Archr.,2;dioc., 6; ap. ex., 1; card., 1; abp., 2; bp., 13; parishes, 3,138; priests, 1.930 (1.335 dioc., 595 rel); p.d., 144; sem ., 315; bros., 107; srs., 2,246; catechists, 1,381; bap., 25,057; Caths., 4,003,000 (39%) tot. pop., 10,290.000
Independent state (Jan 1,1993) ; formerly part of Czechoslovakia; capital, Prague. The martyrdom of Prince Wenceslaus in 929 triggered to spread of Christianity. Prague has had a continuous history as a diocese since 973. A parishes system was organized about the 13th century in Bohemia and Moravia. Mendicant orders strengthened relations with Latin rite in the 13th century. I n the next century the teaching of John Hus in Bohemia brought trouble to the church in the form of schism and heresy and initiated a series of religious wars that continued for decades following his death at the stake in 1415. So many of the faithful joined the Bohemian Brethren that Catholics became a minority.
In the 1560s, a Counter-Reformation got under way and led to a gradual restoration through the thickets of Josephinism, the Enlightenment, liberalism and troubled politics. St. Jan Sarkander, a priests killed by Protestants in 1620, was accused by Protestant of helping an invading Polish army. (His 1995 canonization caused strain with the Protestant community).
In 1920, two years after the establishment of the Republic of Czechoslovakia, the schismatic Czechoslovak Church was proclaimed at Prague, resulting in numerous defections from Catholic Church in Czech region. Following the accession of the Gottwald regime to power early in 1948, persecution began in the Czech part of Czechoslovakia. Hospitals, schools, and property were nationalized and Catholic organizations were liquidated. A puppet organization was formed in 1949 to infiltrate the Church and implement an unsuccessful plan for establishing a schismatic church. In the same year Archbishop Josef Beran of Prague was placed under house arrest. A number of theatrical trials of bishops and priests were staged in 1950. Pressure was applied on Eastern Catholics in Slovakia to join the Orthodox Church. Diplomatic relations with the Holy See were terminated in 1950. In the following decade, thousands of priests were arrested and hundreds were deported, and attempts were made to force government-approved "peace priests" on the people. Pope Pius XII granted the Czech Church emergency powers to appoint clergy during the communist persecution.
From January to October 1968, Church-state relation improved to some extent under the Dubcek regime: A number of bishops were reinstated; some 3,000 priests were engaged in the pastoral ministry, although 1,500 were still barred from priestly work; the "peace priests" organization was disbanded. The Eastern Catholic Church, with 147 parishes, was re-established. In 1969 rehabilitation trials for priests and religious ended, but there was no wholesale restoration of priests and religious to their proper ways of life and work. Government restriction continued to hamper the work of priests and nuns. Signatories of the human rights declaration Charter 77 were particular objects of government repression and retribution. In December 1983, the Czechoslovakian foreign minister met with the pope at Vatican City; it was the first meeting of a high Czech official with a pope since the country had been under communist rule. In 1984, two Vatican officials visited Czechoslovakia. In 1988, three new bishops were ordained in Czechoslovakia, the first since 1973. More episcopal appointments were made in 1989. The communist government fell in late 1989. In 1990, bishops were appointed to fill vacant sees; diplomatic relations the Holy See and Czechoslovakia were re- established, and Pope John Paul II visited the country. In 1997 the issue of married Czech priests secretly ordained under communist rule was resolved when they began work in the country's new Eastern Catholic jurisdiction. Under a 1949 communist decree declaring priests Culture Ministry employees, Czech priests were still paid by the state in1999. A church spokesman said confiscation of Church property under communist rule left priests still financially dependent on the state.
(The above exert comes from Our Sunday Visitor's 2004 Catholic Almanac and is used on this web site with the publisher's permission.)