Pope John Paul II

In today's programme: reactions to the death of Pope John Paul II and Radio Prague's Letter from Prague programme; Radio Prague's listeners' competitions. Listeners quoted: Mary Louise Krenek, US; Irene Dever, US; Thomas Kuca, US; Johnatan Murphy, Ireland; Sue Toulson, UK.

Pope John Paul II
Welcome to Mailbox. The biggest international story this week has been, of course, the death of Pope John Paul II. Radio Prague too devoted attention to this sad event, and we have received a lot of responses.

This one is from our faithful listener Mary Louise Krenek from Texas.

"My words of sympathy are sent to you on the death of Pope John Paul II. His role in the fall of Communism definitely had overtones in Czechoslovakia because of your unique relationship in Eastern Europe with Poland. He was a great and saintly man. We will miss him."

And Irene Dever, also from the United States wrote:

"Being an American but of Slovak decent, I feel a great closeness to my family in such a far away land. The peace that our Holy Father has given us has united our countries and people together. We pray for his soul and ask him to bless us from heaven."

And a third letter arrived from New York from Thomas Kuca:

"I have read your on-line articles on the passing of Pope John Paul II. One of the Pope's many accomplishments is "ending Communism". This achievement is mentioned in the US media as well. Yet, in all the credit that the Pope is given for this, I have not read any specifics on what exactly the Pope did to end Communism, beyond giving "moral support" to dissidents opposed to the regime(s). Are you going to tell me that this Pope was more of an anti-communist than previous Popes? Would the selection of a Pope from Eastern Europe post 1948 have hastened the end of communism even earlier? Truth be told, is it not correct to say that communism would have collapsed in Eastern Europe anyway, due to the inherent flaws in its economic structure, regardless of who was Pope (or US President) in the 1980's?"

Well, first of all this is a question that historians and political scientists would probably answer best. In our programmes on Radio Prague we always said that the Pope "helped to overthrow communism". As a Pole himself, not only did John Paul II provide encouragement to his compatriots in Poland and all Eastern European Slav nations in traditionally Catholic countries, but he also helped to turn the focus of Catholics worldwide towards Eastern Europe. Concerning the Czech Republic, we can mention one important thing the Pope did. The canonisation of St. Agnes of Bohemia just five days before the start of the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia in 1989 was seen if not as a sign then definitely as an impetus even in the predominantly atheist part of the country, Bohemia.

Onto other letters. Our regular listener Jonathan Murphy from Ireland has sent us this e-mail in response to Ian Willoughby's Letter from Prague on why Czechs drive on the right:

"Nice to have Letter from Prague back on Sundays! It's a great feature for the end of the week. Great research, Ian - interesting to learn that the Czechs had in fact intended to make the switch before the Nazi invasion."

On the same topic we received this e-mail from Sue Toulson from the UK:

"In response to your Letter from Prague, the phrase 'only Britain and some of its former colonies' suggest just a handful of places where people drive on the left. In fact, it happens in 53 countries and 22 sovereign states - including such small, insignificant territories as Australia and New Zealand! I'm sure you know why we're in the right (or left!!) - all to do with mounting horses with the sword hand kept free..."

Thank you very much Sue, and everybody else, for your comments and questions. Please keep them coming - we always like to know what you think of our programmes.

But now - if you'd like to see for yourselves that Czechs indeed drive on the right, you have a chance to win a free trip to Prague in Radio Prague's annual listeners' competition.

To enter, just send us a few sentences on the following subject:

"What Czech beer means to me."

The winner will receive a week's stay for two in the Czech Republic, while runners-up will receive other attractive prizes.

The winning essay will be read on all six Radio Prague's different language broadcasts.

The winner and a partner will be accommodated in family style in the heart of Prague, at the Hotel Falkensteiner Maria Prag, while your flight will be courtesy of Czech Airlines - your travel partner to the Czech Republic.

Please send your entries to the following address before June 15th:

Radio Prague, Vinohradska 12, 12099, Prague 2, Czech Republic or you can use our e-mail address [email protected]

So once again, the topic is: "What Czech beer means to me."

And if you are more into music than beer then you can take part in our monthly quiz and win a CD of Czech music. The question for April is:

"The Battle of Prague was once a very popular piece of battle music. It was composed in 1788 in London and published in the same year in Dublin. The descriptive piece quickly gained enormous popularity on both sides of the Atlantic. The author of the piece was born in 1730 in Prague and died in 1791 in London. What is the name of the composer?"

Please make sure your answers reach us by the end of April at the usual address: Radio Prague, 12099 Prague, Czech Republic or e[email protected].