Czech Catholics call for top archbishop to stand down

Dominik Duka, photo: Filip Jandourek, Czech Radio

A group of Czech Catholics have written a letter urging Pope Francis not to prolong Cardinal Dominik Duka’s mandate as the Archbishop of Prague. Among the reasons stated in the letter are the alleged nationalist tendencies of the Church in the Czech Republic.

Dominik Duka,  photo: Filip Jandourek,  Czech Radio
Cardinal Dominik Duka, who has been serving as Prague Archbishop since 2010, will have to officially submit his resignation in April, when he turns 75. However, the Pope may decide to extend his mandate, as it happened in the past with Duka’s predecessor Miloslav Vlk.

But a group of Czech Catholic laymen oppose Cardinal Duka remaining in his post, urging the Pope to choose a new archbishop of Prague. Jan Bierhanzl, one of the signatories, says they don’t like the way the archbishopric has been managed for several years now.

One of their concerns is Duka’s friendship with former president Václav Klaus, who was invited to speak at his mass during the Feast of St Wenceslas in 2011. Klaus urged the church to join his fight against the social state.

Bierhanzl, who teaches philosophy at Charles University, elaborated:

Jan Bierhanzl,  photo: Charles University
“We don’t like the anti-social aspect of Duka’s mandate, which is also connected to the church restitutions he enforced. The restitutions were not introduced just to right the wrongs of the past. They were also used as a tool to support certain political tendencies.

“And recently, we don’t like his support for Tomio Okamura [leader of Freedom and Democracy Party] and their joint stand on security policy, as well as his support of president Miloš Zeman, a certain bonding with powerful people who tend to incline to the extreme right.”

The letter to Pope Francis has been signed by 100 Catholic laymen and has already been delivered to the Vatican. It has been supported by several priests, who wish to stay anonymous. So who would they like to see in Dominik Duka’s place? Jan Bierhanzl again:

“When we look at Pope Francis and Dominik Duka, we can see some striking differences, including their view on immigrants, social issues or criticism of capitalism.

Archbishop’s Palace,  photo: Kristýna Maková,  Czech Radio - Radio Prague
“We would like to see someone who is more like Pope Francis, but there is no such personality in the Czech Bishops’ Conference at the moment. But a cardinal can also be appointed from among ordinary priests, so maybe someone could be found there.”

The full wording of the letter is set to be published at a meeting in front of the Archbishop’s Palace on Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent and is a symbol of change. According to Bierhanzl, the meeting should remind church representatives that the church is constituted mainly by ordinary people, including representatives of racial and sexual minorities.

The spokesman of the Prague Archbishopric, Stanislav Zeman, said Cardinal Duka will not make any comment since he hasn’t seen the full version of the letter.