Josef Beran

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His Eminence
Josef Beran
Servant of God
Archbishop of Prague
Church Roman Catholic Church
Archdiocese Prague
Metropolis Prague
See Prague
Installed 4 November 1946
Term ended 17 May 1969
Predecessor Karel Kašpar
Successor František Tomášek
Other posts Cardinal-Priest of Santa Croce in Via Flaminia
Ordination 10 June 1911
Consecration 8 December 1946
by Saverio Ritter
Created Cardinal 22 February 1965
by Pope Paul VI
Rank Cardinal-Priest
Personal details
Birth name Josef Beran
Born (1888-12-29)29 December 1888
Plzeň, Bohemia
Died 17 May 1969(1969-05-17) (aged 80)
Rome, Lazio, Italy
Buried Saint Peter's Basilica, Vatican City
Motto Eucharistia et labor ("Eucharist and labor")
Coat of arms
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Title as Saint Servant of God
Attributes Cardinal's attire
Styles of
Josef Beran
Reference style His Eminence
Spoken style Your Eminence
Informal style Cardinal
See Prague

Josef Beran (29 December 1888 – 17 May 1969) was a Czech cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as the Archbishop of Prague from 1946 until his death and was elevated into the cardinalate in 1965.

His cause of canonization commenced in 1997 and this bestowed upon him the title of Servant of God. He was granted the rare honor of being buried in the Vatican and remains the sole Czech national to be buried there.


Early life and priesthood[edit]

Josef Beran was born in Plzeň in 1888 as the son of a schoolteacher. He was the eldest son.

Beran studied at the seminary in Plzeň and later at the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome. He was ordained to the priesthood on 10 June 1911 in Rome and then did pastoral work in Pilsen until 1932. Beran was made the spiritual director of the Prague seminary and served as a professor at Charles University in 1932. He was raised to the rank of Privy Chamberlain of His Holiness on 11 June 1936 by Pope Pius XI. Beran ensured that Pope Pius XI's encyclical Mit brennender Sorge, condemning Nazism, was published throughout Prague.

Arrested by the Gestapo on 6 June 1940, Beran was later imprisoned without trial in Pankrác, Theresienstadt (alongside Štěpán Trochta), and the Dachau concentration camp in Germany. It was there that a typhoid epidemic almost killed him, and he remained there until May 1945 after the camp was liberated by American forces. Upon his immediate return to Prague, President of Czechoslovakia Edvard Beneš decorated him with the Iron Cross and the medal of Hero of the Resistance - the two highest honors the nation had.

Episcopate and imprisonment[edit]

On 4 November 1946, he was appointed as the Archbishop of Prague and thus the leader of the church in Czechoslovakia by Pope Pius XII. Beran received his episcopal consecration on the following 8 December from Archbishop Saverio Ritter, with Bishops Maurice Picha and Anton Eltschkner serving as the co-consecrators.

On the election of Klement Gottwald, the Stalinist president of Czechoslovakia in 1948, Beran had a Te Deum sung for the new president in the Prague Cathedral. Following the rise of the Communist regime of Czechoslovakia in 1948, Beran however prohibited his clergy from taking an oath of loyalty to the new regime (viewing such an action as a "treason to the Christian faith"[1]), and publicly protested the seizure of property exclusively belonged to the Archdiocese of Prague[2] as well as the infringement of religious freedom.[3]

He declared: "The Catholic Church should enjoy the absolute freedom to which it has a right, both God-given and guaranteed by the existing Constitution."[4] He condemned as schismatic the Communist government-approved Czech Catholic Action.[5]

In June 1949 Beran was placed under house arrest and complained of being "deprived of all personal freedom and all rights as the archbishop".[6] He was convicted in a show trial.[7] He later willingly re-entered imprisonment, this time in Mukařov and Radvanov by the Communists from 1949 to 1963.

It was a widespread rumour that Beran was one of the three prelates elevated into the College of Cardinals reserved in pectore by Pope John XXIII in the papal consistory of 28 March 1960, but upon the latter's death in 1963, it was never known if that was indeed true.

The Czech primate was impeded from exercising his episcopal ministry upon his release. He offered his resignation to the pope repeatedly, but his resignation was always refused. Eventually, he went to live in Rome in February 1965 in exchange for governmental concessions to the Church.[8]

Cardinalate and death[edit]

Pope Paul VI elevated him into the cardinalate and created him Cardinal-Priest of Santa Croce in Via Flaminia in the consistory on 22 February 1965.

Also in 1965, Cardinal Beran participated in the last session of the Second Vatican Council. During the Council's discussion on its document Dignitatis humanae, he suggested that expiation for past attacks on religious liberty was a possible cause of the Church's modern suffering.[9]

The cardinal died from lung cancer[3] in Rome in 1969 at the age of 80. When Pope Paul VI learned of the cardinal's precarious health condition in 1969, he rushed to visit the ailing cardinal, but Beran had died only a few minutes before the pontiff reached his bedside. He is buried in the grotto of St. Peter's Basilica.

Beatification process[edit]

On 2 April 1998 the Archdiocese of Prague opened his beatification process after the formal cause commenced at the beginning of 1997. This conferred upon him the title of Servant of God.


  1. ^ TIME Magazine. Transition October 24, 1949
  2. ^ TIME Magazine. Freedom for a Fighter October 11, 1963
  3. ^ a b TIME Magazine. Milestones May 23, 1969
  4. ^ TIME Magazine. "A Positive Attitude" May 30, 1949
  5. ^ TIME Magazine. Hour of Trial July 4, 1949
  6. ^ TIME Magazine. Legal Actions? August 29, 1949
  7. ^ JSTOR
  8. ^ TIME Magazine. Tremors of Change March 29, 1968
  9. ^ TIME Magazine. A Blow for Liberty October 1, 1965

External links[edit]

Religious titles
Preceded by
Karel Kašpar
Archbishop of Prague
Succeeded by
František Tomášek