Cardinal Miroslav Vlk, archbishop of the diocese Praha, Czech Republic, on a 2003 visit to Aid to the Church in Need

Czech Republic

“A beacon of faith” disappears

Aid to the Church in Need mourns for Cardinal Miroslav Vlk

The international pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need mourns for Cardinal Miroslav Vlk, who passed away last Saturday (18 March) at the age of 84. “Cardinal Vlk was a beacon of faith in a country tested by communism, a country in which today, the ties that link people to the faith are the weakest in all of Europe,” said Father Martin Barta, the charity’s International Ecclesiastical Assistant.  

According to Father Barta, the former archbishop of Prague had to work for years as a window cleaner due to the anticlerical reprisals of the communist government, only carrying out his work as a priest in secret.  He “decisively influenced many people by faithfully bearing priestly witness under the most difficult conditions” and becoming an “iconic figure of the faith in a society that had to rediscover the path to God” after the political turnaround. The cardinal was also “a longstanding friend of our charity,” Father Barta emphasized. He returned the aid given to him by Aid to the Church in Need to rebuild the church in his Archdiocese of Prague “in a different currency – that of prayer.”


At the archiepiscopal seminary in Praha Czech/Republic

 “God alone was our light”

Cardinal Miroslav Vlk, archbishop of the diocese Praha in Czech Republic, during his visit at Aid to the Church in Need, celebrating the Holy mass with Father Joaqin Alliende- *

In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need in honour of his 75th birthday in 2007, the cardinal focused on his experiences during the time of the persecution. “The persecution helped us to be more faithful to God. Who else could have helped us otherwise? In the beginning when the communists had seized power, many people in Czechoslovakia still thought that the Americans would intervene. That was, however, just an illusion. God alone was our light. During the persecution, there was no literature, no funds. One could only choose and look for God. For me, this was a great mercy.”  The communists have gone. “But God has not disappeared. He is still here!” the cardinal emphasized.

However, Cardinal Miroslav Vlk was also deeply concerned about the deterioration of the fundamental values in society: a lack of respect for other people, for life, a disappearing sense of honour. “A society cannot be built on selfishness,” he emphasized “but instead it is a part of our human identity to be open to one another. Above all, the church must bear witness, for living witness evokes respect and can trigger a response in the human heart.”

“The friendly ties the cardinal maintained towards us, as well as his witness, are a precious legacy that we will carry in our hearts,” Father Barta said. “We hope and pray that even after his death, his example will continue to lead people to find the faith that was radically destroyed through communism and that is only now gently beginning to blossom again.”

If in 1950, 76 per cent of the population living in the territories of today’s Czech Republic (at the time part of Czechoslovakia) was still Catholic, today it is only 10.4 per cent. Another 11 per cent belong to other Christian denominations. With 34 per cent of people self-declared as having no affiliation with a religion as well as another 44 per cent who do not specify their religious affiliation, the Czech Republic is considered as the country most atheist country in all of Europe. In communist times, the former Czechoslovakia was one of the countries in which the Catholic Church suffered the greatest persecution.

By  Eva-Maria Kolmann, AED International
Adaptated by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Aid to the Church Canada


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