A group of Czech Catholics has called on Pope Francis not to extend the tenure of the Archbishop of Prague, Cardinal Dominik Duka, past the 75th birthday of the prelate on April 26. The organizers of the initiative presented the text of their letter to the Pontiff this Wednesday in a protest in front of the Archbishop’s Palace in the heart of the Czech capital.
“We are greatly worried about the future direction of the Catholic Church in our country”, write the authors of the letter to “Brother Francis”, symbol for them of “an open Church full of solidarity” in contrast to the the “alliance between throne and altar” for which Duka has stood in his nearly eight years at the helm of the Church in Prague.
Criticizing the archbishop’s public support for the country’s “neoliberal” past president Václav Klaus, and for the incumbent post-holder, the “Islamophobic” Miloš Zeman, the authors of the letter to the Bishop of Rome charge Cardinal Duka with an “unequivocal refusal of any solidarity with… refugees at the national pilgrimage to St. Wenceslaus in September 2017”. In a letter, too, to Tomio Okamura, the leader of the Freedom and Direct Democracy Party (SPD), the present Archbishop of Prague sympathized with the hard-right, Eurosceptic views promoted by this platform and adopted a “negative stance towards people forced to flee their countries”.
Duka “likes to present himself as a person who negotiated the so-called Church Restitutions”, the letter adds, in reference to the 2012 law which guaranteed the return of Church properties in the Czech Republic nationalized by the country’s former socialist regime. Given that the Church he leads “was unable to explain and defend these restitutions”, however, and “the majority of society didn’t agree” with them, Cardinal Duka has been responsible for the significant impact in public faith in the Church that saw confidence in the institution plummet in 2012 by 10% in just six months.
But it’s not just the restitution of Church property that worry the Czech Catholics. They are just as concerned about the fact that Duka seeks not only to have property return but “to return to the Church as an institution of power, with its strictly hierarchical structure, the owner of both land and wealth worth billions”, proof of which are that he “surrounds himself with lavish symbols of power” and “shows off for the cameras in the company of the rich and powerful”. What the Cardinal’s drive for influence and wealth have done for the Body of Christ in Prague has been made manifest in a “lack of interest from the hierarchy” in both priests and people, with Duka interacting them only when criticized, and charging those who dare to question his leadership with “one-sided passion” or “Protestant or leftist eccentricity”.
When the end of April comes, then, and Duka submits his resignation – in accordance with Church law – on his 75th birthday, the Catholics of Prague tell the Pope they hope his successor “who won’t… be afraid to leave the lavish Archbishop’s Palace… and to live amongst normal working people”. Such an appointment, the laypeople suggest would help to bring about the “revolution of love and kindness” sorely need in the Church in the Czech Republic “which would transform the Church’s hierarchical structure into a living and caring community of brothers and sisters”.