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Špidlík was born in 1919 in Boskovice, then Czechoslovakia, now Czech Republic. In 1938, he entered the Department of Philosophy at the University of Brno, in what is now the Czech Republic. In the following year, he entered the Jesuit novitiate and after many interruptions in his education due to World War II, he was ordained a priest of the Society of Jesus on 22 August 1949 in Maastricht.in 1949. A year later, in Florence, he finished his formation period as a Jesuit.
In 1951, Špidlík was called to Rome by Vatican Radio. The programs broadcast to the countries behind the Iron Curtain were a precious aid to a freedom in danger of being slowly but inexorably suffocated. From this work with Vatican Radio sprang a special mission that would always accompany him and that made him known in lands despite their communist domination. Among others, he met with Alexander Dubček, the former first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, and Václav Havel, who became president of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic after the fall of the communist regime. Špidlík's Sunday homilies in the Czech language have been translated and published in various languages including Polish, Romanian and Italian.
He lived in Rome from 1951 until his death.
In 1995 he delivered the annual Lenten retreat meditations for the pope and officials of the Roman Curia. In June he defended his doctoral dissertation at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome. That year marked the beginning of his university career as a professor of Patristic and Eastern Spiritual Theology at various universities in Rome. Špidlík became known as an expert in the spirituality of Eastern Christianity.
For 38 years he was the spiritual director of the Pontifical Nepomuceno Seminary, the old Bohemian Seminary.
On 21 October 2003, at the age of 83, he was created Cardinal Deacon of the titular church of Sant'Agata dei Goti. Although he was not a voting cardinal, he was created a cardinal in recognition of his theological writings.
The Cardinal was a prolific author and was equally acknowledged in the academic and international fields. He was chosen Man of the Year, 1990 and "the most admired person of the decade" by the American Bibliographical Institute of Raleigh in North Carolina, was received at the Kremlin, led the spiritual exercises of Pope John Paul II and his Curia, and was decorated with the medal of the Masaryk Order, one of the highest honors of the Czech State, by president Václav Havel.
He died in Rome on 16 April 2010.
- Tsjechische curiekardinaal kreeg priesteropleiding in Maastricht – http://www.l1.nl/L1NWS/_pid/links4/_rp_links4_firstElementId/1_4553755/_rp_links4_hasclickpage/1_1013
- Allen Jr., John L. (13 April 2005). "Two conclave preachers are open, ecumenical". National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
- Walsh, Mary Ann (2005). From Pope John Paul II to Benedict XVI. Rowman and Littlefield. pp. 52–3, 93. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
- Spirituality of the Christian East: A Systematic Handbook (Cistercian Studies) Language: English ISBN 0-87907-979-7 ISBN 978-0879079796
- Prayer: The Spirituality Of The Christian East Vol.2 Publisher: Liturgical Press (30 July 2005) ISBN 0-87907-706-9 ISBN 978-0879077068
- Drinking from the Hidden Fountain: A Patristic Breviary : Ancient Wisdom for Today's World (Cistercian Studies, No 148) Publisher: Cistercian Publications (June 1994) ISBN 0-87907-348-9 ISBN 978-0879073480
- Geist und Erkenntnis: Zu spirituellen Grundlagen Europas : Festschrift zum 65. Geburtstag von Prof. ThDr. Tomas Spidlik SJ (Integrale Anthropologie) Publisher: Minerva Publikation (1985) Language: German ISBN 3-597-10314-6 ISBN 978-3597103149
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- Le chemin de l'esprit: Retraite au Vatican (Initiations) (French Edition) Publisher: Fates (1996) Language: French ISBN 2-204-05461-5 ISBN 978-2204054614
- Ignazio di Loyola e la spiritualita Orientale: Guida alla lettura degli Esercizi (Religione e societa) (Italian Edition) Publisher: Edizioni Studium (1994) Language: Italian ISBN 88-382-3693-3 ISBN 978-8838236938
- Zive slovo: Denni evangelium (Czech Edition) Publisher: Refugium Velehrad-Roma; Vyd. 1 edition (1997) Language: Czech ISBN 80-86045-13-7 ISBN 978-8086045139
- Sculptured Prayer: Twelve works of Helen Zelezny interpreted by Thomaso Spidlik. Rome 1968. Language English. Finito di stampare nello Stabilimento di Arti Grafiche Fratelli Palombi in Roma