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450th anniversary of reestablishment of Prague archbishopric

CWN - May 14, 2012

The Archdiocese of Prague commemorated the 450th anniversary of the reestablishment of its archbishopric during a solemn Mass on May 12, the anniversary of the dedication of St. Vitus Cathedral. Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, who was born in what is now the Czech Republic in 1945 but fled with his family to Austria as an infant, was Pope Benedict’s special envoy for the commemoration.

Founded in 973, the See of Prague was vacant between 1421 and 1561 in the wake of the Hussite Wars. Cardinal Schönborn recalled the challenges the Church faced in the mid-16th century. “80% of the population of Vienna was Protestant; for 20 years there was not one priestly ordination,” he said, while the Catholic population of Prague fell to approximately 15%. The reestablishment of the archbishopric paved the way for the Catholic Reformation in Bohemia, “a time of genuine religious prosperity.”

Noting that most Czechs today are nonbelievers following the decades of Communist rule that preceded the Velvet Revolution, Cardinal Schönborn quoted remarks made by Pope Benedict in 2009:

I consider most important the fact that we, as believers, must have at heart even those people who consider themselves agnostics or atheists. When we speak of a new evangelization these people are perhaps taken aback. They do not want to see themselves as an object of mission or to give up their freedom of thought and will. Yet the question of God remains present even for them, even if they cannot believe in the concrete nature of his concern for us … As the first step of evangelization we must seek to keep this quest alive; we must be concerned that human beings do not set aside the question of God, but rather see it as an essential question for their lives. We must make sure that they are open to this question and to the yearning concealed within it.

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