Churches around Old Town Square hold "open day" event

Church of St Salvatore, photo: CTK

On Monday organisers from different Christian denominations in Prague held an open-door event at a number of important Prague churches in and around Prague's Old Town Square. From four pm onwards churches not normally accessible at this time of day, like St Salvatore's or St Nicholas' church, were kept open with organised activities meant to attract believers and non-believers alike.

Church of St Salvatore,  photo: CTK
Small children on Monday afternoon at the Church of St Salvatore watch as a group of older kids performs children's theatre. It is the first time different denominations in Prague have held an open-day event like this one, lasting into the evening hours. A concert has been planned, as well as a discussion on the European Union, in the hopes of attracting both believers and non-believers. I was able to speak to Martin Horalek, the spokesman for the Czech Bishop's conference, who told me this year was something like a first "test" for an event that could be repeated annually.

"We decided to prepare a programme in the churches which can be open for ordinary people, which means concerts, a programme for children, or just introducing new countries in the European Union. It's the first time and we're just trying it. We just want to see if people will appreciate it and if they do we may try to repeat this kind of event every year, but we will see how it will be taken by the population."

Church of St Salvatore,  photo: CTK
Certainly it has to be said that despite a fair amount of publicity, turn-out at the event I attended was fairly sparse: only a few dozen adults at most. Almost everyone I was able to speak to was a strong believer and many of them were sceptical about the event attracting people who are not normally involved in the church. Most said, if anything, it was rather a chance for adherents from different denominations within the Christian faith to meet. One visitor I spoke with had this to say:

"I think that this type of event is important because it gives us a chance to meet. I've been walking around and haven't even had a chance to see everything yet, but I really feel that whether Catholic or Evangelist we are all one family. "

Church officials are of course well aware that the Czech Republic has long ranked as one of the world's most secular societies, one reason why many think innovative activities must reach out to potential new members. If there is some hope for the church, Martin Horalek indicated, it is perhaps in the fact that many non-believers still retain ties on at least a few occasions, namely at Christmas or Easter. Even non-believers here often attend mass, attracted by a sense of tradition and mystery. Martin Horalek again:

"We can see every Christmas, every Easter, that people who feel they are atheists, have somewhere inside their heart a kind of Christian seed, and they are attracted to the church during these periods. So, we hope that if can attract people into the churches they will lose their fear and learn that we are ordinary people who will prepare something for them and their kids."