The Czech Catholic Church says that it is near to sealing an agreement with the Vatican for the return of the remains of Cardinal Josef Beran back to his homeland. Cardinal Beran was persecuted by the communist regime when it came to power in 1948 but eventually left for Rome, where he ended his days.
Archbishop of Prague and Primate of Czechoslovakia, Cardinal Josef Beran became a symbol of resistance to the communist regime which took power in February 1948. Although he initially welcomed the new government and tried to get along with it, Cardinal Beran soon found that the communists regarded the church as a subversive ideological enemy and possible focus of opposition. They started to persecute the church and even tried to set up an alternative one which would bow to their wishes.
He was subject to house arrest in and outside Prague, prevented from carrying out his duties and the communists tried, without success, to discredit him. Eventually he was invited to Rome in 1965 after being appointed a Cardinal. He weighed up whether to go or not, knowing the risks, but eventually decided to make the journey. But the regime later refused to allow him to return to his homeland. Cardinal Beran died in exile in 1969 and was buried at St. Peter’s Basilica after the communist regime refused to allow his remains to be returned to the country.
Stanislav Zeman is spokesman for the Prague archdiocese. He explained why the issue was important and how talks with the Vatican have evolved:
"Because of the last will of Cardinal Josef Beran, who wanted to be buried in Prague, the current Cardinal, Dominik Duka, asked to fulfil Cardinal Beran’s wish. In the spirit of this, there were some negotiations with the specific Vatican congregation and at this very moment we are expecting the written approval of the Vatican Secretary of State."
The hope is that the agreement could be sealed by the end of this year or early next. And that would pave the way for Cardinal Beran’s remains being returned to Prague in 2018, the centenary of the founding of the first republic. Two dates have already been earmarked to possibly mark that event. The first could be the feast day of St. Adalbert of Prague, which takes place in April. The alternative could be feast day of St Wenceslas on September 28, which is also the Czech national day.
Spokesman Zeman explained why the reburial has significance for the country and why the church keen that it should take place next year.
"The life of Cardinal Beran is a symbol of heroic resistance against the communist regime. In one part of his life he was under house arrest. For example, there was an incident in June 1949 when the communist secret police disrupted a celebration in Prague Cathedral. So the transfer of the remains of Cardinal Beran would symbolically heal this wound."