Roman Catholicism in the Czech Republic
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There are 1.08 million Catholics in the country representing about 1/10 of the total population (census 2011). There are eight dioceses including two archdiocese. In addition, there is a separate jurisdiction for those of the Byzantine Rite. Although the Catholic Church is the largest Christian religious grouping in the country, Czechs have historically been more loosely attached to the church for nationalistic reasons, such as Hussite influence, the Habsburg rule, and communist regime, in contrast to the Poles, who stayed more attached. In other words, Catholicism has been seen by the Czechs as the religion of their former Austrian imperial masters, thereby making it easy for anticlericals to use nationalism to get the Czechs to give up the faith; whereas it was seen by Poles as a consolation and a distinguishing trait against their Prussian and Russian imperial masters.
For about two centuries, between the death of Jan Hus in 1415 and their subjugation in the Thirty Years' War in 1625, the Czechs were Hussites, a sect considered heretical by the Catholic Church. After that, they were re-converted to Catholicism by the imperial authorities. The Czechs were solidly Catholic until after World War I, when anti-Catholicism fed by nationalist anti-German sentiment caused mass defections from the Church. The reconstituted Protestant Hussite Church and the Czech Brethren were major beneficiaries of this defection from Catholicism until after World War II, when the Czechs largely abandoned them too (see linked articles); Protestants have proved vulnerable to atheism under Communist rule, with formerly Protestant East Germany and Estonia (see linked articles) also having irreligious majorities. In addition, the Sudeten Germans, who were those Austrians who ended up within Czech borders after World War I, were mostly Catholics, and their expulsion after World War II also reduced the Church's presence. Over 90% Catholic in 1910, the Czech Republic is now less Catholic than Scotland.
The Communist regime, which seized power in 1948 in what was then Czechoslovakia, confiscated all the property owned by churches and persecuted many priests. Churches were then allowed to function only under the state's strict control and supervision and priests' salaries paid by the state. Churches were seized, priests jailed or executed and those allowed to lead religious services did so under the supervision of the secret police. After the Velvet Revolution, some churches and monasteries were returned, but the churches have since sought to get back other assets such as farms, woodlands and buildings.
During the Communist regime, various underground Catholic movements existed. Among these is the Koinotes group, centered on Bishop Felix Davidek, whose vicar general was Ludmila Javorová, ordained by him to the presbyterate.
In January 2012 the Czech government agreed to pay billions of dollars in compensation for property seized by the former totalitarian regime to the Church. The compensation plan — to be spread over 30 years — proved a win-win situation: The state no longer wanted to pay the priests' salaries, and religious organizations expressed relief after previous failed attempts.
Under the plan, the country's 17 churches, including Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox, would get 56 percent of their former property now held by the state — estimated at 75 billion koruna ($3.7 billion) — and 59 billion koruna ($2.9 billion) in financial compensation paid to them over the next 30 years. Eighty percent of funds and property will go the Catholic Church, by far the biggest recipient.The state will also gradually stop covering their expenses over the next 17. In 2008, a similar bill was approved by the government but Parliament rejected it.
- Province of Bohemia
- Province of Moravia
- Apostolic Exarchate in the Czech Republic (immediately subject to the Holy See)
- Military Vicarate of Czech Republic
About 200 of the Czech Republic's 1,370 priests are from neighbouring Poland.
- Political Catholicism in Europe 1918-1945, Volume I; Wolfram Kaiser and Helmut Wohnout, editors, pp. 181-2
- "Church restitution opponents in papal plea," Jonathan Luxmoore, THE TABLET, 25 May 2013, 25.
- "Churches compensated for seized properties," CHRISTIANITY TODAY, November 2011, 12.
- pl:Kościół katolicki w Czechach