Cardinal Miloslav Vlk and Bishop Karel Herbst held mass in Prague's Archbishop Palace on Saturday to bless a yearly nationwide charity collection that begins this weekend. The collection, which is being organised for the fourth year by the Czech Catholic Charity, is launched at the weekend before the festival of Epiphany, known here as Three Kings Day, celebrated on January 6. On this day, according to the St.Mathew's gospel, the Three Wise Men followed the Star of Bethlehem to find the Infant Jesus and bring him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Over thirteen thousand volunteers are expected to go out and collect donations this year. The proceeds will be used to support a number of humanitarian projects in several regions around the country as well as in Kosovo, Chechnya and earthquake-hit Iran. Last year, a total of 42.7 million Czech crowns (over 1.5 million US dollars) was collected.
Residents from the North Bohemian town of Teplice and its surroundings are commemorating the 70th anniversary of a tragic accident that took place at the nearby Nelson u Oseku coal mine. 144 miners lost their lives on January 3, 1934, after gathered coal-dust exploded. What led to the explosion was never determined. The accident is the second worst coal mine accident in the country's history.
Over 20,000 dentists, pharmacists, and doctors who are not tied to hospitals will stop working for one hour on Tuesday. Their doors will be closed to patients from 11.00 to 12.00 hrs, in protest at the Czech government's failure to meet their needs during its reform of the health sector. The Czech government has promised to allocate 3.4 billion Czech crowns to hospitals and 3 billion crowns to health insurance companies. Doctors, dentists, and pharmacists who are not attached to hospitals say their problems are not being considered and hope Tuesday's protest act will attract government attention.
A fire that broke out on Saturday afternoon destroyed two houses in the historic centre of the little East Bohemian town of Litomysl. The houses were located just a few metres away from Smetana Square, named after Czech composer Bedrich Smetana who was born in Litomysl. Fire-fighters managed to rescue two people and a dog. No-one was hurt and the fire left an estimated damage of 1.1 million Czech crowns. What caused the fire is yet to be determined.
Bohumil Vejtasa, a representative of the Group for the Open Democracy at the town hall for Prague 1, has said he would continue with a hunger-strike that he has been on for the past three weeks. Mr Vejtasa decided to stop eating in order to force town hall officials from the ruling coalition parties to consult matters with colleagues from the opposition and keep them from making decisions that do not benefit the Prague 1 district. So far, Mr Vejtasa has lost ten kilograms.
Former Czech president Vaclav Havel is expected to travel to Taiwan this month, after accepting an invitation from its President Chen Shui-bian, the Foreign Ministry said on Saturday. From January 17-24, Mr Havel, who is also a dedicated human rights activist and a playwright, is scheduled to meet with President Chen, deliver a speech at a forum organised by the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, accept an honorary doctorate from National Chengchi University and attend a discussion with Taiwan writers and artists. He will be accompanied by his wife Dagmar.
Czech President Vaclav Klaus and the country's Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla have agreed on what they termed a common initiative towards the Czech parliament regarding the upcoming European Union enlargement. The two politicians met on Friday at the presidential chateau at Lany to discuss a number of current issues over lunch. Both officials were accompanied by their wives. After their meeting, Mr Klaus and Mr Spidla said they would like to establish a tradition of annual meetings of the president and the prime minister at the beginning of each year.
In a New Years address to the nation President Vaclav Klaus highlighted the fact that the Czech Republic is entering its 15th year of democracy. He said Czechs hold the future in their own hands and that they alone bear responsibility for the successes and failures that the new year will bring. Mr. Klaus noted the fact that in just a few months time the country would be joining the EU which he described as a new chapter in the country's history. The president said that the country would lose part of its sovereignty but that there would be advantages to make up for it. He expressed the hope that Czechs would avail themselves of all the opportunities opening up to them and that Czech representatives in Brussels would defend the country's interests well. Mr. Klaus appealed to all Czechs to make a wise and prudent choice when they vote both in local elections and elections to the European Parliament.
President Vaclav Klaus met Prague Archbishop, Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, for the first time since he was elected Czech president in February. The heads of state and Church discussed the general situation of churches in the Czech Republic as well as a Czech-Vatican agreement which is supposed to define the position of the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Church in the Czech Republic but was rejected by the Lower House earlier this year. According to media reports, the relationship between Klaus and Vlk had been somewhat cool but the latest meeting, which lasted much longer than planned, suggests a warming in relations. The two leaders are to meet again in a few months' time.
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