After months of deliberation, the Vatican has chosen the new archbishop of Prague, who traditionally ranks first among the country’s bishops. On Saturday, church officials announced that Dominik Duka, the current bishop of Hradec Králové, will succeed Cardinal Miloslav Vlk as the new head of the country’s Roman Catholic Church.
In Spiritus Veritatis, or In the Spirit of Truth, is the motto of the new Archbishop of Prague Dominik Duka. He will succeed Cardinal Miloslav Vlk at the helm of the oldest Czech diocese, and as the unofficial head of Roman Catholics in the Czech Republic. Speaking shortly after his appointment was announced on Saturday, the 36th Archbishop of Prague outlined what his major task would be.
“The Church must engage in a dialogue with society and must seek reconciliation with it. Twenty years ago, we were euphoric about freedom; today we live in an economic and financial crisis, and also to a certain extent in a crisis of values. So the tasks are going to be a little more difficult. But thanks to everything that’s been done, it will not be a journey into the unknown.”
The 66-year-old Duka, a member of the Dominican Order, was ordained a priest in 1970. Five years later, the communist authorities barred him from serving as a priest. After that, he worked as a clerk in a factory in Plzeň but in the early 1980s, Dominik Duka was jailed for more than a year for his underground church activities. Nearly a decade after the fall of communism, he became the bishop in his native city, Hradec Králové in eastern Bohemia.
Prague-based Catholic intellectual Martin C. Putna believes that the new archbishop of Prague will not radically change the course set by his predecessor.
“I don’t think we should expect any substantial change. Dominik Duka was the best possible choice, the most realistic one because he is a man of education, he has very good relations with politicians, he knows how to speak to the media, he is a man of consensus, and so on. So for the structure of the Catholic Church as it is, it’s definitely the best possible choice. But we definitely cannot expect wonders from him.”
Such wonders include the long-standing issue of the restitution of church property, confiscated by the communist regime and never fully returned or compensated for. Also, the Czech Republic is one of the last countries in Europe not to have ratified a treaty with the Holy See.
While the outgoing Archbishop of Prague, Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, made national headlines last year after admitting he had achieved next to nothing during his tenure, the new archbishop might be better equipped for such negotiations. Dominik Duka is known for having good relations with politicians, including with President Václav Klaus with whom he goes mountain climbing, and whom he often visits before Christmas. Martin C. Putna again.
“Although it can play a certain role, I would not overestimate it. Dominik Duka has good relations with Václav Klaus but at the same time, he has good relations with the former president Václav Havel. They have known each other since the communist times when they were both in prison. So this might have been of some help in his new position, and perhaps also helped the Vatican to choose him. But this is just one of many good relations Dominik Duka has in this world.”
The new Archbishop of Prague, Dominik Duka, will officially assume his office within two months at a solemn mass celebrated at St Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle.