Legacy of Jan Hus

The Legacy of Jan Hus

(reforms along the river)

Dominique Hoffman writes: I checked the details of this essay  in "Church History" (1940) especially the essay by Otakar Odlozilik (University of Prague) about the Unitas Fratum. at the Linen Hall Library Belfast in 1998, which has an section devoted to religions, plus talked to representatives of the Moravian church, other details were checked out at the 'Institut für die Wissenschaft von Menschen'. www.iwm.at in the Winter of 2001. Gebrauchsanweisung für Tschechien by Jiri Gruza also proved useful (ed) . I obtained a pdf copy of Otakar Odlozilik's essay from Jstor.com. I am  continuously trying to improve my essay because I am fascinated by its subject matter. My connection with Jan Hus is that I was born in the town where he was put to death, in fact opposite the Konzilhaus - the building where the Council of Constance took place so I was aware of Jan Hus existence as soon as found out a bit about my birthtown's local History. I treasure a copy of "Mistr Jan Hus na koncilu kostnickem, jeho vyslech, odouzeni i upaleni" (Prague edition 1875) - a present from Mr Gruza when I visited the Czech embassy. This is what I owe to Jan Hus, and in this essay I am examining his legacy in his country and therefore learning more about him and his legacy.

 

The spring pour forth in the shade of the Bohemian forest – one warm and vivacious, the other cool and peaceful. Their waves joins, and the forest brook, bubbling on, becomes the Vlatva (Moldau). It flows through dense woods then come the sounds of the chase the hunter’s horn. It flows through pastures, and lowl ands where a wedding is celebrated with song and dance. At night, wood and water nymphs revel in their sparkling waves and castles – witness to a bygone chivalry – are reflected in its shimmering surface. At the rapids it races ahead winding through the rocky chasm into the broad river bed, finally flowing in majestic calm towards Prague.”
Bedrich Smetana describing “Vlatva”, one of the six symphonic poems form part of his cycle called “Ma Vlast” (my homeland).

introduction

In August 2002, torrential rains for days made the waters rise and the rivers flooded many towns in Central Europe. It started at Passau then Salzburg from there into Lower Austria to Vienna, from Vienna along the Danube to Budapest and the Black Sea, from Lower Austria to South Bohemia – Budejowice (Budweis), Krumlov (Krumau) then Prague, then along the Elbe towards the Saxony towns Wittenberg, and Dresden. The damages were considerable and much sorrow was caused as many people lost their homes. Whilst Dresden, Wittemberg, Budejovice stood under water, Salzburg and Vienna themselves were spared by a few inches. This prompted some fundamentalism to make a dissertation whether this should be a sign of God. Myself, I was in Vienna and witnessed the breakdown of communication to Lower Austria, as I had some acquaintances living there, and got some news from Prague and Bohemia. In Vienna itself the 'Cemetary of the nameless' was flooded as was the former concentration camp of 'Theresienstadt'. Suddenly, it became clear how vulnerable our historical archive has become. This is how I came to reflect about religious and political tolerance in these regions



Prologue - the international context



From Hungary, in the early middle ages, a devoted man called Martin took to Tours in France and opened a monastery to praise God. The monastic movement accused the official Church of Rome of venality and corruption, and wanted, following the example of the Syrian Anachorets to bring piety in religion. The official Church and clergy tolerated the monastic movement but then conflicts arose and many monastic movements were suspected of heresy. The notion of heresy appeared in the 6th century, when an Irish scholar called Pelagius contradicted the mainstream creed by saying that Man can defeat evil through willpower – the Church replied to Pelagius quoting St Augustine that no man can defeat evil through willpower because the flesh is weak. As we can see the Augustinian creed follows the teachings of St Paul very closely. After this the Church of Rome would become very strict on Christian heresies. Other heresies included the Cathars, the Templars and the Waldenses. The condemnation of the Hussites and Wittemberg Heresies marked therefore a continuation in that pattern . Crusades were undertaken to convert Pagans or bring heretics back to faith.

All this could not prevent the first major split in the Christian church: the Orthodox schism in 1054. Rome lost control of Byzantium, now the Balkans and in the centuries to come there would be a rivalry between the Church of Rome and the Orthodox Church which spread from Byzantium to Romania and Russia. When the Balkans and the Middle East were taken over by the Ottoman Empire which had adopted the Muslim faith, there would be further Crusades – and new religious orders established: The Templars and the Hospitallers. The Templars would later perish after been declared heretics.


In the middle ages, the Irish clergyman Fergal (Vergilius) was appointed first bishop of Salzburg, which is situated near the Celtic site of Hallstatt in the Austrian alps. It has now been researched by historians that the missionary movement of the Irish Christian church spread to sites formerly known as Celtic. It is important to mention Salzburg because this is the high seat of the Austrian Catholic Church, and most decisions regarding the future Hapsburg Empire were made there, the capital of faith being of course Rome.


The German nations inherited the mantle of the Holy Roman Empire, and for a long time it was a complicated feudal system dominated by the kings of Franconia (capital Nuremberg) , Bavaria and Bohemia – in the 8th century the legendary Carolus Magnus (Charlemagne) united the kingdoms of France and the Holy Roman Empire of German Nations and founded the capital city of Aix La Chapelle (Aachen). After Charlemagne, the Empire fell in three pieces, one became France, the second Burgundy and the rest the German Empire. For a while, the capital of the German empire was Prague. “Praha Caput Regni” as the Przemysl dynasty of Bohemia became head of the empire. The Empire extended from Trieste to Gdansk. In 1566, Rudolf II Habsburg defeated Otakar Prezmysl and that started the long reign of the Hapsburg dynasty over Central Europe until 1918.

We are following the floods and find ourselves at the Lazebnicky Bridge in Krumlov watching the waters rise in the land of Jan Hus….

We are examining the legacy of Jan Hus in the Czech republic. 

Jan Hus and The Hussites


http://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/images/john-huss-1.jpgJan Hus from Bohemia advocates that the seat of authenticity in religion is in the conscience, soul and mind of man in communion with God, and that God and Man are glorified by this discovery. The Catholic Church in the 15th century was authoritarian and detected libertarian tendencies in Jan Hus who was subsequently tried, accused of heresy and burnt at a stake in Constance with his co-preacher Jerome of Prague in 1415.  The Council of Constance was called because there was at the time a Western Schism where two men claimed to be the true Pope, one had his headquarters in Avignon.

Although Hus did not translate the Bible in Czech, he used  the vernacular language and wrote a grammar called "De Orthographica Bohemica". By emphasising that the single human mind can grasp what was supposed to stay in the domain of scholars and clergy, Jan Hus opened new perspectives His followers were called Hussites and split into several groups - Utraquists' , 'Adamites', 'Praguers', 'Orebites' and the 'Taborites'. The Catholic church launched a crusade against the Hussites between 1420 and 1436. The Holy Emperor Sigismond who had presided at the Council of Constance endeavoured to eradicate the Hussites. In 1420, when Wenceslas IV Holy Emperor and King of Bohemia died, according to feudal rules, Sigismond was made titular of the Bohemian Crown, however, the Bohemian nobility did not acknowledge him and that led to the Hussite wars. He was finally acknowledged King of Bohemia in 1436 and he died a year later in Znojmo without a male heir the House of Luxembourg died with him. His daughter was called Elizabeth of Bohemia who married the King Albert II of Hapsburg. 


Czech History
30. května 1434
Hejtman Jan Čapek ze Sán zakotvil v české historické tradici jako muž, který v průběhu bitvy u Lipan hanebně opustil bojiště a zavínil porážku radikálních husitů. V cizině ho ale vnímali jinak. Polský královský dvůr si cenil jeho velitelských schopností a italský humanista Enea Silvio Piccolomini jej za&racaron;dil mezi deset nejvýznamnější husitských obobností - po bok Jana Žižky, Jana Husa a Prokopa Holého.
(Prof. PhDr Petr Čornej, DrSc.)

30. May 1434
(Governor Jan Čapek is traditionally remembered in Czech historical tradition as the man who during the battle of Lipan shamefully left the battlefield and caused the defeat of the fanatic radical Hussites. However, he was perceived differently. The Polish court valued his ability to command and the Italian humanist Enea Silvio Piccolomini names him among the ten most important Hussite personalities - alongside Jan Zizka, John Hus and Prokop Holeho)
1400 - born Jan Čapek from Sán
1427 - He is to ensnare before the analyst.
1431 - He became the chief captain of the army of the orphan
1432 - expedition to the Lower Lausitz, Brandenburg
1433 - expedition to the Baltic RDU against the Teutonic Knights
1434 - fatal defeat at Lipan
1446 - The end of military career

1452-1453 - dies leaving a daughter called Zofia

1400 - narodil se Jan Čapek ze Sán
1427 - Nechal se vlákat do lécky před Náchodem.
1431 - Stal se vrchním hejtmanem sirotčiho vojska
1432 - výprava do Dolní Lužice z Braniborska
1433 - výprava k Baltu protí řdu německých rytirů
1434 - osudná porážka u Lipan
1446 - Konec vojenské kariéry
1452/53 - zemrěl zanechal po sobě dceru Zofii

Utraquists

the Utraquists who believed in communion of both bread and wine maintained amicable relations with the Catholic church and at the Council of Basel in 1533 were declared true Christians. They effectively managed the first Protestant schism of the Catholic Church. In 1575, they amalgamated within the Lutheran churches in Bohemia through a document in called "The Bohemian Confession", and while the name survived for a while it disappeared in 1609.

Taborites

The Taborites main theologians were Mikulas Biskupek and Prolop Veliky - in their writings they rejected scholastic methods. Jan Ziska left the Taborites because they became radical as they advocated killing their religious enemies and joined the more moderate Orebites (Orphans). However, Taborites and Orebites became united because the catholic King Holy Emperor Sigismund. Ultimately Sigismund defeated the Hussite sects because they were unable to unite against Catholicism, but the Taborites influenced the Unitas Fratrum. 

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During the 14th and 15th century in German-speaking countries, and the Netherlands, there were an increasing number of lay preachers outside the official Church. One of them, Richard de Groote, advocated to develop the inner life of the soul and to imitate life of Jesus Christ. The movement became popular but when the official Church ordered them to stop preaching, they retired in communes called 'Brethens of the Common Life'. This was not a religious order such as the monastic life, but they took informal vows, they were economically self-supporting, pooled their resources in common, and redistributed them according to needs. One can see the germs of practical communism in that life style, or better said the communitarian life-style.

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The Bohemian Brethens

source: Otakar Odlozilik.

http://www.proel.org/img/traductores/blahoslav.jpg(<- John Blahoslav)

The 'Bohemian Brethens' or 'Unitas Fratrum' differ from the 'Brethens of Common Life' by the fact that they took on sacraments, confession and the celibacy of priests. However, their rejection of military service and certain aspects of secular life make them the forerunners of pacifism. They also had a form of clergy: a synod comprised all leaders of the communities. The 'Unitas Fratrum' lay great importance in education.  Their co-founder was Peter Celcicky, who was a layman and a follower of Jan Huss.  Celcicky did not acquire a high level of Latin knowledge and thus read works as translated in the Czech language. He believed that the body of medieval religious works was shrouding the Bible as the source of Christian faith away from view and he also advocated a strong separation of church and state, church and higher education and did not want his church to be involved in worldly matters. He also advocated complete severance from the Catholic churches and the Utraquist movement. Peter Celcicky's  was not a universally acclaimed figure in his movement.  One of their most significant leaders was Bishop Lukas (1496-1528) . His successor, John Augusta (1500 -1572)   was born into the Utraquist movement and had no formal education and became bishop in 1532 but became a main but controversial figure of the Unitas Fratum because he wanted to unite the Unitas Fratum with the Utraquists and also antagonised Emperor Ferdinand I Hapsburg byJohn Augusta was doctrinally speaking opening a dialogue with his enemies. less rigid and had compassion with simple believers thus aiming to reach out to them - he wrote his ideas in a work called "Sumovnik" (Summarium). His ideas were challenged by John Blahoslav (b. 1523 - 1571) he studied in Goldberg (Silesia) and Wittemberg before becoming a bishop in 1558, a post he kept until his death. (In his work, "On the origins of the Unity", he proves more doctrinal than Augusta and explains the ideological differences between the Unitas Fratum and the Utraquists. Fluent in Greek and Latin, Blahoslav also translated the New Testament into Czech because the Brethens placed great importance in using the vernacular language in their ministry thus helping the language emancipate itself from Latin and German borrowings. He also improved on a Grammar by  two Utraquist clergymen Benes Optat and Vaclav Philomathes and called his work "Grammatika Ceska" by focusing on the vernacular language, he followed the path of European protestants, especially Henri Estienne. He also published works on music theorgy, composed hymns and left theological works, as an archivist he also helped preserve original documents in a collection called "Actas Unitatis Fratrum". He also believed in transplanting elements of secular culture into the teachings of his church.

The Bohemian nobility assumed the patronage of the 'Unitas Fratum', however with the kingdom under Habsburg rule, King Ferdinand saw the patronage as an act to undermine his authority and attacked Bohemia in 1547. The seat of the 'Unitas Fratum' was then transferred to Moravia and then they fled into exile following the stream of the Vlatva/Moldau and Elbe to Saxony and some of them also went to Poland. Only in 1609, did they manage to get home where they struggled to find recognition and found allies with the 'Utraquists' who had adopted Martin Luther’s ideas. The news of 99 proposals for the reform of the Church at Wittemberg had marked the official beginning of Reformation for the History Books.
As with the Utraquists, now called 'Bohemian Lutherans' kept to the Martin Luther’s Augsburg Confession (AC) , the 'Unitas Fratum' retained their organisation and their own creed. This demonstrates a ecumenical approach between two different Christian organisations.

Jan Amos Komensky - Comenius

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/46/129414926_3bd1abaa64.jpg?v=0One of the best well-known Bohemian Brethen and their last bishop is Jan Amos Komensky, who under the name of Comenius has written and done most of his works abroad.  Comenius sought to overcome the old and inefficient system of education, and was influenced by the works of Blahoslav and Celcicky. He is a forerunner of universal education for both genders because he defined it as being necessary to this life and life beyond. He advocated scientific study of nature and emphasised on deductive reasoning. His ideas are known as 'Pansophic'. Many of his works had been lost for centuries, but were finally found in 1935, where they made a great impact on Prague-born painter Oskar Kokoschka. In 1966, all seven volumes of his pansophical work were published by the CSSR academy. Comenius echoes Jan Hus’ ideas that all humans have been provided with knowledge and describes three aspects, which he calls: nature, reason, revelation. Revelation being in that case the scriptures. He believes that all humans are capable of being educated (perfectibility) and explains that education should be a life-long enterprise thus paving the way for the idea of continuous education.


The Thirty Years war of religion 1618-1648

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/77/Johannes_von_Nepomuk_Hinterglasbild.jpg/220px-Johannes_von_Nepomuk_Hinterglasbild.jpgThe 'Council of Trent' gave credentials to the Habsburg imperial authority when it stated that all subjects must adopt the same religion as their lords. This was the starting point of the Counter Reformation in Bohemia and the wider Thirty Years War of religion (1618-1648). The 'Battle of the White Mountain' (Bila Hora) in 1620 marked the defeat of reformation in Bohemia: Many protestants as well as all members of reformed churches and organisations were killed or had to flee abroad. Once again the 'Unitas Fratum' followed the stream upwards and found refuge in the Kingdom of Saxony, as the lords of that country had adopted the Lutheran creed. In Bohemia, Catholic Bohemians identified with Jan Nepomucky  (1345-1393) (photo), a martyr tortured and thrown into the Vlatva river centuries before and revered as the protector against floods.  During the Western Schism and the Avignon Papacy, Nepomuk backed the Pope in Rome and was killed by orders of the then Holy Emperor Wenceslas IV who was backing the Avignon Papacy.  He was made a saint in 1729. During the 30 years war baroque monuments were erected all over the place and his name was often referred to.  The Jesuits from Spain (a country also ruled by the Habsburg family) opened schools.






(Lazebnicky Bridge, Ceský Krumlov) with statue of St Nepomuk)


The Thirty Years War of religion in Europe ended with a status quo: political borders were confirmed or set, the reformed movement recognised as such. The Habsburg Empire remained Catholic, and sidelined other creeds. It prided itself that not only had it saved Europe from Turkish Muslim attacks at the 'Battle of Kahlenberg', but now it has successfully stood up against the Protestant alliance, mostly the Saxons with the Scandinavians. At that stage it was not possible to get an official post without being a Catholic and speaking German. Austrian German is different to the language spoken in Saxony and so the Austrian/German rivalry stems from that period. Austrians still regard their Protestant citizens as “Germans”. But for now the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648 marked the end of religious wars in Europe.



Pietist revival


Protestantism was able to flourish in some German-speaking provinces but became very much a scholastic affair and soon it seemed to certain Protestants that religion has become nothing more than an intellectual exercise in style and would run the danger of becoming elitist. Philip Jakob Spener (1635-1705) started the devotional revival within the reformed movement. His book 'Pia Desideria'(1674) condemned the sins and errors of the times and listed six requirements for a good faith: A better knowledge of the Bible from everyone, the restoration of mutual Christian concern, emphasis on good works, avoidance of controversy, better spiritual training for ministers, more fervent preaching. His teachings found resonance in Dresden and Leipzig where he taught at university. A.H. Francke and his group took the teaching further: in his book, 'Pieta Hallensis', Francke emphasises the humanitarian aspect of faith. He would therefore be an advocator of social reforms in order to soothe conditions of the poor, and then bringing faith to the poor and destitute. His reforms which took place in the town of Halle -on the bank of the river Moldau - included: a school for the poor, an orphanage, a hospital, a widows’ home, a teachers’ training institute, a bible school, a book depot, a Bible house. He also emphasised the necessity of missions abroad.

The 'Pietist' movement echoes many similar reforms made in the Catholic Church where the Jesuits also emphasised on education, St Vincent de Paul devoted his life to social reforms and created many institutions such as hospitals for the poors and homes for orphans and St Francis de Sales who related piety to real-life situations outside the monasteries. It has been said that Pietism is a mere revival of medieval monastic and mystical piety but it can also be said, especially, that Francke’s Pietism shows that Faith can only progress if it revives the positive aspects of the past, and combines them with modern thoughts.


http://dailyoffice.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/von_zinzendorf-220.jpgNicholaus Ludwig Count von Zinzendorf (1700-1760), a nobleman living in Dresden of Austrian origins had been influenced by the Pietists as his grandmother has been a close friend to Spener and Francke. In 1722, he met with some members of the 'Unitas Fratum' led by Christian David (1691-1791) a carpenter from Moravia  who was living in exile. Zinzendorf purchased an estate at Berthelhof, where they founded a community called 'Herrnhut'. Zinzendorf thought that the Pietist movement, after promising start was becoming too much set in its own ways and encouraged a return to basics: a mystical-experimental faith, world-wide evangelism and ecumenic friendships.

Earlier, we saw that the roots of ecumenism can be traced as far as the Bohemian Lutherans in the 16th century. Now, at the eve of the nineteenth century, the conventional 'Pietists' had long moved towards a more Lutheran shore, whilst Zinzendorf favoured rapprochement to the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches. In the end, he and his followers had to adopt a different name: they became the 'Moravians'. Soon however, they would have to emigrate and in the 19th century we find the Moravians in British exile where they close ranks with other Lutheran or reformed Churches. Many moved to America where they formed communities.

More information about the Unitas Fratrum Moravian Churches today: http://www.unitasfratrum.org


International Context

In the nineteenth century faith seemed to get a back seat as nationalism, philosophy and politics became more important. The atheist French revolution and the Napoleonic wars shook Europe. In addition, as different cultures in the world started to meet, both Germany and Austria became involved in the middle-east. In those days classicism and romantic, mysticism and atheism, occult and Pietism, nationalism and melting-pot all cohabited next to each other. In Vienna, the Catholic Josef-Mathias Hauer preached a return to virtue and simplicity and a ministry of the poor and is known as the priest of the romantic and associated with writers like Hebbel.

In 1848, a wave of revolutions against autocratic regimes spread across Europe. The motto in Vienna was 'the Freedom that I mean' generated by the student movement. After 1848 the student libertarian movement split into radical subgroups. Some were German republicans who wanted to see the end of Habsburg rule, then various national liberation movements, also occult movement and international organisations such as Marxism and anarchism. The 'Communist Manifesto' by Karl Marx from Saxony was published in 1848,

Franz Palacky

In Prague, in 1848, the Slavonic Congress headed by František Palacký, the son of a Lutheran  village teacher, launched a patriotic revolution against the Habsburg imperial power - It was called the Prague Spring Rebellion. The rebellion was crushed down and Palacky had to compromise with the authorities.  'The future of Bohemia' was published that same year.  Palacky, also published a History of Bohemia-Moravia (Dějiny národu českého v Čechách a v Moravě,) in five volumes and started work on a language dictionary but stopped work due to lack of financial means. He was the most influential figures of Czech revivalism and spearheaded the idea of Austroslavism,  a distinct Czech identity within the Habsburg Empire and defining his country as not belonging to a German identity. His History of Bohemia idealised the Hussites and inspired his patriotism, and regarded the 1620 Battle of White Mountain as a national catastrophe. 



7. července 1839 - zpovozněni tratě Viden-Brno

Je to už 174 let, co byla na půdě českých zemí otevř první železniční trat'. Osud tomu bohužel chtě, aby se trasa historicky první jízdy vlaku u nás stala také dějištěm naší první železniční nehody
Prof. PhDr. Dušan Uhliř

It's been 174 years since the first railway line opened on the Czech lands. Unfortunately fate decided that the first ever train ride here would also feature the first train accident .

Tomas Mazaryk 

http://media-2.web.britannica.com/eb-media/38/133538-050-668FB114.jpgTomas Mazaryk (1850 - 1938) the son of an illiterate carter  from Moravia, studied in Vienna and became professor of Philosophy at Prague University in 1882. He published the Athenaeum devoted to Czech culture and science. He contributed to demystify Czech identity and root it into reality. He was also concerned about superstition especially against Jews and took part in the Hilsener Trial in 1899. Concerned about the human condition, his doctorate thesis dealt with the theme of suicide. Nebát se a nekrást of raised as a catholic, Mazaryk later became a Protestant Unitarian because he doubted the infallibility of the Pope. Rejecting most philosophers from the 19 C, especially Herder's nationalism and Marx's ideas. Mazaryk was interested in practical ethics, and sought to establish a neutral, multicultural Czechoslovak state.  He stimulated dialogue. The writer Karel Capek wrote "Hovory s TGM"  "Conversation with TGM". His ideas have shaped not only the first Czechoslovak Republic but also the current state. Mazaryk also wrote a book called "Jan Hus - naše obrození a naše reformace" called "Jan Hus, Our Awakening and Our Reformation".

Jan  Hus the symbol of Czech revival was commemorated with statue on Old Town Square in 1915 to mark the 500 anniversary  of his death.


International context

Rudolf Steiner from Austria (1861-1925) had studied sciences and worked until 1897 on the 'Weimer' Edition of Goethe’s work. At the same time, he had been interested in the 'Theosophist' movement that had been flourishing during the 19th century, a reaction to the Anglo-French philosophy of rule and reason and also a reaction to the ideas of 'evolution of the species' by Charles Darwin’s and communism by Karl Marx. A with Goethe, Steiner had an interest in Chinese philosophy and tried to incorporate it in his “Anthroposophy” together with Indian and Persian, Russian Orthodox elements – yet it essentially is Christian. In 1913, he established his institute at Dornach in Switzerland to pursue his researches. He believed in the principle of raising the faculties of the soul to develop organs or spiritual insight. He argued that humans were made in god’s image but distorted as the soul got a human body: hence God in the form of Christ intervened to keep man away from earthly entanglement. One also sees the influence of Buddhism in Steiner’s thoughts. We can see in Steiner one of the forerunner for the 'New Age Universalist' movement which is an amalgam of various religious motives. Rudolf Steiner gets a mention in Franz Kafka's work.

The 'spiritual universalist' movement had originally sprung from the United States in 1779 and started as an amalgam between 'Mysticism', 'Anabaptist' (baptism in an adult age as preached by the French 'Mennonites' who had to flee the Alsace) and 'Gnosticism' (search of God in philosophy). The 'spiritual Universalists' decided to publish a creed which is similar to 'Unitarianism' but at the 'Winchester Platform of 1813' decided on 'creedlessness' and came with following principles: perfectibility of men, ultimate salvation by God, the humanity of Christ (Christ was sent by God but is not the Son of God). By the end of the century they had dropped the idea of salvation and divine revelation and replaced it with the term humanism.

That lead in 1942 to the Ecumenist Movement as they welcomed all types of humanisms, Christian or not. The 'World Council of Churches' where Church Leaders of all kind would meet was created also at the same time. For the first time, platforms were established for all various religions and ideas to meet and find a dialogue. We can compare these platforms to a similar venture in politics when the United Nations were created to create a dialogue between the various nation states. It is remarkable that both movements were created at the time, as the World was immersed in a deep war.

Indeed the Second World War marked the beginning of a new era. Mankind became aware that it has the capacity to destruct the world and that peace should no longer become an interval between two wars or a status quo but a desirable state of affairs. Indeed between the years 1945 and 1947, there was much idealism as to re-organise the world. The Universal Declaration of Human was a political and social document with a universal message: those rights were signed by most states and freedom of religion officially instated as a right.

The Cold War – a period of political tensions between the allies of the USA and the allies of the Soviet Union marked a halt between 1947 and 1962. Bohemia had become the independent Czechoslovak republic in 1918 and now in the sixties, it was the Socialist People’s Republic of Czechoslovakia.  Historical events eradicated Czecholovakia between 1938 and 1945, and from 1948 it had become a satellite country of the Marxist Soviet Union.The Czech republic became a People Democracy and the ruling Marxist regime insisted on its Atheism as a condition for good citizenship.


During this time, we notice that all sides got more radical. Marxism insisted on its atheism, many churches of all kind insisted on their ideas of salvation and predestination. When Jewish philosopher George Steiner speaks of the 'Chosen People', he speaks with the same voice as evangelical Jean Calvin who advocated 'Predestination', or some radical movements within Islam, Hindu, Catholic churches. The 1950s saw all reforms freeze.


In 1962, the world became aware once again that it could destroy itself. The now legendary Cuba crisis raised fears that a new world war would start and the danger was alerted when the leaders of the two blocks got together at the United Nations headquarters to discuss a status-quo of tolerance, maybe rapprochement. Since the Cuba crisis, idealism for peace has given way to how to prevent a major disaster.

At the beginning of the 1960ies, the necessity of political and religious rapprochement was starting to show. The Catholic church undertook reforms at the Vatican II Council led by Pope Paul VI: now mass and bible were in the local languages and some rapprochements between the Catholic leaders and Protestant, Jewish, Socialists were possible and a few humanitarian projects were started as the extreme poverty of the decolonised third world needed relief. The United Nations recognised the so-called 'NGOs' (= non governmental organisations) as legal actors and now many of them have become researchers and advisers in politics, social reforms and economics. 'Caritas', 'Christian Aid' and many charities have been operating since these times. 

The Independent Czechoslovak Church

The spirit of the first republic had been inspired by Franz Palacky and Tomas Mazaryk who had sought an independent, multicultural federal, republic based on humanitarian values and neutrality.

Text by: Richard L. Stanger

The formation of the modern Czechoslovak state in 1918, after centuries of domination by Germanic Hapsburg power, is associated with the leadership of the Masaryk family. In those days of national rebirth, politicians and clergy alike focused on the moral renewal of the nation. In that spirit, under the leadership of Karel Farsky, an independent Czechoslovak church was formed as a breakaway movement from Rome. At the outset it claimed 800,000 communicants, drawn largely from the working class. The church claimed as its heritage the spirit of Hus and Jan Amos Comenius, the last bishop of the Czech Brethren. The mass was to be celebrated in the Czech language, accompanied by a Eucharist in which both the bread and the cup were shared by clergy and laity. There was an echo here of the Hussite practice of sharing the cup with all worshipers that was not a part of Roman Catholic practice until the reforms of Vatican II. The theme of moral renewal of the nation was there as well, as Farsky spoke in words of an almost messianic sweep and force "of the importance of the God-enlightened human being in reshaping the present social order into a more perfect one." The Proclamation to the Nation, announcing the new church, ended: "We are fulfilling the prophesy of the great bishop, Jan Amos Comenius, that the rule of thy affairs shall again return into thy hands." During the trauma of Nazi occupation and the subsequent confinement of the Czech national spirit within Marxist-Leninist ideology, little was heard from the Czech National Church. But, like the spirit of the Czech Brethren of old, it was there in the underground of national life.

The Christian Peace Conference

http://www.luteranie.pl/ewangelik/daty/Hromadka.jpgJosef Luki Hromacka, (1889-1969) a theologian, born in Hodslavice and who studied at Vienna, Basel, Heidelberg and Aberdeen universities.  Ordained in 1912, he worked at the reconciliation of the Lutheran churches in his country. Between 1929 and 1939, he was professor of Theology at the Jan Hus Theological Faculty of Prague. He emigrated to the USA and held a chair of Christian ethics at the University of Princeton in New Jersey. He returned in 1947 and became a pastor for the Bohemian Brethens.  He is the co-founder of the World Council of Churches. In a country that had become firmly anchored and indoctrinated within a de-facto empire, the 'Christian Peace Conference' led by Hromacka was one of the last podiums of discussion.

The Conference was a vehicle of dialogue between Christians from Eastern and Western Europe. Hromadka also urged reconciliation between the Christians and the Marxists.

The Prague Spring

http://www.corkcity.ie/media/media,3376,en.jpg(<- Alexander Dubcek)

In 1966, linked or not linked to Hromacka, the 'Pansophical Works' of Comenius were published by the ČSSR academy and it is undeniable that these ideas had much influence on philosopher Jan Patočka who is seen as one of the most important philosophical figures of the Prague Spring of 1968. The reform movement within the Communist Party (KPCs) and the ideas of first secretary Alexander Dubcek about a 'Socialism with a Human Face' show that reform was possible. The Prague spring owed much of its ideologies from Mazaryk’s 'humanism'. The reform movement in the Czech Republic had started in 1966, with liberal trend within the ranks of the Communist Party. Critical voices from the university and intellectuals were calling reforms. So the new party secretary, Alexander Dubcek initiated 'The Prague Spring', called after the 'Prague Spring Music Festival' - the period of liberalisation. The totalitarian imperialistic regime from Moscow did not tolerate this and invaded the country (for its own good). Hromaka vividly condemned the 'Warsaw Pact' invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968, and was subsequently made to resign from his post at the 'Christian Peace Conference' and died six weeks later. Alexander Dubcek was virtually held hostage by the USSR government and forced to announce to his people that the reforms were being cancelled. Dubcek had to resign. The consequent normalisation lead to arrests and exiles, and censorship.Through the spiritual and the humanist movements continued to exist and it struggled hard against the process of Marxist normalisation that the CSSR government started in 1969. Many reformists such Pavel Kohout or writers like Milan Kundera had to emigrated or some like Vaclav Havel or Jan Pantocka were forced to internal exile or prison, or faced censorship. This is why Jan Hus is still seen as symbolic figure of resistance.

Vaclav Havel

http://www.lessignets.com/signetsdiane/calendrier/images/fev/26/1/Vaclav_Havel15.jpgIn 1977, a group of intellectuals led by Vaclav Havel (picture on the left)  and Jan Patočka, set up the 'Charta 77' which was asking for more human rights and reforms. Much sympathy came from abroad, mostly from intellectuals, trade unions and ordinary people.

Within a decade, the new Soviet head of state, Michael Gorbatchev initiated policies of reformation and ended the cold war ('Glasnost' and 'Perestroika'), the totalitarian system fell apart, and in the CSSR, as well as other countries, the era of normalisation was ended in 1989 with the Velvet Revolution, which saw the comeback of Alexander Dubček and Vaclav Havel, who created the 'Civic Forum'. The CSSR became the 'CSFR', 'Czecho-Slovak Federal Republic'. Then the two regions separated amicably in 1990, and we have now the Czech Republic and Slovakia, who subsequently joined the European Union.

The spiritual legacy of the Prague Spring is very much a part of the movement for Czech national renewal that Havel embodies. Symbolically, he would accept the office of president only if Dubcek would become head of the parliament. What began two decades ago must be completed. The playwright-politician is not insensitive to the dramatic dimensions of history itself.

But there is a second spiritual dimension at work in Havel, and for that he draws, consciously or unconsciously, from the 14th-century movement for Czech national renewal that centered around the proto-Reformation figure Jan Hus.


When asked to look back on his own involvement in recent History, Vaclav Havel said in 2009: “I made a lot of mistakes. I believed my experts on economic reforms even if I didn't agree much. More accent (= emphasis) on moral should have been put. If there is no moral in society it can't work. People write that I am a moralist, but I feel that I wasn't enough of a moralist”


Our religious denomination does not matter, but it is important that each of us we make our ethical choices, without this aspect, a dimension of our human identity will be lost. 


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