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Czech Catholic bishop, first winner of the Arnošt Lustig Prize: "We are living in a time without ideals"

Prague, 9.3.2012 17:04, (ROMEA)

Catholic bishop Václav Malý, who became the first winner of the Arnošt Lustig Prize yesterday in Prague, said that the key to personal happiness does not lie in the economic indicators of one's standard of living, but in human relationships and the awareness that one is supported by others. "We are living in a time without ideals," Malý believes.

The bishop said that what makes a great personality is someone whose convictions are firm throughout life. "It is not good to just sail through life from day to day watching what will happen next," he said. In his view, people can only achieve satisfaction when they face themselves and seek out the good and not-so-good sides of their own personalities. Malý completed his speech with quotations from the Psalms and Lustig's works.

The prize was founded by the Czech-Israeli Mutual Chamber of Commerce (Česko-izraelská smíšená obchodní komora) on the first anniversary of the death of Arnošt Lustig to permanently honor the memory of the world-renowned humanist and prose writer, as well as the events of the Holocaust. Members of the committee to select the first holder of the prize sought a personality who embodied the characteristics of courage, fortitude, humanism and justice. "This is an appreciation of the values that Arnošt [Lustig] uniquely embodied," prize founder Pavel Smutný said.

"The Arnošt Lustig Prize comes at a time when society is painfully lacking in ethical values," said Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas (Civic Democrats - ODS), who delivered the prize. In his own speech, the PM underlined Lustig's moral strength. The chair of the 15-member prize selection committee, former Czech PM Jan Fischer, pointed out that Lustig and Malý were linked by personal fortitude and humility. "... no era is so evil that there is no room for heroism in it, and no era is so good that cowardice entirely disappears," Fischer said.

As a Catholic priest, Václav Malý became one of the faces of the events of 1989 in the former Czechoslovakia and was the moderator of an enormous pro-democracy demonstration on Prague's Letná plain. "Václav Malý demonstrated great internal strength and integrity when, in November 1989, he resisted the temptations of power, remained a priest, became a bishop, and never stopped being himself in that office," Fischer said.

Malý, a Charter 77 signatory, remained active in public life. In January 1997 he became a suffragan bishop in Prague. In recent years his name has often been mentioned as a possible successor to former Archbishop Miloslav Vlk. At the start of 2010, Dominik Duka became the new Archbishop of Prague.

Lustig passed away last year on 25 February at the age of 84. The main topic of his writing was the Holocaust as experienced by defenseless individuals. As a Jewish youth, Lustig was imprisoned at Terezín (Theresienstadt), Auschwitz and Buchenwald. He saved his life by fleeing a transport. His writings captured the most intimate details of his heroes' lives and always described their suffering in a dispassionate, sober manner. However, he lived through all of these hardships with a sense of humor that never left him. He was an example of what has been termed the second wave of wartime authors.

ČTK, Gwendolyn Albert, Czech Press Agency, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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