Czech and Slovak priests beatified

Pope John Paul beatified eight persons on Sunday - of the eight thus honored, one was a Czech and another a Slovak priest. Beatification is just one step from full sainthood and a very significant honour bestowed by the Catholic Church. Olga Szantova looks at the life and deaths of the two priests.

Bishop Pavol Peter Gojdic and father Metod Dominik Trcka were victims of the Communist persecution of churches. Both belonged to the Greek-Catholic Church in Eastern Slovakia, a church outlawed by the Communists. In 1950 both were arrested,convicted of treason and died in communist prisons.As Pope John Paul II said at the beatification ceremony on St. Peter's Square,

According to the spokesman of the Czech Bishops' Conference, Daniel Herman, the Czech and Slovak priests were among many servants of the church who suffered, and in many cases sacrificed their lives for their faith, during the years of communist oppression.

"There were very many of them. Practically all monasteries were closed in one night in April 1950 and all Fathers and also Brothers were arrested - several hundreds of priests who spent a part of their life in a prison."

And the nuns had a much similar fate. Many others, priests and nuns, who escaped arrest, worked underground. At the same time there was the official church, recognized and tolerated by the state. So how do these two traditions go together, have the persecuted part of the church and those of its representatives who had the backing of the state, come to terms after the Velvet Revolution? Father Herman does not think there has been any problem.

"Only some priests and some sisters were not allowed to serve officially. But it was only one Church. The so called underground Church was also an integral part of the official Catholic Church. The official, or so called official Church, the parishes and dioceses, the official style of service of this Church was supervised by the state police, and all Catholic schools were closed, and monasteries, hospitals and all activities of the Catholic charity were not allowed and all these activities were possible only underground. But I think that there was no gap between the official service of the Church and these underground structures."

Author: Olga Szantová
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