Duka named archbishop
Persecuted under communism, he hopes to engage youth
Posted: February 17, 2010
Monsignor Dominik Duka was named Feb. 13 by Pope Benedict XVI as the new Prague archbishop, succeeding Cardinal Miloslav Vlk.
The choice of Duka, 66, a bishop in the east Bohemian city of Hradec Králové who had been persecuted and jailed during the communist era, was not a surprise. He will officially start in two months' time, when Vlk, 77, steps down. The archbishop of Prague is traditionally a cardinal, so it is likely Duka will eventually be elevated to that rank.
Vlk submitted his resignation upon turning 75 two years ago, in line with the Catholic Church's rules, but the Vatican persuaded him to stay on. He was dismayed when the church temporarily relinquished its long-standing demands for an immediate return of properties confiscated during the communist era, following the September visit by Pope Benedict XVI. Duka is said to enjoy warm relations with President Václav Klaus.
Vlk remains a cardinal in retirement, the church said in a statement.
The Czech Republic is one of the most secular countries in Europe. According to the census of 2001, there are about 3 million Catholics in the country, representing just under one-third of the total population.
Duka was ordained as a priest in 1970. Five years later, the communists stripped him of permission to work as a priest for nearly 15 years, and he made his living working as a designer in the Škoda industrial works in Plzeň but continued to work secretly as a priest.
He was jailed from 1981 to 1982.
A member of the Dominican order of priests, Duka was made a bishop in 1998 by the late Pope John Paul II.
A conservative in religious matters, Duka is close to the pontiff and admits the task he faces is challenging. He says he did not want the role but decided to take it once it was offered by the pope.
Duka told reporters that, at 66, he may lack the energy needed for the task. One of his greatest challenges, he said, was to open the church more to society and engage with young people.
Relations between the Czech state and the Vatican have been overshadowed recently by the issue of church property seized by the communists. Parliament blocked a bill last year that would have returned about a third of the property the church lost in 1948, plus the equivalent of some 90 billion Kč in compensation over the next 60 years. With interest, that settlement would have actually cost the government nearly 299 billion Kč.
Duka said it is too soon to resolve the question of property settlement but wants to see one eventually.
"The unresolved situation is blocking the development of villages, towns and regions. We want an agreement that would benefit the whole society, which means also churches and religious societies," Duka said.
- Klára Jiřičná contributed to this report.
Tom Clifford can be reached at
Tags: Duka, archbishop, Vlk, cardinal, pope, Catholic, church.