Czech State Radio Muzzles Church Ad

Resentment Over Catholic Rebirth in Country

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PRAGUE, Czech Republic, MAR. 1, 2001 ( In a move reminiscent of the Communist era, state-run radio has banned an advertisement by Catholic bishops on the grounds that it amounts to proselytism.

The ad read: «The Church is not a museum, but a living community that counts on you. Remember your faith at the time of the census.»

The ad aired on private channels without causing a stir. The problem arose when it was transmitted by state radio Feb. 22. State network officials considered it a form of proselytism and, hence, illegal.

The radio´s directors said they made the decision independently, though in fact some political sectors protested its transmission.

«Opinions circulate that the politicians exerted pressure in order to impede the transmission of the announcement,» said Father Daniel Hermanns, spokesman of the Czech bishops´ conference. «The fears are caused by what is seen as an excessive presence of Catholics in the country.»

Mikhail Richter, director of the agency responsible for finding advertising for the state radio, who suspended the Church´s announcement, has denied any political interference.

Father Hermanns said he sees opposition to the Church behind the move. The Church has the potential to grow in this land, which is otherwise regarded as one of the most atheistic countries in the world, he said. Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, who suffered directly from Communist repression, is regarded as the country´s most popular figure, according to some polls.

In the past decade, the Church´s charitable and pastoral activity is also growing. All this, according to Father Hermanns, is not well regarded by many of the recycled former Communists who are still active in politics.

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