State Wants to Control Church in Czech Republic, Warns Cardinal

«Afraid of Our Influence,» Vlk Says

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PRAGUE, Czech Republic, DEC. 24, 2001 ( The Czech Republic is trying to control the Catholic Church, warns Cardinal Miloslav Vlk,

«We are witnessing a real danger for democracy and for that freedom of the Church sanctioned by the new constitution of 1991,» the archbishop of Prague told the German media in recent days.

The essence of the problem, he said, is the new law on religious questions, approved by Parliament last Tuesday despite President Vaclav Havel´s veto.

The danger «lies in the fact that, according to this text, any ecclesial institution must obtain the recognition of the state and not that of the Church itself,» the cardinal explained.

In his judgment, it is not a formal act «but a measure of the institutions that want above all to snatch from the Church its social commitment, penalizing Caritas, which is considered virtually a force in competition with the activity of institutions.»

«It almost seems that the state is afraid of our influence and wishes to make us return again to the sacristy,» Cardinal Vlk added. «However, after so many years of dictatorship, we have developed a certain sensitivity on the argument.»

The cardinal believes in dialogue, despite the deterioration of the situation, especially the «lack of trust of the Church in institutions.»

«I continue to hold the opinion that the government wishes to return to negotiation,» the cardinal said, adding that the «real problem is that lovely speeches and intentions have not been established in writing and there is a risk that their meaning will be altered or forgotten.»

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