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June 28, 2022



Activists call on Pope Francis not to extend Czech Cardinal Duka's term because of his nationalist tendencies

14.2.2018 18:23
Dominika Duka (FOTO: Petr Zewlakk Vrabec)
Dominika Duka (FOTO: Petr Zewlakk Vrabec)

Christian activists in the Czech Republic are bothered by the tendency of the Archbishop of Prague, Dominik Duka, to nationalism and the ultra-right. The activists believe Duka is more concerned with wielding power than he is with the Church.

The activists make the allegations in a letter to Pope Francis calling on him not to extend Duka's term. They publicized the letter today during a "happening" in front of the Archbishop's Palace attended by a dozen or so of their supporters.

Several supporters of the Archbishop also demonstrated in his favor at the palace. The letter to the Pope alleges that "The tendency of Bishop Dominik to nationalism and the ultra-right can be seen not just in his uncritical support for the Islamophobic President Miloš Zeman, but also in the unequivocal rejection of solidarity with refugees he expressed during the Saint Václav pilgrimage in September 2017, or in his congratulatory letter sent to the chair of the quasi-Fascist SPD party, Tomio Okamura."

The activists also reproach Duka with "enjoying the use of spectacular insignias of power". In their view he should endeavor to return the original meaning of Christianity to the Church.

The letter was sent to the Vatican on Friday and copies will be sent to the Czech Bishop's Conference and to bishops affiliated with the Pope. Another reason organizers decided to hold the event was their effort to emancipate the laity within the Czech Catholic Church.

"We want to demonstrate that this is an opportunity for people to join the operation of the church," organizer Hana Blažková said. Cardinal Duka has said he does not want to comment on the protest.

"Lent began yesterday. Today, on Ash Wednesday, we should be putting ashes on our foreheads - and rather on our own foreheads than on the foreheads of those around us," Stanislav Zeman, spokesperson for the Archbishop of Prague, quoted him to the Czech News Agency.

The Christian activists chose Ash Wednesday for their "happening", which is when the Lenten fast begins and when Christians remember that they are dust and shall return to dust. The event was held by a group of Catholic laity, i.e., people who are neither monks or priests.

Their letter currently has more than 100 signatories. During today's "happening" the initiators of the letter read the remarks by Duka that they regard as unacceptable from a symbolic throne.

After the remarks were read they gradually fell away from a circle that was symbolizing the embrace of the Church, with each figure representing a frequently-excluded group of believers. Those groups included, for example, divorcees, gays, refugees, Romani women, single mothers and transwomen.

Their letter was condemned last week by Czech MEP Tomáš Zdechovský (Christian Democrats). "The Cardinal is my cardinal and a person for whom I have enormous appreciation because of the stand he took during communism and his work for the Church today," the MEP said.

An internet petition has been set up to support Duka beneath which more than 100 people have signed just today. Those signing include Czech MP Zuzana Majerová (Civic Democratic Party - ODS), the Rector of South Bohemian University, Tomáš Machula, and several clergy.

Czech MP Jan Skopeček (ODS) has also expressed support for Duka, saying he is an authority on morality and opinion. The Václav Klaus Institute also joined the defense of Duka today.

That institute said it especially appreciated the fact that Duka had given the Church an affable, open face, both with respect to citizens and the state itself, that he had halted the fighting over St. Vitus Cathedral, and that he had contributed to advocating for Church restitution. About seven of Duka's supporters attended the "happening" organized by his opponents today.

The supporters hung banners on the Archbishop's Palace and stood nearby. "We stand behind our Archbishop," one sign read.

Duka will celebrate his 75th birthday at the end of April and will therefore reach the age at which all Catholic bishops must resign. The Pope can, of course, extend his term in office.

The activists' letter is asking the Pope for a "change of personnel and acceleration of the appointment of a new Archbishop of Prague". Duka's predecessor, Miloslav Vlk, had his term extended by two years in 2007 by Pope Benedict XVI, who declined to accept his resignation.

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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