Czech Catholics arrive in the Vatican for a three-day pilgrimage
More than a thousand Czech Roman Catholics are currently converging on the Vatican to give thanks for the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the Czech Republic one year ago. The visit is all the more significant to the Czech Church just now, days after the pontiff cited the Czech Republic specifically when speaking of what he called the “tragic” spread of atheism. Hana Frančáková of the Pilgrimage Centre of the Bishopric of Hradec Králové was at the Vatican today. On the phone from there, she told me what the roughly 1,300 faithful will be doing on their three-day pilgrimage.
Why have you organised this just now, as opposed to some other time? I suppose it has been a year since the pope’s visit to the Czech Republic.
With a year of hindsight, do you feel that the pope’s visit changed anything?
“Yes. I saw many people who were not believers or church-goers and they were really touched. I spoke with several people who were not Catholics or who were not even Christians, and they all said it was such a beautiful occasion when the Holy Father was here, it was something special. So I think it was beautiful, and many people may have changed the way they see the Church, but that is just my own personal opinion as a layperson.”
The Czech Republic is an atheistic country, it’s even becoming more so. Is one of your aims to show the pope that there are believers in the Czech Republic?
“We are an atheistic country, but we really should renew – rebuild – the traditional faith, the traditional way of thinking and our traditional way of Christianity in the Czech Republic. And our pilgrimage is really about giving thanks to God for the visit of the Holy Father, and we would really like to express to the Holy Father that we are not only a nation of atheists. We love God very much, and we would like to change whatever is not best about the Church in our country; we would like to show that we are really in the family of God.”