Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Czech Cardinal Vlk casts critical eye on years in office

Almost none – that is how Cardinal Vlk, Prague's archbishop, assessed his number of successes in office over the last twenty years or so.

When first appointed, back in 1991, a much younger Miloslav Vlk questioned whether he would have enough strength for the tasks ahead, tasks which remain unresolved to this day.

Which are they?

One, the restitution of church assets from the state which remains undecided, although the church and previous government agreed on a return of one-third of property confiscated by the Communists in 1948, along with 270 billion crowns in damages.

Two, also unresolved, ownership of Prague’s St Vitus cathedral – still disputed after 17 years in court. And three, no treaty signed between the Czech Republic and the Vatican –making the Czech Republic the last country in Europe without one.

In an interview with Czech TV’s Václav Moravec on Sunday, the cardinal, otherwise in good spirits over Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the Czech Republic, admitted, this was his worst “nightmare” realised:

“This is what weighs most heavily on my conscience because de facto after 20 years say on the Czech ecclesiastic-political level I achieved next to nothing… Property restitution has been put on hold, an amendment on the Church law has not been passed, St Vitus Cathedral remains in the hands of the state and there is no treaty between Prague and the Vatican. I will have to pass these debts onto my successor.”

Many observers would argue that the cardinal was unduly harsh in his self-criticism; but not all. When asked about the subject the No.2 man in the Vatican, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, agreed Cardinal Vlk’s words were true.

In his own defence, in the Czech TV interview, Cardinal Vlk stressed that political conditions throughout much of his tenure had not been in his favour, and made clear he alone could not be blamed. For years successive Czech governments, he said, had resisted agreement on issues, everything from the Vatican treaty to restitution.

“My success or failure depended on political realities. The Church was always willing to find agreement, of this I am certain. I was there so I can confirm it. But there was never will on the side of the politicians. Now they bustle to get close to the pope or to have their photograph taken next to him. There was little goodwill on the part of the politicians over the last 20 years: on the contrary they pushed the Church to the side, saying we shouldn’t be economically or politically strong.”

It is not known who will succeed Cardinal Vlk in office yet – a move expected by the end of the year - but there is wide-spread speculation it could be the head of the Czech Bishops’ Conference Archbishop Jan Graubner.

As for those unresolved issues?

The Vatican’s Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone met with Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer during the pope’s visit at the weekend, making clear, for example, that the restitution of property was not the issue of the day given the economic crisis and would be put on the backburner.

A moral standpoint those in the Church, including Cardinal Miloslav Vlk of course readily agreed with.
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is from the organization that took 4+ centuries both to remove the excommunication against the Eastern Church and apologize to Galileo?? What's their hurry??

Another point -- Face it, the old Church properties probably will not be returned en masse at all. Did the English govt pay restitution in the mid-19th century for Henry VIII's appropriations??
Ask that the historically most important ones be returned for religious use, eg national and maybe provincial head cathedrals, with the Czech Church 100% financially responsible for their upkeep.
Remember too, that the base of the Czech Church is less numerous and less financially well off than it was pre-takeover...
Perhaps if the Church also arranged that most of the compensation funds be dedicated to the cultural maintenance of the national patrimony, rather than disappear into its maw, it would have more bargaining points.
The history of financial credibility of the Church hierarchy, as a whole and in most nations, is at record lows.
Why not send some prominent lay persons to the forensic accounting courses of Interpol and then open the Vatican books???