Tag Archives: Czech Republic

19 March: Lenten Pilgrimage XIV: the way, the truth and the life

Tomas Halik was ordained secretly when the Church was being persecuted in Czechoslovakia, and is still in active ministry as a university teacher. He was asked to give the opening address to the European Continental Assembly in Prague, his home city. This is an extract, the whole speech can be found here.

At the beginning of their history, when Christians were asked what was new about their practice, whether it was a new religion or a new philosophy, they answered: it is the way. It is the way of following the one who said: I am the Way. Christians have constantly returned to this vision throughout history, especially in times of crisis…

[The Synod] is a short portion of a long journey. This small but important fragment of the historical experience of European Christianity must be placed in a wider context, in the colourful mosaic of the global Christianity of the future. We have to say clearly and comprehensibly what European Christianity today wants and can do to respond to the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of our whole planet – this planet which is interconnected today in many ways and at the same time is divided and globally threatened in many ways. We are meeting in a country with a dramatic religious history.

This includes the beginnings of the Reformation in the 14th century, the religious wars in the 15th and 17th centuries and the severe persecution of the Church in the 20th century. In the jails and concentration camps of Hitlerism and Stalinism, Christians learned practical ecumenism and dialogue with nonbelievers, solidarity, sharing, poverty, the “science of the cross.” This country has undergone three waves of secularisation as a result of socio-cultural changes: a “soft secularisation” in the rapid transition from an agrarian to an industrial society; a hard violent secularization under the communist regime; and another “soft secularisation” in the transition from a totalitarian society to a fragile pluralistic democracy in the post-modern era. It is precisely the transformations, crises and trials that challenge us to find new paths and opportunities for a deeper understanding of what is essential. Pope Benedict, on a visit to this country, first expressed the idea that the Church should, like the Temple of Jerusalem, form a “courtyard of the Gentiles”.

We believe and confess that the Church is a mystery, a sacrament, a sign (signum) – a sign of the unity of all humanity in Christ. The Church is a dynamic sacrament, it is a way to that goal. Total unification is an eschatological goal that can only be fully realized at the end of history. Only then will the Church be completely and perfectly one, holy, catholic and apostolic. Only then will we see and mirror God fully, just as He is.

Christianity was the way in the beginning, and it is to be the way now and forever. So it was in the beginning, so it must be now and forever. The Church as a communion of pilgrims is a living organism, which means always to be open, transforming and evolving. Synodality, a common journey (syn hodos), means a constant openness to the Spirit of God, through whom the risen, living Christ lives and works in the Church. The synod is an opportunity to listen together to what the Spirit is saying to the churches today.

The photograph shows one of the demonstrations in Wenceslas Square in Prague that led to the overturning of Communist rule in what was then Czechoslovakia.


Leave a comment

Filed under Christian Unity, Daily Reflections, Justice and Peace, Lent, Mission, PLaces, Synod

More news from the Synod preparation sessions.

General Secretariat of the Synod
https://www.synod.va – media@synod.vaView this email in your browser#SynodPrague2023 newsletter n.4 – 08/02/2023 ShareTweetForwardShare
The unity of the Church can only be understood in relation to diversity
Presiding the Holy Mass in Prague Cathedral, attended also by delegates of the Czech National Stage of the synodal process, Cardinal Mario Grech focussed in his homily the relationship between unity and diversity as part of the ‘essence’ of the Church.
” The synod is not there to destroy distinctions, to destroy the Catholic identity. It is not there to raze distinctions. Rather, it is there to uphold distinctions, to understand the Gosple and what makes the Catholic Church truly One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. […] The unity of the Church can only be understood in relation to diversity. Its holiness only in relation to what is unholy. Its universality in relation to what is particular. And this is never a static relationship, but a dynamic one. [….] Every day we have to ask what makes us distinct as a Catholic Church. But we also have to ask, in what way does that which makes us distinct imply that we are also in relation?To the full text

While the assembly is discerning to prepare the final document, moving from the “I” to an “Us”, we propose you the witnesses of some participants.
(Video in Portuguese)
(Video in Romanian)
(Video in Spanish)
(Video in Albanese)

the live streamingDay 3 – Morning Session (First Part)Day 3 – Morning Session (Second Part)Day 3 – Afternoon SessionParticipants in Prague
#SynodSuva2023 newsletter n.4 – 08/02/2023 Deepening key themes for the Church in OceaniaAt the Synod Continental Assembly of Oceania on Wednesday, a group of theologians presents via video the results of their “communal theological reflection” on the three themes chosen for further deepening: Care for the oceans, synodality, and formation for mission.Read more

Witnessing synodalityWe present you four videos of participants at the Suva Continental Synodal Assembly for Oceania expressing their understanding, enthusiasm and hopes for a synodal church. Ben Salacakau
FCBCO Secretariat Suva AssemblySr. Mariana Tevurega SM
Caritas Fiji and Women’s Ministry DeskAlisi Daurewa
Evaluator for the FCBCO Suva AssemblySiobhan Dilly, Executive Officer
 New Zealand Bishops’ conference

On the 4th Day in #SynodSuva2023 the bishops continue their shared discernment on the assembly’s three key themes. That discernment was supported by theological input from Oceania-based theologians on the themes: Care for the Oceans; Formation for Mission; and Becoming a More Synodal Church.
The Bishops were blessed to have a special visit by the Prime Minister of Fiji Sir Sitiveni Rabuka. He spoke with them and also took a number of questions.
 Photos are available on https://suva.synod2023.org 
Through the portal https://synod2023.org you can access the sites of the individual continental meetings. For the Assemblies of Oceania, Asia and Africa, it is also possible to subscribe to a specific newsletter to receive daily information on the meeting.Copyright  2023 General Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
General Secretariat for the Synod of BishopsVia della Conciliazione, 34Vatican City 00120Vatican City State (Holy See)

Leave a comment

Filed under PLaces, Synod

The Synod in Europe and Oceania

General Secretariat of the Synod
https://www.synod.va – media@synod.vaView this email in your browser#SynodPrague2023 newsletter n.1 – 05/02/2023 ShareTweetForwardShare
European Synodal Assembly, the participants are arriving
The participants in the European Synodal Assembly, which is being held in Prague from today until 12 February, are arriving. About 200 selected delegates from the European Bishops’ Conferences will gather to discuss the theme of the Continental Stage, which is “Enlarge the space of your tent”. They are joined by 390 other online delegates. This evening, at 7 pm, …Read moreSinodo, a Praga comincia la tappa continentale europea

L’esortazione del Papa, dal Sud Sudan, a ricentrare il ruolo dei vescovi come pastori in mezzo al Popolo di Dio, giunge fino al cuore del Vecchio Continente, nella capitale della Repubblica Ceca, dove con la Messa di stasera nella chiesa dei Premonstratensi, si apre fino al 12 febbraio la riunione con duecento delegati per discernere sui frutti del lavoro sinodale …Read moreWhat are participants expectations?Thanks to our Vatican News special correspondent Antonella Palermo, we collected the expectations of some of the participants, their experience and their understanding of synodality.BULGARIA
(Video in Italian)Turkey
(Video in English)Malta
(Video in English)Belarus
(Video in Italian)Participants arriving in Prague#SynodSuva2023 newsletter n.1 – 05/02/2023 
Mass steeped in Fijian spirituality and tradition has opened the Synod Assembly in Suva
Day 1 – Mass steeped in Fijian spirituality and tradition has opened the Federation of Catholic Bishops Conferences of Oceania assembly – a gathering its president hopes will turn “a new page” in the bishops’ shared mission.Sacred Heart Cathedral in Suva was overflowing on Sunday morning with hundreds of local worshippers, along with dozens of bishops and other assembly participants.Read more
Video message Cardinal Mario Grech to participants of the ongoing Continental Synod Assembly in Suva
It is an honour and privilege that I can address the Churches in Oceania. I know that you are meeting in Suva. Obviously, in your schedule you have lots of things, but I know also that you have a preference to reflect, to discern about what the people of God are saying with regards to a synodal Church. Thank you. …Read morePhotos of the celebration are available here: https://flic.kr/s/aHBqjAr2kS
Through the portal https://synod2023.org you can access the sites of the individual continental meetings. For the Assemblies of Oceania, Asia and Africa, it is also possible to subscribe to a specific newsletter to receive daily information on the meeting.Copyright  2023 General Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops, All rights reserved.
You are receiving this email because you opted in via our website.

Our mailing address is:
General Secretariat for the Synod of BishopsVia della Conciliazione, 34Vatican City 00120Vatican City State (Holy See)Aggiungi il nostro indirizzo alla tua rubrica

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christian Unity, Justice and Peace, PLaces, Synod

18 October, Review. Tomáš Halík: From the Underground Church to Freedom.

Tomáš Halík: From the Underground Church to Freedom, University of Notre Dame Press,Notre Dame, Indiana, 2019. Available through Waterstone’s or online.

Tomáš Halík is a Czech Catholic priest who has lived under repressive Communism, even coming to the Faith in an officially atheist country, a process he unfolds for the reader in one of the chapters of this autobiography. An interest in history, including the career of the ‘heretic’ Jan Huss; reading about psychoanalysis as a schoolboy, and a growing awareness of politics and that life under an oppressive regime was not the inevitable fate of his country; all these had him asking questions, and finding the ready-made answers of the atheist regime lacking.

But he had ‘absolutely no experience of the living church.’ How true is that of many of our neighbours? It was during a solitary pilgrimage he made one holiday that he assented to belief in God; from there to attending a church with good music, gradually moving closer to the altar, week by week; thence to a church frequented by students where the pastor’s homilies were challenging.

The journey to the priesthood had begun but had to continue underground, and his ordination was held behind closed doors in Erfurt, East Germany.

That sets the scene for a ministry conducted in secret but also in plain view as a psychotherapist and university teacher; often feeling the eye of the secret police upon him. Many of the generation of priests before him had been imprisoned; there were almost parallel churches; some priests ministering as best they might at the churches that were permitted to remain open, others, like Fr Halík, in closely guarded secrecy, until the regime collapsed like those in neighbouring countries.

It was time to unite the Catholic Church. The official church had been deprived of international links and scholarship; the priests were tired and ‘the onset of freedom caught them very much unawares.’ Thirty years have not healed all the wounds inflicted before 1990.

Openness to the universal Church, the re-establishment of church structures, the initial and ongoing formation of pastors and people, freedom from fear: these things take time, and hard work, and grace. At 70, Fr Halík feels he may not have much more time, but he has been the means of grace. This book will inspire the reader to believe in the action of the Holy Spirit. And perhaps nudge us to ask what we can share with those around us with ‘absolutely no experience of the living church.’

Leave a comment

Filed under Mission, Reviews

28 September: Fortitude V, Fortitude and the True Self

Prague_Demonstration_April_1990 (640x442)

Today is the feast of Saint Wenceslas, King of Bohemia. Gathering around his statue helped people to develop and exercise fortitude in times of oppression and eventually to win freedom for their country.


What does fortitude do for us in these painful situations? Does it make us invulnerable? Does it make us completely fearless? Does it make us feel strong? The answer to all these questions is no. We will need fortitude as long as we are alive, and we will be vulnerable as long as we are alive. We will never be without the need of this virtue. Fortitude is about helping us to be strong, but it will not make us feel strong.

Then, what kind of strength are we talking about here? We do not have a “fortitude button” in our hearts, that we can turn on whenever we need it. But, fortitude does get help from the other virtues, so that it can become part of our character as a human being, part of our personality. This is where we can return to our reflections on the virtue of prudence. Prudence gives us the ability both to see reality and to see the good for which we are striving. This identification of and commitment to the good in a given situation is the vital thing that sustains us in situations requiring fortitude. Sometimes a situation is confusing, and there are several good things that seem to be in conflict. We can find it hard to identify which good thing we should be focused on. We often need the counsel of a wise person to help us sort through the confusion, and to gain clarity. Once we do, however, then we need fortitude so that we do not begin sliding back because of the pull of our emotions. Fortitude strengthens us on the level of our will, so that we become able to hold fast to that which we perceive to be good and true and worth suffering for. In this way, we become able to handle the emotional reactions that can otherwise be overwhelming in the face of danger or difficulty.

St. Thomas Aquinas speaks of these emotional reactions by using the concepts of fear and of daring. In his thinking, the fear and the daring are on opposite sides. Because of fear, he says, we simply want to run away from the threatening thing. If we do that, though, then as St. Thomas puts it, the will withdraws from following what the reason knows to be right, good and true. This is where fortitude helps us to become the person we really want to be, for we lose something vital here on the level of personal integrity if we run away from everything that is difficult and emotionally threatening. By holding firm to our convictions and principles, even at great personal cost, we grow. We become recognisable as someone whose actions match up to our system of values. It is not easy to be such a person. Fortitude is about this kind of growth.

At the other extreme from fear, there is the tendency to be “daring” in the face of danger – by which St. Thomas means that, rather than try to escape, we race headlong into a dangerous situation ‘without taking counsel’, and in a manner that is not helpful to anyone, but only makes the situation worse. While there can be a time when a situation truly calls for a kind of bravery that advances into battle against the enemy, for St. Thomas, this is precisely what “daring” does not do. Daring, in his thinking, seems to be another word for a knee-jerk reaction, which dashes precipitately into the face of danger, taking foolhardy risks, endangering oneself or others unnecessarily.

In other cases, as St. Thomas points out with shrewd awareness of human nature, the person reacts by both running away from and running toward danger. He quotes Aristotle here and says, ‘Some hurry to meet danger, yet fly when the danger is present. This is not the behaviour of a brave man’ (see S. T., II, II, 123, 6). This brief sketch perfectly captures the personality of someone who talks big, but cannot cope with real danger.

For further study:

The Catechism of the Catholic Church ,Geoffrey Chapman, London, 1994

The Four Cardinal Virtues, Joseph Pieper, University of Notre Dame Press


Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections

23 February: Detective Stories for a Post-Truth Age

We are told that we are living in a ‘post-truth age’. The President of the United States has his staff put out alternative facts – or lies – when the verifiable truth is uncomfortable. Climate change is a conspiracy theory. The Muslims (en masse) are out to get us. A referendum is held, lies are told, 37% of people vote to leave the EU – but the people have spoken, although those living overseas could not vote, any more than Scots living in England were able to vote in the Scottish Independence Referendum.

1968, Czechoslovakia. The half-million strong, Russian-led Warsaw pact armies invaded to put down the Prague Spring. 18 months ago we briefly remembered that event and the Velvet Revolution that followed, before 1968 was forgotten, bringing freedom to millions. Click on  Wenceslas .

1968 – 1989 was an era of post-truth in Czechoslovakia following the “Entry of the Fraternal Armies Rendering Brotherly Help to the Czechs and Slovaks”. Jews are Zionists who want to turn the clock back and have no regard for the historical role of the working class. It is a crime to leave the country: if you do so, your family will suffer. A professor may find himself swinging a pickaxe for revisionist crimes. Others might be executed as political criminals. A policeman almost imperceptibly sinks into the grey, sad world of a class warfare he has never really believed in. Crimes his team have solved go unpunished because they are committed by people with connections.

I had never read any of Josef Skvorecky’s books till I picked up The End of Lieutenant Boruvka in a charity shop. I will be seeking out more of them. The short stories flow gently on, leading us into ever greater collusion with evil, crises of conscience sliding past as dear ones are protected, blackmail is applied.

Is there redemption? It often looks bleak for Lieutenant Boruvka, who is often hemmed in, with little choice over what to do with the results of his investigations. Find this book and read it, and pray for perseverance in seeking out and telling the truth, and in forming and following your conscience.


Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, Reviews

Good King Wenceslas

28th September     Saint Wenceslas

How on earth does a King become a Saint? It seems to me the least likely position from which a man might attain salvation, which probably says more about me than about Wenceslas, whose equestrian statue appears in so many photographs of the Prague Spring and the Velvet Revolution that eventually brought down the Communist Regime in 1989 -1990.

Prague_Demonstration_April_1990 (640x442)


By Lklundin (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

W. S. Gilbert wrote of kingship:

The culminating pleasure,

Which we treasure beyond measure,

Is the sense of satisfaction that our duty has been done.

With his statue the focus for demonstrations large and small, Wenceslas seems to have been doing his duty by his people centuries after his death. Perhaps this bears out the prophecy that he would return to lead his people in their hour of greatest need. Though Wenceslas spent much of his life fighting, his people in the 20th Century worked peacefully together and freed their country from Soviet oppression.

1 Comment

Filed under Daily Reflections