security high for Pope's visit,
public anticipation muted

By Tom Clifford

PRAGUE, Sept, 24 - A massive four-day police security operation will begin Sept. 25 for the visit of Pope Benedict XVI.

The visit comes against the backdrop of a domestic political crisis and a treaty, still to be ratified, between the Czech Republic and the Vatican.

One leading Church spokesperson claimed controversially that the
Church was "the largest alternative to politics causing the crisis we are witnessing."

The treaty has been the single most contentious issue between the Vatican and the Czech Republic and, while not officially on the agenda, it is highly likely to be discussed.

The Pope will arrive at 11:30 a.m. Sept. 26 at Ruzyně International Airport and depart at 5:45 p.m. Sept. 28.

He will celebrate Masses in Brno and in Stará Boleslav, where St. Wenceslas was killed in 935.

The security operation will include a parking ban at terminals 3 and 4 at Ruzyně Airport during the hours prior to his arrival and departure.

The Pope will stay at the Apostolic Nunciature on Voršilská street (between Národní street and Ostrovní street), where there will be "a complete ban on transit vehicles and parking" according to Lubomír Kvíčala, director of the Unit for the Protection of Constitutional Officials.

Karmelitská street in Malá Strana will be closed Saturday, Sept. 26, from 9 a.m. for about four hours until 1 p.m., said Eva Miklíková, spokeswoman for the Prague police.

Miklíková confirmed Hradčany Square outside Prague Castle will be closed from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sept. 26.

On Sept. 27, there will be a massive security operation around Brno Tuřany Airport, where the pope will celebrate Mass. A 6-kilometer stretch of the D1 motorway near the airport will be sealed off to allow parking for 2,000 buses.

But Miklíková also issued a warning that further disruption to traffic in Prague is a probability.

"Further closures will be implemented by the police and will last as long as necessary if the need should arise," Miklíková said.
The police have confirmed there are no plans to close any bridges over the Vltava (Moldau) river.

As well as these measures, dozens of police vehicles will be on the streets of Prague, coordinated by eye-in-the-sky helicopters to ensure the smoothest flow of traffic as possible.

The Pope is visiting the Czech Republic not only as the head of the Vatican state but "as the symbol of Europe's own spiritual values," said Aleš Pištora, Prague Archbishopric spokesman. Pištora linked the visit to the political crisis facing the country.

"It is important to remember our own Christian roots, and, especially today, when the Church as guardian of this tradition is the largest alternative to politics causing the crisis we are witnessing."

The Pope will be in the Czech Republic officially as a result of a joint invitation from President Václav Klaus and the Czech Bishops' Conference, papal spokesman Juan Provecho said.

"The goal is to visit and support Christian life here. The Pope's words are an encouragement for believers and, for many at least, an opportunity for reflection."

The visit is not entirely related to pastoral matters. The Czech-Vatican Treaty, which has yet to be ratified, could provide a mechanism to resolve the status of Church property taken by the state and will be discussed at least on an informal basis, according to Church sources.

After the communists came to power in 1948, Church property was seized by the Czechoslovak state. Since the Velvet Revolution [of 1989], the return of Church property has been a contentious issue.

In 2002, a treaty on the position of the Catholic Church in the Czech Republic was signed but has yet to be ratified. It was rejected by the lower house of Parliament in 2003.

The treaty did not itself cover a settlement over disputed Church property but was seen as an important first step to settling issues between the church and state.

"The treaty between the Czech Republic and the Holy See is an international treaty that has been signed but not ratified by the Parliament of the Czech Republic," Provecho said.

"The treaty is certainly important, but, more importantly, in my view, is the will to work together. The treaty does not address property relations, but rather the promise of early settlement, which has so far failed. Unfortunately, we have not seen enough political will to complete the issue."

Pavel Bém, the mayor of Prague, acknowledged that it was an honor to have the Pope in his city but was cautious about the public's response.

"It is an honor, and the visit is important regardless of our beliefs. Prague has always been a place where different religious or political cultures meet, and the visit by the pope is a phenomenal event.

"In comparison with John Paul II, the role of the present Pope is far more complicated, but we will see how the public accepts him."

The Pope in the Czech Republic:
A voyage among non-believers


VATICAN CITY,Sept. 25 (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI is going to the heart of central Europe 20 years after the fall of communism ended restrictions on religion. But what he will find is a Czech Republic where nearly half the population professes to be non-believers.

Like an ancient missionary on his three-day pilgrimage starting Saturday, Benedict will try to reinvigorate the faith with a series of religious services, make a side trip to the traditional Catholic heartland in Moravia and repeat reminders of the country's Christian roots as he pays tribute to the nation's patron saint, Wenceslas.

The Czech Republic "like the entire continent, needs to refind faith and hope," Benedict told a crowd in St. Peter's Square on Sunday as he asked for prayers to make his pilgrimage a success.

"The Pope is traveling to the heart of Europe, where Christianity has made a central contribution,'" said Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi. But he said that secularism is so widespread "that the practice of religion is reduced to a minority."

Even after Communism fell in 1989, the Catholic Church is still battling for the return of St. Vitus Cathedral, the Gothic centerpiece of Prague's Hradcany Castle that the Communists gave to the state along with other church property. It is used for religious services but ownership remains with the state.

The 82-year-old Pope is making the 13th foreign trip of his papacy, many of them centered around the warning that modern culture is pushing God out of people's lives and making religion irrelevant in public life.

It will be Benedict's first foreign journey since he broke his right wrist in a fall in his bedroom while vacationing in the Italian Alps in July. Doctors said the fall was not related to any underlying medical condition and that his overall health is good.

Decades of Communism dented religious faith in many countries — but the Czech Republic has been unusual in showing a particularly steep fall in the numbers of Church members since the fall of the Iron Curtain.

According to the 2001 census, some 3.3 million people in the nation of 10 million said they belonged to a church — down from 4.5 million in 1991.

A poll on the issue conducted by the STEM agency showed some 48 percent of Czechs saying they do not believe in God, while 28 percent are believers and 24 percent don't know. The margin of error of the poll was 2.5 percentage points.

The Rev. Tomas Halik, who was secretly ordained under communism and now teaches at Prague's Charles University, said the roots of non-belief date to Czech nationalism in the 19th century, when Czech lands were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the church was seen as the empire's ally.

The Communists took anti-Church policies to a new level of repression.

"The Czech part of Czechoslovakia witnessed an attempt to establish a totally atheistic society," Halik said. "The Church here was suppressed more than in any other Communist country."

The Communist regime, which seized power in 1948 in what was then Czechoslovakia, confiscated all the property owned by the churches and persecuted many of the priests. Churches were then allowed to function only under the state's control and supervision.

In 2008, the government drafted a bill that would compensate all religious organizations, including the Catholic Church, for property seized by the former Communist regime, but the bill has never been approved by Parliament.

The Catholic Church and the Czech government had long fought over rights to the 14th century St. Vitus Gothic cathedral, but the Supreme Court ended the dispute in March after some 17 years by ruling that it belongs to the state.

Pope John Paul II made three trips to the Czech Republic starting in 1990 in a push for religious revival after the persecutions of the communist years. Benedict visited Prague as a cardinal in 1992.

Brno-Turany airport and the Mass site. Inset shows its ultra-modern terminal building.

This week, workmen have been busy preparing for what is expected to be the best attended event of Benedict's trip, an open-air Mass beside the airport in Brno on a field that can accommodate as many as 200,000 people.

The Vatican estimates the number of Catholics as 3.2 million; the government puts the figure at below 3 million.

"I don't think that Czechs are less religious than other Europeans," Lenka Studena told Associated Press Television in Brno. "It's more that they lost trust in institutions."

In that they are not alone in Europe among lands emerging from Communism.

While about 78 percent of Germans say they believe in God, a 2007 survey showed, the number drops to 36 percent in the former communist east.

From an Italian site on the papal visit

which translates items from Czech sources:

A Czech-language biography
of Benedict XVI

Prage, Sept. 22 (CTK)- A biography of Pope Benedict XVI has been published in the Czech Republic in time for the Pope's visit.

Entitled (in English translation) Benedict XVI: A bridge between two sides, it was written by E. Munarova, who is in charge of catechism in the diocese of Ostrava-Opava, and Fr. T.C. Havel.

The authors describe Joseph Ratzinger on the basis of available historical and current data, and without hagiographic excess.

"What emerges is the portrait of a man who has always followed his conscience as a theologian worker in the vineyard of the Lord," the introduction says.

And although the Czech post office may not have issued a stamp to commemorate the visit, they have put out a commemorative postcard or envelop (I cna't tell asa I do not understand Czech)"

00Saturday, September 26, 2009 5:59 AM

Here's the article John Allen alerted us that a Czech newspaper asked him to write for the visit. The accompanying cartoon is rather literal and crude, but the article is excellent, especially for the secular audience it is addressed to. Posted earlier in the BENEDICT thread.

The Pope still matters
Even in the increasingly secular West,
the Pontiff remains a key political and social force'

By John L. Allen Jr.

Sept. 23, 2009

Soviet Prime Minister Joseph Stalin, informed of an anti-communist declaration by Pope Pius XII during the 1940s, is said to have contemptuously asked, "How many divisions does the Pope have?"

Pius, a career diplomat and no stranger to Realpolitik, nevertheless offered a decidedly spiritual reply: "He will meet my divisions in the next world."

Forty years later, another Pope, John Paul II, wasn't quite so patient about picking up the gauntlet Stalin had flung down. By aggressively supporting the Solidarity movement, the Polish Pope helped send the dominoes tumbling that eventually led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of communism.

Today, Stalin is remembered as one of the arch-villains of the 20th century, while John Paul the Great is conventionally lifted up alongside Nelson Mandela and Gandhi as one of the century's iconic heroes.

All this offers a reminder that, while the Pope's divisions may belong to the next world, the social and political influence of the papacy is very much part of this one.

Forget about theology for a moment. In purely empirical, sociological terms, the Catholic Church is to religion what the United States is to geopolitics: the lone superpower, or at least the lone "indispensable nation," without whose involvement resolution of virtually any global crisis is difficult to imagine.

Worldwide there are 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, scattered in every nook and cranny of the planet. While Catholicism may be struggling in the West, it's exploding elsewhere. The Catholic population of sub-Saharan Africa went from 1.9 million in 1900 to 130 million in 2000, a growth rate of almost 7,000 percent.

Moreover, Catholicism is the world's most vertically integrated religious organization, with clear lines of authority radiating out from Rome down to local parishes in Africa, Latin America and points beyond. (As a thought exercise, try asking yourself sometime who's in charge of Islam, or Christian Pentecostalism, and you'll begin to see what makes Catholicism unique.)

Catholicism is also the only religious body to have its own diplomatic corps. The Holy See, the formal name of the Vatican as a sovereign state, has diplomatic relations with 177 nations (including the Czech Republic) and enjoys observer status with every major international organization, including the United Nations.

No global leader makes a trip to Italy without calling on the Pope, and usually that meeting draws far greater interest than a similar session with the Italian prime minister.

The papacy is the biggest bully pulpit on the religious stage. Analyses of global media outlets routinely show that the Pope (any Pope) is the most-covered, most-quoted religious leader in the world, easily outpacing his nearest rival, the Dalai Lama.

The unique blend of mystery, ritual and theater in Catholicism still captivates the public imagination. Can one really imagine Dan Brown selling millions of copies of a potboiler novel about the Lutheran World Federation?

To be sure, the papacy in the 21st century is not what it once was. Centuries of secularization have weakened its hold on the West, particularly in Europe, where, in some places, the Catholic Church seems a shell of its former self.

The numbers of priests and nuns have plummeted, less than 20 percent of European Catholics bother to attend Sunday Mass, and the Church's political weight is so attenuated that it couldn't persuade the European Union to include so much as a generic reference to God in its draft constitutional document.

Even in ultra-Catholic Italy, abortion and divorce are both legal, condoms are for sale just a few feet from the Vatican walls, and scantily clad women cavort every night on prime-time television.

Inside the Church, too, the Pope's authority is hardly absolute. These days, issuance of a Vatican ruling is tantamount to blowing a starter's whistle to see which bloc of dissident theologians and in-house critics can win the sprint to denounce it.

Opinion polls routinely show that majorities of self-declared Catholics in the West disagree with the Pope on all manner of issues, from birth control to female priests.

That said, Popes who know how to spend whatever social capital they have left can still change history.

John Paul II's role in ending communism is the best known example, but one could cite any number of other cases. In the mid-1990s, the Vatican and Islamic countries prevented a UN conference on population in Cairo from recognizing a right to abortion in international law. (Critics dubbed their intervention an "unholy alliance.")

In 2003, John Paul's staunch moral opposition to the U.S.-led war in Iraq helped the Muslim street to distinguish between the foreign policy of the Bush administration and broader Western sentiment, thereby dampening anti-Christian backlash in the world's 56 majority Muslim states.

More recently, Pope Benedict XVI set off a firestorm in the Islamic world with a Sept. 12, 2006, lecture in Regensburg, Germany, in which he linked Muhammad with violence.

Since then, however, carving out an "alliance of civilizations" with Islam has become Benedict's top inter-faith priority, and there's considerable evidence that it's working.

When Benedict traveled to the Middle East in May, Islamic leaders such as Jordan's King Abdullah and the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, welcomed him with open arms, vowing to stand together against secularization.

However emancipated European societies may claim to be, they too pay close attention to the Pope. When Benedict XVI recently declared on a trip to Africa that condoms make the AIDS crisis worse, he was formally denounced by the Belgian Parliament, and Spain's Socialist regime shipped 1 million condoms to Africa in protest.

What's striking is that other religious leaders say this sort of thing all the time; it took the Pope to make secular elites react.

Even when the Pope stumbles, heads turn. ['Even when'? Especially when!] When Benedict XVI lifted the excommunications of four traditionalist Catholic bishops last January, including one who is a Holocaust denier, without adequately explaining the logic for doing so, it set off a crisis in Jewish/Christian relations and triggered a global media frenzy.

In short, for good or ill, the Pope still matters.

To Catholics, of course, the Pope is the Vicar of Christ, so, even if he couldn't influence a single vote or draw the interest of a single journalist, he would still be a central presence in their faith.

Yet the most ardently convinced atheist ought to realize that religion remains an enormously important motivating force in human affairs, and that the Pope is the most important religious leader on the planet.

While it may take faith to recognize the Pope's spiritual authority, all it requires to grasp his relevance, even in the early 21st century, is opening one's eyes.

The author is the senior correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter in the United States and the Vatican analyst for CNN and National Public Radio. He is the author of The Rise of Benedict XVI (Doubleday, 2005) and will be in the Czech Republic covering the visit of Pope Benedict XVI.

00Saturday, September 26, 2009 6:00 AM

Posted earlier in the BENEDICT thread:

I find this reflection by Cardinal Vlk very moving - it seems so heartfelt, and while he is realistic, he is also full of hope when he describes what has been possible for the faithful in a society where 66% say they believe in God but in a God that has left the earth to mankind as its new masters.

In Prague, a small flock
will welcome a great Shepherd

by Cardinal Miloslav Vlk
Archbishop of Prague
Translated from
the 9/25/09 issue of

The visit of the Pope to a local Church is always a great event, which is extraordinary and unique for all the faithful,

Communion with the Pope, which is realized daily in the Eucharistic Prayer, when we remember him by name, becomes concrete and tangible during such a visit.

The faithful of our country were able to welcome Pope John Paul II three times following the collapse of Communism. Everyone lived them with great joy.

During the Communist era, the figure of the Pope was regarded with contempt by the regime. The Pope, called 'an enemy of the people', was calumniated, attacked, and humiliated by the Communists. The Vatican was considered a collaborator with capitalist imperialism.

Perhaps because of this, the Pope became for the people simply the 'father'. Our dioceses were without bishops because they were under house arrest or in prison. The Church, priests and faithful were persecuted.

With this painful background, it was almost taken for granted that the Pope came to be considered the 'father' and 'bishop' of everyone. It is easy to understand, therefore, what meaning John Paul II's visit had after the end of Communism in 1990. The difficult past had caused a very special love for the Pope to flower among the people. A love that has remained intact in many faithful to this day.

We have been waiting for a visit from Benedict XVI since 2005, the first time we invited him. He had to wait for the right opportunity. Last year, when he received the new Czech ambassador to the Holy See, Pavel Vosalik, the Pope expressed his desire to visit us. It was the Jubilee year for St. Wenceslas, marking the 1100th anniversary of his birth.

St. Wenceslas, martyr, occupies a special place in the spiritual history of our land. He is saint and martyr, and at the same time, the prince, the regent, the principal patron of the Church in our country.

St. Wenceslas's grandmother, St. Ludmilla, was baptized by St. Methodius himself in 800. It was she who transmitted the faith to her grandson, who educated him and raised him.

When Wenceslas governed Bohemia, Christianity was closely and indissolubly linked to the life of the nation. Historical sources describe Wenceslaus as a ruler who was very attentive to the needs of his fellowmen, especially the poor, the marginalized, those who were threatened. He gave himself fully, and served without thinking of his rank. And that is how he bore witness to Christianity before his pagan contemporaries.

His way of living was an inspiration for others. It has he, 'the eternal prince', who left his precious crown, symbol of his faith, to all the kings who followed him. But he was and remains he who brought Christian values into the roots our nation.

The sacred hymn to St. Wenceslas, which was the national hymn till the 19th century, says, "You are the heir of the Czech homeland". St. Wenceslas is the symbol of our nation and our Church which found their link in him.

I am very happy that the Pope will be in our diocese on the feast day of St. Wenceslas, on Sept 28, our national day.

I wish to recall, in this regard, that in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, on the right side of the transept, is the altar dedicated to St. Wenceslas, accompanied by St. Cyril and Methodius, apostles of Slavic faith. And that is how our nation, which is small but rich in saints, is linked to the Church of Rome.

We have shared the preparation for Pope Benedict's visit with all the nine dioceses, especially the two which the Pope is visiting. We all worked together in the preparation of the program for him.

The way we proposed for the spiritual preparation of the faithful was based on three pillars of the faith: faith, hope and love. Each of us bishops prepared a pastoral letter which was read at the Sunday Masses. And the central themes were likewise faith, hope and charity.
The priests spoke further of these themes in their daily homilies.

Each faithful was given a brochure entitled 'Let us prepare for the visit of the Holy Father Benedict XVI to the Czech Republic - Invitation and challenge to preparing for the encounter'.

It contains prayers, thoughts and inspirations for individual reflection, as well as for families and for communitarian use. We also distributed pictures of the Holy Father to everyone, with a prayer so that the visit may be experienced in an atmosphere of grace, in the hope that it may bring abundant fruits for the Church and for society.

In the last few days, all the parishes have been praying a novena. During this novena, the faithful are also able to attend prayers at the Archbishop's Palace at noon in order to pray together for the Pope.

The communications media of the bishops' conference and those of the dioceses, our Catholic radio Proglas, and our Catholic television Noe have been oriented towards the visit and will make possible the participation even of those who are physically unable to come to the events.

Even the secular media, radio and newspapers alike, have reported information about the visit which is, without a doubt, the greatest event of the year in the Czech Republic. That is why there is such attention from all sides.

Of course, those who will present themselves to the Pope as our ecclesial community are just part of his really 'small flock' here. In the 2001 census. some 19 percent of the country's 10 million inhabitants declared themselves Catholic, while 5% belonged to other churches.

The remaining 66% are not atheists in the true sense of the word, as they like to say in this country. Rather they are 'deists' - it means they accept that a God exists, but according them, that God does not concern himself with men, that he has left the earth to man who is now its master. It is a mentality that is difficult to detach.

After the fall of Communism, the Church enjoyed full freedom. But there are many problems continuing from the totalitarian era. For example, the State has yet to resolve the injustices carried out by the Communist regime. Above all, it has not returned the ecclesiastical properties confiscated by the Communists. They continue to be in the hands of the State.

The Church depends economically on the State, which pays the salaries of priests, contributes to maintain diocesan offices, and to some degree, it even helps in the maintenance of church buildings. But all this funding comes from the assets of the Church which are in the hands of the State.

Several years ago, two commissions, one on each side, prepared an agreement between the Holy See and the Czech Republic. Both sides signed the agreement but the Parliament has never ratified it.

Thus, even today, we live in a state of provisoriness, almost of precariousness. But we have been accustomed to living this way. At least, the life of this 'small flock' goes on, which was not all possible under Communist domination.

The lay faithful could not actively participate in the life of the Church. But now, they are working ever more actively in the parishes. Many, for instance, take part in Caritas, which is 'the face that our Church has for society'. Every year, we welcome new catechumens, among them many young people and converted adults.

However, in large strata of civilian society, the Church is kept at a distance. Substantially, one finds among them a negative opinion of the Church. They consider as to be on the edges of society, and see us only as a private association which is practically insignificant.

And that is why the visit of the Pope has a great significance for us. More so now when his beautiful encyclical Caritas in veritate has been published in Czech and widely distributed.

We are a small nation, and from the ecclesiastical point of view, our numbers are insignificant. The Pope has already visited countries which are far more significant in terms of number.

But that is one more reason for us to make of his visit to our nation, to our small Church, an event of great value. We, his small flock, beside him, will be considered - as we ourselves shall feel -an integral part of the universal Church.

We wish to welcome the Pope like Christ himself who told his Apostles: "Whoever listens to you, listens to me" (Lk 10,16) and "Whoever welcomes him whom I send, welcomes me" OJn 13,20).

The Pope comes with the power of the Word of Christ who told Peter: "And you...confirm your brothers..." (Lk 22,32).

A unique event in the history
of the diocese of Brno

by Mons. Vojtech Cikrle
Bishop of Brno
Translated from
the 9/25/09 issue of

For the first time since it was founded in 1777, the Diocese of Brno will receive a visit from the Successor of Peter.

The preparation for the Sunday eucharistic liturgy which the Pope will celebrate at the airport of Brno-Turany, in the presence of a hundred thousand faithful, was the fruit of broad cooperation among various religious and civilian organizations. This signifies how much the entire community shares the anticipation.

The celebration will take place near the international airport, in a wide natural amphitheater where the papal altar has been set up. It is a large covered stage, dominated by a 12-metere high metal cross which will later be transferred to the Cathedral of Brno as a permanent reminder of Benedict XVI's visit.

Along the road through which the Pope will be arriving by car is an 11-meter anchor which represents the theological virtue of hope, the principal theme of the celebration.

Next to the altar will be a statue of Our Lady of Turany, probably the oldest religious statue in all of Moravia. She is known as the Lady of the Thorns, from the bramble bush where she was found.

In past centuries, this Madonna attracted a great number of pilgrims. The faithful of the parish of Turany will accompany the statue as on a pilgrimage at dawn Sunday before the Pontifical Mass to bring it to the altar.

Many young people will be arriving in Brno on Saturday and will spend the night in a tent city set up for that purpose. The overnight vigil will be spent in prayer and reflection, as well as a 'Concert of Hope'.

The spiritual preparation for the Pope's visit was undertaken by the Czech bishops' conference in close collaboration with the Diocese of Brno. In Catholic churches across the land, five pastoral letters from the bishops were read. Two booklets were printed with prayers and meditations and given away to the faithful.

In the past few days, the parishes are praying a novena leading to the visit. In our diocese, many have welcomed the initiative we call 'Every day, an SMS from the Pope' which was prepared by our diocesan center for catechesis. The messages, sent to whoever wanted to receive them, are chosen daily from the Pope's three encyclicals. The participation was great - 8,000 registered in the first few days, and everyday since then, thousands more. For us, it was a source of surprise and joy, which also confirms the atmosphere of expectation that reigns during these historic days of vigil for the city.

I have also called on all the faithful of the diocese to come to confession before the Pope's visit. We have had to mobilize more confessors and to have them ready on demand even outside the usual hours.

What do we expect from Benedict XVI's visit? We know he is not coming to call attention to himself. He comes, in the fullness of his ministry pf service, to renew in us our consciousness of Christ's love, to remind us of the values of his Kingdom.

Spiritual life does not consist only in participation in liturgy, but above all, in a 'dialog with God". That is why the fruits of the solemn day which has been given us to live with him, will depend not only on the spiritual gifts that we may obtain, but also in how we develop them in our daily life afterwards.

So we expect to be encouraged to a life forged by the Holy Spirit in each of us, whhose fruits, are, according to the Letter of St. Paul to the Galatians, "love, joy, peace, patience, benevolence, goodness, fidelity, gentleness and self-control"

Since the principal theme of the celebration in Brno is the hope that is founded on Christ, we also hope for new impetus in the search for hope in the civilian society and among persons who cannot manage to find it in a reality which, like that in our country today, does not allow any glimmer to come through.

We also hope the Pope's visit may bring many persons, even if they no longer call themselves believers, to ask themselves important questions on the sense to give to their lives, and to find in Christ and with Christ those answers that they have so exhaustingly sought.

I am sure that thanks to our meeting with the Pope, we will find ourselves more encouraged never to abandon this search and to persevere in it.

00Saturday, September 26, 2009 1:22 PM
00Saturday, September 26, 2009 1:24 PM




Saturday, Sept. 26
SAINTS COSMAS & DAMIAN (born in Arabia, died in Syria 287)
Healers and Martyrs
Twin brothers beheaded under Diocletian

OR today.

Illustration: St. Wenceslas
Benedict XVI's addr3ess to Brazilian bishops on ad limina visit:
'The solidity of the Christian family is an answer to relativistic seductions'
Other Page 1 stories: A editorial on the Holy Father's trip to the Czech Republic which starts today (and three stories in the inside pages);
the G20 summit in Pittsburgh; and the UN Security Council dreams of nuclear disarmament.


Saturday, September 26


09.20 Departure for Prague from Ciampino airport.


11.30 WELCOME CEREMONY at International Airport of Stará Ruzyně
- Address by the Holy Father.

Church of St. Mary, Prague
- Greeting by the Holy Father

Presidential Palace.

Presidential Palace.
- Address of the Holy Father.

Cathedral of Saints Vitus, Wenceslas and Adalbert.
- Address by the Holy Father.

NB: Italy and the Czech Republic are in the same time zone.


Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi led civilian officials and prelates who sent off the Holy Father to Prague this morning from Rome's Ciampino airport.

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