The Archbishop of Prague Dominik Duka to be inaugurated as the head of the Czech Catholic Church in St. Vitus Cathedral

Dominik Duka, photo: CTK

Dominik Duka, who was appointed the 36th Archbishop of Prague in mid-February, will be officially inaugurated as the head of the Czech Catholic Church at a solemn mass celebrated in St Vitus Cathedral on Saturday April 10.

The 66-year old Dominik Duka, the former bishop of Hradec Králové, will succeed Cardinal Miloslav Vlk as the head of Czech Roman Catholics. Hand-picked for office by the Vatican after long deliberations, Duka is seen as a man of consensus. The list of guests invited to Saturday’s solemn mass in St. Vitus Cathedral reflects this – a mix of politicians and cultural figures, Catholic and Protestant dignitaries as well as members of the Prague Jewish community.

Dominik Duka,  photo: CTK
The very cathedral where the solemn mass is being celebrated is an issue of contention between the state and the Czech Catholic Church who have fought an ownership battle over it for 17 years. Archbishop Dominik Duka says he will push for a solution acceptable for all.

“I will try to spread the message to all Czechs that this Cathedral is ours. It belongs to the Czech people. Of course it is a shrine of God, that is how it was built. But it is also a pantheon of Czech kings. And those kings wanted it to be a symbol of the spiritual renaissance of the nation.”

Although this is a sentiment few could find fault with, the new head of the Czech Catholic Church, will soon find himself involved in a protracted court battle over the Cathedral in which the state has uncompromisingly staked its right for ownership.

He will also be expected to oversee dozens of restitution claims for church property seized by the communist regime for which the Church was never fully compensated. He will be expected to find money for repairs of dozens of churches in desperate need of maintenance. And, above all, he will be expected to address the fact that the Czech Republic is one of the few remaining countries in Europe that have not yet ratified a treaty with the Vatican.

At present the new Prague Archbishop is radiating optimism and many believe that his communication skills will serve him well in tackling the tasks ahead. The outgoing head of the Czech Catholic Church, Cardinal Miloslav Vlk was the first to wish him well – saying he hoped the new archbishop would succeed where he himself had failed – and generously clearing the field for him. Shortly after retiring the cardinal will head for Israel where he plans to spend several years devoted to religious studies.