“We will bow to no regime that refuses to bow to God.“ In 1951, just a few hours after uttering these words to the Catholic faithful in Prague‘s St Vitus Cathedral, Archbishop Josef Beran of Prague was abducted by the secret police and interned for the next 16 years. Thousands of priests and religious in what was then Czechoslovakia shared a similar fate and suffered in prisons and labour camps. The building that had housed the archdiocesan seminary in Prague was turned into a centre for a communist propaganda newspaper. For many long years, men who felt called to the priesthood were unable to follow their vocation and not allowed to study. Later, they were only able to do so in the underground Church. Many were secretly ordained, often in neighbouring countries. The official formation of priests was controlled by the Secret Service, and priests who were not acceptable to the state were denied permission to exercise their priesthood and were often forced to work in factories or as window cleaners, simply in order to support themselves.
(Recent priestly ordination in Prague © Aid to the Church in Need)
In 1990, after the collapse of communist rule, the archdiocesan seminary in Prague was once more able to open its doors. This is where today‘s future priests are once again being trained to work in the still very atheist-minded Czech Republic. It is one of just two seminaries in the country. At present there are 23 young men here from five different dioceses, training for the priesthood. They face a difficult task after ordination, for with 34% of the population claiming to have no faith and an additional 44% refusing to give any details about their religious affiliation, the Czech Republic is one of the most atheistic countries in Europe. Only 10.4 % of the population are Catholics, while another 11% belong to other Christian denominations. Nevertheless, where people do find their way to faith, there are lively parishes with young families. Hence there is an urgent need for priests. This year the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is contributing $17,000 to support the training of these future priests in Prague.
The vital work of Catholic charities like Aid to the Church In Need provide a lifeline to the Church wherever she is poor, persecuted or threatened. Please help our work by donating online or send your donation to Aid to the Church in Need, PO Box 7246 Baulkham Hills NSW 2153. Ph: (02) 9679-1929