President Zeman’s Alliance with Cardinal Duka Raises Questions

Prague, Feb 16 (CTK) – President Milos Zeman’s plan to ask Pope Francis to extend Dominik Duka’s mandate as Prague archbishop shows the cardinal’s link with political power, historian Jaroslav Sebek told CTK today, adding that Duka’s contacts with Zeman and previous president Vaclav Klaus also indicate this.


Several days ago, a group of Czech Catholics criticised Duka and sent a letter to the Pope, asking him not to extend Duka’s tenure.


Over 200 people have added their signatures to the letter so far, one of them, Jan Bierhanzl, said today.


On the contrary, several Czech politicians have supported Duka. Almost 2,000 people have signed an online petition in support of Duka, launched by Christian Democrat (KDU-CSL) MEP Tomas Zdechovsky.


Duka, who was a political prisoner under the communist regime, has also been backed by the Czech Confederation of Political Prisoners.


Sebek, a specialist in church history, said the petition against Duka is of no big importance and that the church mainstream has taken no unambiguous position on it. “It is rather a marginal affair of groups on the margin the church that represent a leftist liberal approach,” Sebek said.


Nevertheless, the petition shows that voices criticising Duka are starting to be heard in the Catholic Church in the Czech Republic, which protest at the church’s failure to reflect important issues of the present time, Sebek said.


Duka will turn 75 in late April, the age at which all bishops are obliged to hand in their resignation.


Zeman said on Thursday he is going to ask the Pope to prolong Duka’s mandate.


“This confirms that Cardinal Duka has been interlinked with political power. Another proof is that not only the incumbent president but also the previous president, Vaclav Klaus, intervened in Duka’s support. These two men have had very good relations with Cardinal Duka,” Sebek said.


Zeman bestowed the top state award, the Order of the White Lion, on Duka in 2016.


Some believers criticised the mass Duka celebrated for state representatives in Lany, the president’s summer seat, in November 2015.


Sebek said the close relations between Klaus and Duka resulted in Duka’s accommodating approach in the church-state dispute over the ownership of Prague’s St Vitus Cathedral in 2010, when he became Prague archbishop.


“Unlike Cardinal [and previous archbishop Miloslav] Vlk, who did his utmost for the cathedral to belong to the church, Cardinal Duka completely gave up the effort,” Sebek said.


Furthermore, Duka gave in to the Presidential Office in the case of a swap of houses in the Prague Castle complex. “He actually gave up the church’s claims,” Sebek said.


According to him, the name of Duka’s possible successor has already been proposed, since nobody knows what the Pope’s decision on Duka will be.


“I think it would be suitable for the Pope to extend Cardinal Duka’s mandate, as I can see no distinguished personality who could take up the Prague archbishop’s post now, except for [Plzen Bishop] Tomas Holub,” Sebek said.


Speculations also mention Litomerice Bishop Jan Baxant and Ceske Budejovice Bishop Vlastimil Krocil.