Pope visit opens Czech wounds
Saturday 20 May 1995
The Pope is to meet President Vaclav Havel and to hold a rally at a Prague stadium. But the bone of contention concerns his plan to canonise a controversial 17th-century priest Jan Sarkander.
The Vatican says Sarkander was martyred for his beliefs by (Protestant) Moravian noblemen who tortured him to death for refusing to betray a confessional secret.
According to Czech Protestants, Sarkander was a ruthless fanatic who actively participated in the violent religious reaction of the early 17th century. They say he was jailed after being implicated in a plot to enlist Polish Cossacks in the anti-Protestant cause shortly after the outbreak of the Thirty Years War in 1618.
"Sarkander is a symbol of intolerance and violence when it comes to faith and conscience," said Milos Rejehrt, a vicar in the Czech Evangelical [Protestant] Church. "He was an active fighter against evangelicals ... and zealous about one thing: his hatred of evangelicals.''
Shortly after Sarkander's death in 1620, the rebellious Protestants of Bohemia and Moravia were crushed in battle by the Catholic Habsburgs and forced to convert to Catholicism.
Nearly 400 years on, the scars still run deep. Protestants plan to boycott tomorrow afternoon's ecumenical service at Prague's Strahov stadium.
Renewed tension between the Czech Republic's Catholics and Protestants comes amid a spell of uneasy relations between the Vatican and leaders of the Orthodox faith elsewhere in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.
But Catholic officials in Prague remain convinced that Sunday's canonisation in the north Moravian town of Olomouc should go ahead.
"In our eyes, Sarkander was a martyr and a hero whose fidelity to Christianity cannot be called into question," said Father Miroslav Fiala, the spokesman of the Czech Bishops' Conference.
For most Czechs, the row isan irrelevancy. Out of a population of 10 million, there are 4 million Catholics, although less than 1 million are active. Active Protestants number only a few hundred thousand.
Interest in the Pope's visit will not be as high as it was in 1990, when his mere presence in Czechoslovakia was a symbol of the break with Communism.
- 1 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 2 The confessions of men who ordered mail-order brides
- 3 UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
- 4 Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
- 5 'Isis' schoolgirls: Missing British teenager tweets picture of her Syrian takeaway
Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
Power of Nepal earthquake was equivalent to 20 huge atomic bombs
Nepal earthquake video: Terrifying footage shows moment avalanche hit Everest Base Camp
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...
£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...
£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...
£20000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Support Engi...