Czech Cardinal’s last wish to be respected after almost 50 years

Cardinal Josef Beran, photo: CTK

The remains of exiled Czech Cardinal Josef Beran have been taken from the Vatican’s St Peter’s Basilica. On Friday, they will be flown to Prague and later buried in Prague’s St. Vitus Cathedral. Cardinal Beran was exiled to Rome in 1965 and died there four years later. He was buried in the Vatican because the communist authorities didn’t approve his final wish for his body to be returned to his homeland.

Cardinal Josef Beran,  photo: CTK
The remains of Cardinal and Prague Archbishop Josef Beran were taken out of St Peter’s Basilica, the final resting place of popes, on Thursday evening in the presence of a Czech delegation comprising church and state representatives.

Along with the coffin, a small bag with earth from Beran’s homeland, which was placed in his grave in 1969, was also taken out from the chapel to be returned to the Czech Republic. A commemorative plaque will be installed in St Peter’s Basilica as a permanent memorial to the Czech cardinal, whose name became a symbol of resistance to the communist regime.

The coffin was then moved to the Nepomucenum, the Czech papal college in Rome, where the cardinal died in 1969. Zdeněk Wasserbauer, auxiliary bishop for the Prague archdiocese, who is involved in the beatification process of Cardinal Beran, shared a memory of one of Beran’s fellow prisoners from the Nazi Dachau concentration camp:

“When work was interrupted at noon, all the prisoners rushed to stand in line for food. But Beran went to the chapel to kneel before Christ and pray, risking that no food would be left. Isn’t this the greatest example of inner freedom?”

The event was attended by dozens of church representatives, but also by ordinary Czechs living in Rome, some of whom attended Cardinal Beran’s burial back in 1969.

The Czech delegation was headed by Culture Minister Ilja Šmíd, who said Beran’s return to his homeland was a big triumph and a final end to his emigration. He also said the repatriation of Cardinal Beran could help improve relations between Czech society and the Catholic Church. According to the Czech ambassador to the Vatican, Pavel Vošalík, repatriation of Cardinal Beran to his homeland could be an inspiration for his compatriots:

Ilja Šmíd,  photo: CTK
“Cardinal Beran’s story will be concluded, but at the same time it will live on as an experience, a lesson or a message that we will take to the Czech Republic with us.

“Hopefully, someone will think about what the cardinal warned against and what he suffered for, and whether this only applies to the past.”

A liturgy will be held in the Nepomucenum college in Rome on Friday afternoon before the remains of Cardinal Beran are flown to his homeland.

Half a century after his death, cardinal Beran’s last wish to be buried at home will be finally fulfilled on Monday, when his coffin will be put in the tomb of Prague archbishops in Saint Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle.