Pope Benedict XVI will not speak in his native German during a visit to
the Czech Republic in September, the daily Mladá fronta Dnes reported on
Monday citing sources from Czech organizers. The Pope’s advisors asked
him not to do so because of the problematic historical associations with
the language. Unlike his predecessor, John Paul II, Benedict XVI cannot
speak Czech and will therefore speak English most of the time. The Pope
will also deliver sermons in Italian which will be consecutively
interpreted into Czech. The daily said that only the Czech president,
Václav Klaus, insisted German is used during a formal meeting with the
Pope at Prague Castle.
The head of the Roman Catholic Church will visit the Czech Republic for three days in September. He will be the first incumbent pope to honour St Wenceslas, the Czech patron saint. Benedict XVI will also pay tribute to the Baby Jesus statue in Prague and celebrate mass at Brno airport.
Three Czech fans joined the band U2 on stage in Berlin on Sunday to play one of the band’s hit songs, Angel of Harlem. The fans, members of a U2 tribute band, held up signs during the show specifying their musical skills and the name of the song. Some six songs into the concert, U2 singer Bono asked them to come on stage, play his guitar and assist Larry Mullen on drums.
The town of Litvínov, northern Bohemia, wants to prevent Romanies from simultaneously obtaining social benefits in the Czech Republic and in the UK. The town’s deputy mayor, Martin Klika, said on Monday some Romany families applied for social benefits in Great Britain but regularly return to collect Czech benefits as well. Town officials are planning to contact their colleagues in Britain to find out about how many people might be abusing the welfare system.
Civic Democrat MP Jan Burgermeister made some 460,000 crowns, or more than 25,000 US dollars, last year for being on the Czech Airlines’ board of directors, the news website ihned.cz reported on Monday. However, Czech MPs are prohibited by law to receive salaries for being on boards of state-owned firms; the Czech state owns some 90 percent of Czech Airlines. Mr Burgermeister has refused to return the funds, pointing out that he only represented the city of Prague in the Czech national carrier.
Czech health authorities registered a new case of swine flu in the country on Monday; the number of patients treated for the disease has reach 28. Eight people remain in hospital. The last patient, a girl who contracted the disease in the UK, is now in home care and is reportedly in good condition. The Czech health minister, Dana Jurásková, said she would meet with the representatives of the regions to consider anti-epidemic measures.
The largest Czech steel producer Arcelor Mittal Ostrava is going to cut 300 jobs in the coming months due to the global economic crisis, the news website novinky.cz reported on Monday. Only 40 percent of the company’s production capacity was reached in the first half of 2009. This year, the firm has slashed more than 900 positions. It currently employs some 6,600 workers.
In related news, Romanies in the Czech Republic face general discrimination, says a report on the state of the Romany community in 2008 approved by the cabinet on Monday. The document, compiled by Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Michael Kocáb, comes less than a week after Canada brought back visas for Czech citizens due to an increasing number of Czech Romanies seeking asylum in that country. The report also highlights a surge in right-wing extremism, poor economic conditions of Romanies and family ties with those who had left earlier, as reasons why Czech Romanies increasingly seek asylum in Canada. Mr Kocáb said a strategy to fight social exclusion of Romany communities should be ready by October.
The Czech ambassador to Vienna informed President Václav Klaus on Monday about the situation at the Canadian embassy in Austria capital which issues visas to Czech travellers to Canada. Ambassador Jan Koukal told the president that according to his knowledge, Canada will not start issuing visas at its Prague embassy. Mr Koukal noted however that a majority of applicants receive visas on the same day they apply. Hundreds of Czechs have travelled to Vienna to get Canadian visas since they were reinstated last Tuesday.
Some 80 foreigners from Germany, France, Spain, Italy, the United States and other countries started learning Czech at a summer school of Slavic studies, organized by the Palacký University in Olomouc, central Moravia. The month-long course also includes film screenings, trips and a theatre workshop.
In related news, the office of the Czech ombudsman has agreed that social benefits could be given out in the form of food vouchers provided that each such case is decided individually. The town hall in Litvínov started issuing food vouchers instead of money in 2007. Town officials said this was a good way of preventing the abuse of benefits. The ombudsman’s office initially pro tested but its spokeswoman said on Monday that it was possible.
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