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2020

December 2020: Ceremonial sending into service of main new prison chaplain
On 2 December 2020, an ecumenical service was held in the chapel of the Archbishopric of Prague on the occasion of (...)

  • December 2020: Ceremonial sending into service of main new prison chaplain

On 2 December 2020, an ecumenical service was held in the chapel of the Archbishopric of Prague on the occasion of sending a new main chaplain of the Prison Service of the Czech Republic into service. Permanent deacon Otto Broch from Olomouc (Moravia) took the place of the current main prison chaplain Pavel Kočnar, a preacher of the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren. The main chaplain and his or her deputy are appointed for a five-year term by the Director General of the Prison Service from clergy commissioned by a registered church or religious society on the basis of a joint proposal of the Ecumenical Council of Churches and the Czech Bishops’ Conference.
Catholic deacon Otto Broch, who has almost thirty years of experience working in the Olomouc detention centre, and his deputy Pavel Zvolánek, preacher of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, made the prescribed pledge. The service was led by the chairman of the Ecumenical Council of Churches and the Synod Senior of the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren Daniel Ženatý and Zdenek Wasserbauer, auxiliary bishop and vicar general of the Archbishop of Prague, who is in charge of spiritual care in public institutions as part of his official duties. The service was also attended by the main chaplain of the army of the Czech Republic, Catholic priest Colonel Jaroslav Knichal and police chaplain Major Jiří Ignác Laňka, as well as by several other chaplains working in public institutions.
About fifty prison chaplains from several churches work full-time or part-time as employees of the Prison Service of the Czech Republic in all 36 prisons and detention facilities. They are appointed on behalf of their own church. In addition to them, prisoners are also visited by members of the 200-member Prison Spiritual Care organisation, whose members can belong to any church and who carry out their activities without the right to remuneration.

"Church Reporter No 12/2020", Church Law Society, pp. 6–7.

  • November 2020: Worldwide celebration of 900th anniversary of Premonstratensians in Prague

At the beginning of this year’s Advent, on Saturday 28 November 2020 at sunset, the Royal Canonry of the Premonstratensians in the Strahov monastery (in Prague) launched the celebration of the 900th anniversary of the founding of the order in its monastery basilica of the Assumption, with the participation of Prague Archbishop Dominik Cardinal Duka OP. The joint singing of the first Advent vespers was followed by the blessing of new bells and the display of the remains of Saint Norbert (1080–1134), the founder of the order, who is buried in the basilica.
On the following first Sunday of Advent, 29 November 2020, the Apostolic Nuncio in the Czech Republic Charles Daniel Balvo celebrated the Holy Mass which marked the beginning of the worldwide jubilee year of the Premonstratensian Order.
St. Norbert came from Xanten on the Lower Rhine, where he became a canon at a young age. In 1120/1121, he founded a monastery of the new canonical order following the monastic rule of St. Augustine in “the place shown in advance”, called Prémontré, in the valley near Laon in Provence (France). He later became archbishop of Magdeburg, where he died on 6th June 1134. In 1627, his body was transferred to the Strahov Monastery in Prague. Soon after, he was included among the Czech national patrons. An important role was played by the fact that the Premonstratensian Order was already one of the most numerous religious orders in Bohemia and Moravia.
The celebrations of the anniversary of the Premonstratensian Order are taking place around the world through a series of festivities, lasting until the feast of the Baptism of the Lord in 2022. In addition to celebrations at individual Premonstratensian monasteries in the Czech Republic, on the occasion of the anniversary, for example, an exhibition will be opened in Prague Strahov. Among the worldwide events prepared for 2021, the international meeting of juniors (novices and students) of the Premonstratensian Order in Mondaye (France) or the meeting of prelates of the Premonstratensian monasteries in Rome, and a special audience with Pope Francis, deserve particular attention.
The Premonstratensian Order has around 1 300 members worldwide. In its work, it focuses on emphasizing reverence for the Blessed Sacrament and on exemplary care for the choral prayer of the Divine Office. It is engaged in exemplary administration of incorporated parishes and many pastoral activities, care of libraries, and many of its members are dedicated to science and teaching, especially at universities.
During the forcible elimination of all men’s monasteries in Czechoslovakia in 1950, all Premonstratensian activities were abolished, and many members were imprisoned on the basis of kangaroo court, or without trial in internment prisons or deployed to auxiliary technical battalions of the army. When, after a brief liberalization of the regime in 1968, some monks began to secretly associate in secret communities and accept novices again, the Premonstratensians were among the first. Therefore, during the renewal of the order’s life in 1990, together with the Salesians, Jesuits, Dominicans and Franciscans, they were among the most numerous renewed male orders in Czechoslovakia. (According to the list drawn up by the Conference of Senior Religious Superiors, all four abbeys (canonries) of the Premonstratensian Order in Bohemia and Moravia were restored, and as of that date it had 116 members.)
At present, there are four Premonstratensian abbeys (canonries) in the Czech Republic, namely in Prague in Strahov, in Teplá near Mariánské Lázně in western Bohemia, in Želiv in eastern Bohemia and in Nová Říše in western Moravia. Each canonry has its own abbot. Some of them have subsidiary monasteries in a larger number of places in the Czech lands and in Slovakia.
As soon as 1990, the public activity of the sisters from the Premonstratensian religious congregation was resumed. It is now housed in the monastery at the Svatý Kopeček pilgrimage site near Olomouc.
In 1998, the abbot of Strahov Michael Pojezdný, agreed with the administration of the monastery of Premonstratensian nuns in Cracow – Zwierzyniec on an attempt to restore the Premonstratensian canon monastery in Doksany (northern Bohemia). First, the religious house dependent on the parent canonry in Krakow was founded. In 2007, the Apostolic See decided to promote it to an independent canonry and submit it to the abbot of Strahov as its prelate.
The fact of interest is that there are two Premonstratensians and two Dominicans among the teachers of canon law at Czech universities: Ignác Antonín Hrdina OPraem and Bartoloměj Marián Čačík, both Premonstratensians from Strahov, Jiří Rajmund Tretera from the Dominican monastery of St. Giles in Prague and Damián Němec from the Dominican monastery of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary in Olomouc.
The monumental Premonstratensian monastery in Strahov, the seat of Premonstratensian theology students from the Czech lands who study at the Catholic Theological Faculty of Charles University, is home to of the largest publicly accessible libraries in the Czech lands. The basilica and the monastery, together with Prague Castle, form a beautiful and world-famous Prague panorama.

See "Church Reporter No 12/2020", Church Law Society, pp. 2–4.

  • June-August 2020: Marian column in Prague restored after 102 years

In the capital city of Prague on the Old Town Square, which is one of the most famous squares in the country, a historic event took place in 2020.
- On 4 June 2020, a column with a statue of the Virgin Mary was replaced after 102 years. It stands on the exact site where the original column stood in 1650–1918, a work created by legendary Czech sculptor Jan Jiří Bendl (1610–1680) in order to express thanks for the victory of the citizens of Prague over foreign troops at the end of the Thirty Years’ War. The restoration of the column is a remedy for the vandalism committed by the street crowd in the first days of the young republic in November 1918. The column stands next to the memorial of Czech Reformer John Hus (died 1415), erected in the year of 500th anniversary of his burn at a stake in Constance.
- Both memorials in the heart of Prague are symbols of the two religious traditions present in the Czech nation and represent today’s ecumenical relations after both devasting totalitarian regimes of the 20th century, based on anti-human positions of racial and class hatred and pagan or atheist ideology.
The great importance of the restoration of the Marian column in Old Town Square for all Czech Catholics, their cultural sympathisers and numerous parts of Czech cultural public is expressed in an article of Professor Jiří Rajmund Tretera from Charles University in Prague published in Czech in Church Law Review, No. 80/3–2020.
The Civic Society for the Restoration of the Marian Column in Prague has been striving to restore the column for more than twenty years. The replica was created by sculptor Petr Váňa with a group of enthusiastic collaborators. The restoration of the work was made possible by a decision of the Prague City Council, which, by a majority of its members, gave its consent on 23 January 2020 after a heated debate.
- On 15 August 2020, on the feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, the restored Marian column was blessed on the Old Town Square in Prague by Cardinal Dominik Duka, OP, Archbishop of Prague and Primate of Bohemia. This blessing was preceded by the Holy Mass in the Church of Our Lady before Týn. The main celebrant was Dominik Cardinal Duka. Immediately after the Holy Mass, the participants moved to the Old Town Square while singing the Litany of Loreto, where they joined other pilgrims. The sculptor Petr Váňa placed a copy of the miraculous image of the Virgin Mary of the square (Panna Maria Rynecká) in a stone sanctuary at the foot of the Marian column. Cardinal Duka then offered a blessing prayer.

D 4 January 2021    AZáboj Horák

2019

April 2019: Financial compensation for the non-restored properties of religious communities
A debate has been pending for long in the Czech Republic, and should be decided by the Constitutional (...)

  • April 2019: Financial compensation for the non-restored properties of religious communities

A debate has been pending for long in the Czech Republic, and should be decided by the Constitutional Court in the coming months. It concerns the taxation of financial compensation for the non-restored property of religious communities.
Several constitutional claims have been issued by groups of Senators and Deputies of Czech Parliament against the Act on taxation of financial compensation for the non-restored property of religious communities of 23 April 2019. The taxation concerns the financial compensation provided by the state to religious communities, according to the Act on Property Settlement No. 428/2012.
On 24 April 2019, the Czech Bishops Conference, the Ecumenical Council of Churches, and the Federation of Jewish Communities, issued a joint statement against this Act on taxation (See Church Law Review, 2019, 76-3, p. 105-106).

D 2 September 2019   

2016

Current debates in 2016:
Current debates that concern law and religion issues in 2016 the Czech Republic are immigration, before all from Islamic countries, relations of the public to Islam, and (...)

  • Current debates in 2016:

Current debates that concern law and religion issues in 2016 the Czech Republic are immigration, before all from Islamic countries, relations of the public to Islam, and reactions to the Islamic terrorism in all the Europe and America.

Immigration

One case especially attracted the attention of the public. It was the attempt to accept Arabic immigrants of Christian faith from Iraq, from January till April 2016. Organizers hoped it would be easier to integrate these people, with a cultural background closer to the Czech society than Islamic ones. The second reason was the offer of Christian denominations in the Czech Republic to take care of the immigrants, with the help of Czech Christian families and facilities. The first phase of organized immigration was to bring to the Czech Republic 153 immigrants from Iraq.

The process was thoroughly organized by a foundation led by Czech Christians from several denominations with the help of the Czech State, especially the Ministry of Interior of the Czech Republic. 89 immigrants came by plane to the Czech Republic, and were accommodated in well prepared adequate facilities. The language and professional teachers were ready to do all for their integration in some months. After this preparatory course they had secured work places and permanent residence in the Czech Republic. Their further integration was even prepared, with the help of Christian denominations.

After some time, part of these immigrants decided to immigrate illegally to Germany, and a another part returned home. The rest of them stayed in the Czech Republic and fulfilled the agreed requirements.
The above-mentioned behaviour of a substantial part of the immigrants disappointed the Czech public, even the Christians. The transmigration of a group to Germany is especially still connected with bitterness. The behaviour of these immigrants, who had been like the others accepted with love as asylum seekers, seemed to have a rude economic background. The knowledge of their ingratitude is an obstacle to the further opening to immigration.

Property settlement

Other topic of debates has been the practical realization of the Act No. 428/2012 Sb., on Property Settlement with Churches and Religious Societies. The Act lays down the process of partial restitution of economic property and its partial compensation. Litigation concerning the restitution of some pieces of church property was the topic of media discussions. Some cases have been settled to the detriment of religious institutions, only because of formal reasons.

  • Good Friday, a national public holiday of the Czech Republic

The Senate, the second chamber of the Czech Parliament, approved on its session on 2 December 2015 an amendment to an Act on holidays reintroducing Good Friday as a national statutory holiday of the Czech Republic. The bill was submitted by a group of 93 deputies of the House of Deputies, a lower chamber of the Czech Parliament, belonging to various political parties. The Act was signed by the President of the Czech Republic and published under No. 359/2015 Sb. It came into force on 21 December 2015.
Good Friday had been a national public holiday from the founding of Czechoslovakia in 1918 till 1952, when it was cancelled as a legal holiday by the communist regime.
The number of public holidays in the Czech Republic is 14.

D 5 December 2016    AZáboj Horák

2014

Three newly registered religious communities
In 2013, three new religious communities were registered in the Czech Republic. In March 2013, the Church of Saint Gregory the Illuminator, mostly (...)

  • Three newly registered religious communities

In 2013, three new religious communities were registered in the Czech Republic.
In March 2013, the Church of Saint Gregory the Illuminator, mostly composed of Armenian members living in the Czech Republic, was registered.
The second religious community to be registered in 2013 was the Salvation Army. It had been active in democratic Czechoslovakia since 1919, but the Nazi and communist regimes interrupted its activity. It was renewed in 1990 as a civic association under the influence of the Dutch mission. Its registration as a religious community took place in September 2013. The Salvation Army manages several charitable institutions in different parts of the Czech Republic.
The third religious community, registered in October 2013, is the New Life Church. It is one of the five “faith churches”, which have spread throughout the Czech Republic during the last decades. The other four have been registered respectively in 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2012.
Each of these newly registered religious communities gathers more than 300 adult members. The competent body for the registration of religious communities is the Department of Churches of the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic. There are currently thirty-six registered religious communities in the Czech Republic.

D 4 April 2014    AZáboj Horák

2013

January 2013: the new act on the property settlement with Churches and religious societies has been published
Act no. 428/2012 Coll. of 8 November 2012 on the property settlement with churches (...)

  • January 2013: the new act on the property settlement with Churches and religious societies has been published

Act no. 428/2012 Coll. of 8 November 2012 on the property settlement with churches and religious societies and on amendments of certain other laws was published on 5 December 2012 in the Collection of Laws of the Czech Republic No. 155. The act came into force on 1 January 2013, with the exception of section 13 of the act (the section limiting transfers of property that was subject to a wrongdoing), which came into force on 5 December 2012.
The aim of the Act is reparation of property harms done by the communist regime to churches and religious societies from 25th February 1948 till the end of 1989. The Act combines restitution in kind of property withdrawn to churches and religious societies during the mentioned period of time and financial compensation for non-restored property.

D 6 March 2013    AZáboj Horák

2012

July 2012: Adopting a bill on compensation for goods confiscated from churches
In the night of 13-14 July 2012, Czech Ministers passed a law that provides for returning 56% of the property (...)

  • July 2012: Adopting a bill on compensation for goods confiscated from churches

In the night of 13-14 July 2012, Czech Ministers passed a law that provides for returning 56% of the property confiscated under the Communist regime (buildings, land, ponds and forests) to 17 recognised churches, representing a total value of 75 billion crowns (2.98 billion euros).
In parallel, the state will pay nearly 59 billion crowns (2.35 billion euros) to churches in compensation for property that can no longer be returned today, a payment which is to be spread over a period of 30 years.
A 17 year transition period is provided for, during which the state will continue to pay churches the equivalent of the current annual grant (approximately 52 million euros allocated to paying clergy salaries), thereafter reduced by 5% each year.
The law must still be voted on by the senate, where it risks being rejected by the parliamentary opposition.

For more information, see the article on the Radio Prague website.

  • November 2012: Final vote on restitution of church property

After being rejected by the Senate, on 8 November 2012 the Lower House of Parliament approved once again the draft law on the restitution of property to churches and religious communities (see July 2012 above) by 102 votes to 200.
The text of the law was submitted to the President of the Republic, Václav Klaus, who, despite his reservations, decided not to use his veto.
The law will come into force in 2013.

  • October 2012: Bill on Property Settlement between the State and Churches and Religious Societies

The Bill on Property Settlement between the State and Churches and religious societies is presently at the top of the political and legal debate. The Bill aims at the reparation of harms done by the communist regime to the properties of churches or religious societies between 25th February 1948 and the end of 1989. It also takes into account the absence of State subsidies provided for the salaries of spiritual ministers during this period of time. The money involved in the Bill is meant as a compensation for the non-restored properties of the religious communities expropriated at the time of the Communist regime.
The Bill was prepared by the Government of the Czech Republic in accordance with the Policy Statement from the Government of the Czech Republic of 4th August 2010. The Policy Statement was based on a political agreement three political parties actually involved in the contemporary coalition government. The particular provision reads: “The government’s aim is to resolve as soon as possible the question of a settlement between the State and the churches and religious societies, in order to make right and to allow the churches and religious societies to fulfil their functions independently of the State.”
17 registered churches and religious societies were consulted about this Bill. It was then submitted to the Parliament of the Czech Republic in January 2012.
On 14th July 2012 the House of Deputies (Lower House) of the Czech Parliament adopted the Bill by a majority of 93 votes out of the total number of 182 present deputies. The parliamentary discussion revealed that the left-wing parliamentary opposition (communists and social democrats) is strictly opposed to the Bill. The opposition argues mostly on the unsuitability of large expenses in the current time of economic crisis.
On 15th August 2012, the Senate (Upper House), along with the social democratic majority, refused the Bill by votes of 43 senators from the total number of 77 present senators.
The Bill returns now to the House of Deputies, according to the Constitution. The Senate’s veto could be outvoted by the qualified majority of the House of Deputies members, i.e. majority of all members of the House. The House of Deputies having 200 members, the qualified majority is 101 members.

D 12 November 2012    AZáboj Horák

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