This weekend, the town of Podebrady - some 40 kilometres east of Prague - will host a large religious assembly to mark the 530th anniversary of the deaths of the protestant reformers King George of Podebrady and Hussite Archbishop Jan Rokycana. The event will take place under the patronage of the Czech Brethren Evangelical church. Alena Skodova has this report:
With almost 130,000 members, the Czech Brethren Evangelical Church is the biggest Protestant church in the Czech Republic. It came into existence in 1918, following the ideals of the 15th century Hussite movement. The Hussites fought for social justice and reform of the Catholic Church, and swiftly became the most important reform movement in Central Europe. The assembly is to remind people of two important personalities of that time, the Czech King George of Podebrady and Archbishop Jan Rokycana, George's close friend. I spoke to vicar Ludek Rejchrt, who explained to me what the two men had in common:
"Both of them were ardent supporters of the so-called "compactata" - four articles formulated by the Hussites which basically expressed their teaching. The main demand was that at communion the congregation should take both bread and wine, the body and the blood of Jesus Christ, but the other three were no less significant. The articles urged the church not to rule the people, but to devote itself to spreading God's word and providing help to its parishioners. The Hussites also called for equal justice for all sinners, saying all human beings were equal before God. Jan Rokycana defended the compactata at the Basel Council in 1431, and both he and king George saw them as the guiding principles of their lives."
The Roman Catholic Church at that time saw the compactata as provisional teachings, which could be abolished at any time. And indeed that did happen: Pope Pius II abolished them in 1462. But despite this, King George and Archbishop Rokycana continued to confess the reformist teachings. The upcoming gathering in Podebrady will be held under the motto "Tolerance or the Truth?" and Ludek Rejchrt explained to me that what the motto means is an ultimate norm, the truth, which the two men chose as the most important thing in their lives and which they saw as impossible to betray.
The assembly in Podebrady will feature lectures about King George and Jan Rokycana, readings from Rokycana's texts, open air services and concerts.
"The assembly is open to everyone, for people of all confessions. The fact that Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, the highest representative of the Roman Catholic church is coming, proves that this will be a truly ecumenical gathering. It will try to find a common idea through which the heritage of King George of Podebrady and Jan Rokycana can enrich our present thinking."
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