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Czechoslovakia Table of Contents


Religious Activists

Another aspect of popular political expression during the 1970s and 1980s was religious activism. Czechoslovakia during this time witnessed what was described as a "rebirth of religious faith," especially noticeable among Czechoslovak youth, and greater activism on the part of the Roman Catholic Church. The former was manifested by an increase in young people's church attendance and overall participation in church-related activities. The latter was reflected in a greater number of "underground" church services, greater Catholic clergy and lay involvement in the Charter 77 movement, widespread dissemination of Catholic samizdat publications, and a shift in the position of the church's hierarchy regarding church-state relations. Since the election of a Polish cardinal as pope, the Czech primate, Frantisek Cardinal Tomasek, has taken a more independent stand. He had condemned the Czechoslovak Association of Catholic Clergy (more commonly known as Pacem in Terris), the pro-regime organization of priests, arguing the importance of peace and human rights at the government-sponsored Prague World Peace Assembly in 1983; and increased his support of Charter 77.

Government reaction to the religious activists has been harsh. Repression against the clergy, including arrests, trials, imprisonment, and even raids against homes for elderly priests and nuns, reportedly increased in the 1980s. Also, government restrictions on religious education, church publications, and the number of priests were enforced vigorously. Undoubtedly fearful of its potential impact, the Husak government rejected Pope John Paul II's acceptance of Cardinal Tomasek's 1984 invitation to visit Czechoslovakia.

Data as of August 1987