Church Opposes Anti-German Measures in Czech Republic

Criticizes Exploitation of Nationalist Feelings

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PRAGUE, Czech Republic, APRIL 22, 2002 ( The Church has criticized the attempt of the Czech Republic´s major political parties to support anti-German measures and exploit nationalist passions.

The parties´ position has a long history. In May 1945, following the Allied victory (and the liberation of Slovakia by the Russian army), the Czechoslovak republic was born, with Eduard Benes as president. Benes had returned from exile in London.

In March 1947, Benes signed an agreement with Poland for the expulsion from both countries of German minorities accused of connivance with the Nazis. These decrees were later taken up by the Constitutional Assembly, sanctioned by the 1948 Constitution, and ratified as laws.

Now, a group of 250 intellectuals and representatives of the Churches and Christian communities in the Czech Republic have signed a manifesto against the reinforcement of the «Benes decrees,» proposed by a joint motion of the governing Social Democratic Party and the opposition Popular Democratic Party.

These populist proposals are being put forward at the start of the electoral campaign for Parliament.

«The decrees of the republic´s President Benes, and the forced transfer of Germans, represents a painful problem in regard to which there must be a public debate in Czech society, including at the political level,» the manifesto reads.

«We are witnessing an attempt to exploit unbridled nationalist emotions in order to demonstrate a false national unity, which would win votes in the electoral contest,» it continues. «Thus is manifested the limitation of political liberty and of plurality of opinion in our society, [and] the worsening relations with our neighbors, perhaps also endangering our entry in the European Union.»

Czech membership in the EU implies a careful examination of Czech law on property, to ensure that it is in line with European norms and the principle of equality.

The Czech Catholic bishops´ conference has studied the question, and made an appeal «not to undermine the process of reconciliation» between the republic and Germany, in a document signed by Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, archbishop of Prague, and Archbishop Jan Graubner of Olomouc, president of the Czech episcopal conference.

The document «Czech-German Good Neighbor Relations Must Succeed» notes that «reconciliation, rapprochement and union between the two nations can only be realized when the building of reciprocal relations is carried out in such a way that, at the same time, a spiritual process is also realized.»

The document says it is the «task of the Church to add its own contribution» not only «to the solution of the Czech-German and Czech-Austrian conflict, but also to the general process of Europe´s unification.»

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