News Saturday, DECEMBER 18th, 1999

Catholic Church ready to review Hus' legacy Pope John Paul II has expressed deep regret over the cruel death of Czech reformer priest Jan Hus who was burnt at the stake as a heretic in 1415 on the order of the Catholic Church. Addressing a conference on the legacy of Jan Hus in Rome the Pope signaled that the Catholic Church was now ready to face the darker chapters of its history and reassess objectively the legacy and fate of the reformer priest which, he said, had for centuries divided the hearts and minds of the Czech nation. The step is being viewed as a watershed in Czech relations with the Vatican.

President Havel in the Vatican President Vaclav Havel who is on a three day visit to Italy and the Vatican , is also expected to address the Jan Hus conference and he is to be received by the Pope on Saturday. The president is to be present at the ceremonial lighting of the Vatican Xmas tree , donated this year by the Czech Republic, and he will also discuss with the head of the Catholic Church a bilateral state agreement with the Vatican which should specify the relationship between the Czech state and the Catholic Church.

Compensation for former Nazi forced labourers The Czech Association of former Nazi forced labourers has said it finds the compensation sum earmarked by the German government to be sufficient. According to the AP newsagency this sum amounts to 10 million DM, to be financed in part by the German government and in part by the firms which used forced labour during the war. The association has pointed out however that it is not yet clear what criteria will apply and how many people will be found eligible. In this connection, it has appealed to those SWW survivors who were used as forced labourers by the Nazis and are not members of the association to register and file their claims.

Human Rights Commissioner wants to re-socialize skinheads The government's Human Rights Commissioner Petr Uhl is to present the Cabinet with a plan on re-socializing members of the skinhead movement. Uhl said such re-socializing centres operated successfully in Germany and Great Britain and argued that the Czech Republic should follow that example. The re- socialization programme would concern skinheads who were charged with a racially motivated crime and they could either undertake it voluntarily in which case the court proceedings would be put on hold or on the ground of a court ruling.

Civic Democrats say: refuse our invitation and you'll be left out The right of centre Civic Democratic Party, which has sent all Czech parliamentary parties with the exception of the communists letters inviting them to a fresh round of talks on forming a more action-capable government in the first week of January, has warned the two smaller parties right-of centre –the Freedom Union and Christian Democrats – that if they refuse the invitation the talks would simply be held without them. This could turn into a meeting between the Civic and Social Democrats , according to Civic Democratic Party deputy chairman Miroslav Macek. Asked what the two opposition allies would discuss Macek said his party was keeping open all options – a Social Democrat government in which several portfolios could go to experts and non-party members, a rainbow coalition ,a broader opposition alliance, or early elections. Meanwhile, in a related statement President Havel has slammed the Civic Democrats for their tactics, comparing them to a married man who was refusing to get a divorce but was engaged in a very public search for a better wife.

And finally, a look at the weather: we're in for a cold and wet weekend apparently with overcast skies and scattered sleet and snow showers. Day temps will hover around freezing point. Nighttime lows minus three to minus eight degs C.