Pope Francis takes significant step forward with Jan Hus comments
Relations between Czechs and the Catholic Church have been strained for hundreds of years. One of the factors was undoubtedly the burning of the religious reformer Jan Hus at the stake 600 years ago. Now Pope Francis has spoken of the Catholic Church’s need to seek forgiveness for the killing in what some are seeing as the biggest step towards reconciliation so far.
The pope said that Hus’ burning at the stake after refusing to recant his alleged heresy was an injury to the church itself and the church should ask forgiveness for it, like all the acts in history when killings had been committed in the name of God. He referred specifically to the 30 years wars which in particular devastated the Czech lands and much of the rest of Europe in the 17th century.
Representatives of Czech political, academic, and religious life have been invited to Monday afternoon’s service and audience with Pope Francis will follow. Some expect that Pope Francis might go even further than his comments on Friday.
Of course, the steps to rehabilitate Jan Hus in the eyes of the Catholic Church have been going on for some time. John Paul the Second asked for forgiveness for the church’s past wrongs on visits to the Czech Republic in 1995 and 1997. Earlier, he had said that Christians could all share and unite in the values that Jan Hus espoused, his integrity, commitment to education, and moral values, rather than be divided by them.
On the other side of the longtime barrier, it is perhaps too early to say whether the latest comments from the Vatican will dent the common Czech perception that Hus was a sort of resistance hero, one ‘one of us against them,’ them being the Catholic Church