From a reader in the Czech Republic about papal trip

A note from a reader in the Czech Republic:

I come from the Czech republic and I am quite frustrated that the pope`s visit gets such a negative response in the English blogs – or no response at all… In reality, it was fantastic!
There was a lot of symbolism which foreigners do not understand. For example: The first place he went (at his own request), the church of Our Lady of Victory, it is THE church – the symbol of recatholisation of the country. In the year 1620 catholics defeated protestants and this particular church in Praha got "victorious" this name. A general of carmelites, P. Dominic a Jesu Maria, found a picture of Our Lady in South Bohemia, where protestants erased Her and little Jesus`eyes – he took picture with him and before the battle of White Mountain he showed it to the catholic army generals and asked them to atack and promised God`s help. They did it, they won and the carmelites got that church afterwards. (The picture P. Dominic found, was to be seen in Sta Maria della Vittoria in Roma until the 19th century.) The catholic king of Bohemia, emperor Ferdinand II, punished the protestant rebels (who began the 30 -years war) and threw them out of the country.
In 1918, when the Habsburg empire collapsed, the Czech republican politicians wanted to distance them from the past and created Czech hussite church. The majority of the people stayed catholics, but the "political correct" historiography at schools became: "We are a hussite country, catholics were the bad ones in history". One gets brainwashed with this still now at school, even the the most people believing in God are catholics – protestants are very very few.
It was extremely courageous of Benedikt XVI to choose just this church, the symbol itself…
The interior Church situation in the Czech republic is like this: We were spared after the 2. Vatican Council of its "Spirit", because of communism. When one fights communism, one has no time for "Spirit" of Council. It came after revolution in 1989. Some bishops we got then were bad, some weak. All of them afraid of cardinal Vlk (Wolf) – one says: episcopus episcopo Lupus. I have seen the most beautiful churches destroyed because of the "Spirit" in 1990s, they are being destroyed still. My professor of art history comforted us students once: "Do not cry, the priests responsible for this come to hell." So, imagine the 1970s in Western Europe and you get the picture of the situation in the Czech republic lately. Celebrity priests (all liberal, of course) laugh at the traditional catholic way of praying, of attitudes, of belief…
So the pope comes now and goes to this church of Our Lady of Victory, THE catholic church, and gives a crown to Infant of Prague. Can he make a better gesture to support the traditional catholics? An intellectual, giving a crown to an old miraculous doll. Then he meets priests and nuns in the cathedral. Does he talk to them, discuss something? No, he just prays together with them. Vesper, in Latin, nice music. (And all the Czech nuns are dressed like nuns, of course.) He demonstrates without words: This is the stuff you ought to do, this is your job – to pray.
Then he arrives to Brno in Moravia. 120 000 people come to mass, which is in Latin, too. No big concelebration, the 40 bishops are placed somewhere invisible, only the local one concelebrates (no Vlk to be seen). Pope says to people after the mass: "Take care of your inherited catholic tradition…" Then he speaks of Our Lady of Hostyn (who saved Moravians from tartars in 1241). He venerates Her as we always did.
All this is just the opposite we have always heard from Vlk and TV -priests. We got pope`s absolute support for all we have always believed in and what some of the bishops tried to take away from us.
Only a half year ago Vlk threatened Vatican with people rebellion like in Austria, because he did not get permission to appoint his successor in Praha. (He writes about it on his blog, but only in Czech). But now, during the visit, while we watched the live transmission, it looked like the Czech bishops got the message – they looked like they finally understood the times have changed and the "Spirit" is not popular anymore. I really hope it lasts and I hope the good nuncius gets through with a good archbishop to Praha this year, in spite of the opposition.
The good nuncius said before the papal visit: "This country has the most beautiful baroque in Europa, and it is because the churches were built while the Church was triumphant. The churches "smile". The landskape looks christian. Not only because of all the churches, but there is something more in it, some christian expression from the past still living which one should preserve."
He got it, nuncius, and the pope knows it, too. He is from Bayern and he understands…
As for the politics, the visit was a success, too. The usually very arrogant Czech president looked changed. Nobody protested even when pope reminded us about how St. Wenceslaus behaved to his neighbour countries – again, foreigners do not understand, but: St. Wenceslaus did not want war with Germans, so he prefered to be a subject of the German emperor and pay tribute. Now there are quarrels with Sudet Germans about the property confiscated after the last war.. It was so brave of Benedikt XVI to mention this –
He touched dynamite at every step, he was very brave, and proudly (for once) I must say, that he was well received, both from the politicians and from the bishops. (Normal catholics love him, of course.)
Sorry about a mail so long, but as I appreciate your articles, I just wanted you to know that there was more to this visit than eyes of foreigners can see. It was a victory!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. ghp95134 says:

    Dear Czech Correspondent,

    Thank you very much for such a wonderful situation report! I especially like the quote of the Nuncio: “This country has the most beautiful baroque in Europa, and it is because the churches were built while the Church was triumphant. The churches “smile”. The landskape looks christian. Not only because of all the churches, but there is something more in it, some christian expression from the past still living which one should preserve.” Compare your churches with those built in the US recently …. some of our churches smile, but many have merely a vacant look in their eyes.

    Thank you very much!

  2. ssoldie says:

    What a wonderful letter, ‘so be it’.

  3. Thanks for the super-interesting post!

    It sounds like the Holy Father was attacking the most urgent local problems first. So it’s still “brick by brick”, but different bricks than the ones he’s using elsewhere.

    I’m really sorry now that I didn’t see more of the EWTN programming. They did have a special show about Our Lady of Victory with Fr. Groeschel and a young Carmelite priest from there, and that was full of information and good footage. (They even showed a picture of the nuns dressing the Infant of Prague.)

  4. rosebudsal says:

    That was a nice email and was heartened to read it. I have a soft for the Czechs and the country. I have yet to visit but have Czech friends and so one day I will.

  5. Henry Edwards says:

    In reality, it was fantastic! . . . Vespers, in Latin, nice music. (And all the Czech nuns are dressed like nuns, of course.)

    I agree. I watched on EWTN the solemn 1st Vespers of Sunday at the cathedral in Prague, and it was more “Say the Black, Do the Red” than any vespers I’ve ever seen, including the very nice solemn vespers services broadcast from St. Peter’s during recent Benedictine years.

    Everything was Gregorian chanted – with all those wonderful Czech nuns seemingly joining in. Starting with the proper Latin hymn for that Vespers, not substituted for, as lamentably often happens even in the big papal Vespers in Rome; the Magnificat a nice polyphonic arrangement. No lay persons trooping up for a reading or the intercessions; I believe this is the first time I’ve ever heard the intercessions chanted in Latin right out of the Liturgia Horarum instead of the usual dreadful vernacular tower of lay Babel at this point. In fact, the only words of spoken or sung in vernacular I heard anywhere were in the Czech translation of the Pope’s homily in Italian. (And the Vatican radio voice over commentary that could have been dispensed with, especially in a couple of instances where it was incorrect).

    This was the only part of the trip I watched, and it gave me the impression that the Czech republic must have been spared the spirit of Vatican II travails of the West.

  6. gloriainexcelsis says:

    This brings me to tears. God bless and protect our Holy Father.

  7. Mariana says:

    Very nice! Thank you!

  8. mpm says:


    I very much appreciate your “color” commentary. I saw the Mass at Brno, and frankly, I was very impressed with how Catholic everybody seemed to be. Rather than a throwback to the past, I thought of it as a vision of the future!

    So, in the end, Communism was good for something!

    Thanks for sharing this, Fr. Z.

  9. pforrester says:

    That was soooooooo enlightening. We in the west would NEVER have known! Thank you dear faithful Czech correspondent.

  10. GOR says:

    Yes, thank you Czech correspondent for the wonderful report, the background and symbolism of the Holy Father’s visit. Pope Benedict certainly does lead by example. Would that more people – clergy and lay – recognized that and followed it!

  11. Sleepyhead says:

    I visited Estonia a few months back and when I went into the Russian Orthdox churches I thought I was in Heaven! When I attended Catholic masses, I thought of Fr Z and how he would shake his head in sadness. But a priest there told me the number of new Catholics is slowly but steadily growing.

  12. frobuaidhe says:

    Excellent post. Very informative. Exactly the commentary we needed and didn’t get from the mainstream providers.

  13. Hidden One says:

    Now tens of thousands of internationally located Catholics know and will know what happened. Thank you, Czech correspondent.

  14. kgurries says:

    Thanks for this great post. As I read the Papal speaches I could sense the magnitude of the moment — it was a victory!

  15. Rachel says:

    Thanks for that very interesting and informative letter! I especially liked this part: ‘We were spared after the 2. Vatican Council of its “Spirit”, because of communism. When one fights communism, one has no time for “Spirit” of Council.’

    I can easily believe that if you need real religion in time of danger or persecution, the “Spirit of Vatican II” gets shown up for the silliness it is.

  16. chaplaintx1 says:

    Reader from the Czech republic,
    I was very moved by your letter Refer; the papal visit of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI. When he walks into a room all feel a special presence. The Leader of Christen World This Pope, this man of God, this humble Priest, Bishop of Rome,. He is an Example of Gods Love to all mankind. As history has shown he walks in the light of God and has no fear. No English blogs or any other commentary can diminish the victory of his visit to The Czech Republic, His message comes upon the people not only from his words, his smile, yet from his genuine love of Gods people. Gods love, caring for all and only settling for Justice for all. He has left an indelible mark on the people of the Czech Republic, All the people Farmers, officials, every day men and woman on the streets of the cities. And as in the past this mark, it will be upon the people of The Czech republic and your land and this victory will be repeated in the hearts of People a grace and a strength to reunite in gods love , answering to his call to vocations and to the service of Gods people. The People of Gods Holy Church.
    It’s always a wonderment to see the ways of God as he brings to each of us one another. In February 2008 while in the Holy Land I was assisting at Mass In the area of the Garden of Gethsemani at The Church of All Nations. The President of The Czech Republic Walk into the sanctuary with large group of men, I knew it was the president because the Father told me he was informed he might arrive during the mass. It was at the beginning of the liturgy of the Eucharist. The President Reverently stopped and all who were with him as he look upon the alter and embraced the moment I notice his eyes were not afar they were gentle and consumed and in my mine I wonder to think what kind of soul was he, God must be touching him.
    And so my brothers in Christ Jesus your Victory is Gods victory, and I pray that you experience this victory for years to come
    God be with you

  17. Renaud Artru says:

    I am sorry to say that the reader in Czech Republic is certainly not a Czech. He would have not said such things about Czech history and would have not written St Venceslav with a “w” that does not exist in Czech.
    I travelled from France to Prag to attend the Pope visit. It started with a big mistake, the visit to “Our Lady of the Victory”. The so called “victory” is in fact the defeat of the Czech army, Catholic and Protestant together, at Bila Hora in 1620, beated by the German Catholic coalition headed by a French (Bucqoy). After that, the Czech nation disappeared for 300 years (up to 1918). Imagine the Pope celebrating in London the Victory of Hitler over the British people during the Blitz and you would feel what the Czechs felt last month. In fact, apart from people invited inside the church, there were very few Czechs to welcome the Pope in Karmelitska, but Poles, Spanish and Slovacs.
    Fortunately the mass on monday at Stara Boleslav was a success with nearly 50.000 people, most of them young and foreign (Germans, Austrians, Poles and Slovacs). The mass was beautiful and Benedikt XVI speach very wise.
    There will be no oecumenism in Prag as long as Rome will not rehabilitate Jan Hus who is a Catholic priest and a theologian who was falsely accused of heresy because he fought the sale of indulgencies by pope John XXIII (the first one, who is burried in Florence baptistary) to finance its war against an other pope and because he denounced simony and the “unchristian” life of most prelates at that time. For most Czech Catholics, Jan Hus is an Holy Martyr. Rome should realize that.

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