The pope might come for an ecumenical meeting in 2018
Vatican, April 24 (ČTK special correspondent) — Pope Francis accepted an invitation to visit the place of pilgrimage at Velehrad, south Moravia, President Miloš Zeman said after a meeting with the Pope today.
Zeman said the visit could take place in the spring of 2018, when his first term of office ends.
Zeman said his meeting with the Pope also brought progress in the preparation of a Czech-Vatican treaty.
“The Holy Father has accepted an invitation to Velehrad. Since the acceptation of such invitations is sometimes a mere diplomatic politeness, he said it will be in the foreseeable future,” Zeman said.
He said the visit will take place before Jindřich Forejt, head of the Czech Presidential Office protocol, becomes ambassador to the Vatican which, Zeman said, could happen before the end of his first term of office.
“We discussed the structure of the visit. I offered the Holy Father two variants – either a pastoral journey, or a meeting with the patriarchs of the Orthodox churches within ecumenism. The Holy Father has opted the latter variant, and that is why I have asked (Prague) Cardinal Duka to send invitations to the patriarchs and the ecumenical meeting would be held at Velehrad,” Zeman said.
Pope Francis was invited to Velehrad within the celebrations of the 1150th anniversary of the arrival of Saints Cyril and Methodius missionaries in Moravia last year, but he excused himself from the event.
Turning to the preparation of the Czech-Vatican treaty, Zeman said the Pope accepted the Czech Foreign Ministry’s proposal that the Catholic Church extend its operation in the spheres of social, cultural, health, education and other services.
“I believe that this is the path we should follow now that a big part of the public are dissatisfied with the return of property to churches. No one demands that the Catholic Church hand out its property to the poor and that it itself remain poor. But I think that the demand that the Catholic Church serve people in the spirit of the philosophy of the church is justified,” Zeman said.
He said the Pope agreed that the church should open itself much more to the public and that it should not be locked in churches and monasteries.
Zeman said Pope Francis also asked him what he thinks is the fundamental cause of the Catholic Church’s declining prestige.
“I told him that I see the fundamental cause in the dispute over property, where the church has deviated from its fundamental mission and it seems that it is becoming a real estate broker, a dealer or an investment banker rather than someone who is to serve God and the believers, but also the unbelievers,” Zeman said.
According to the restitution law, churches are to be returned land and real estate worth 75 billion Kč, stolen from them by the communist regime, and given 59 billion Kč plus inflation in financial compensation for unreturned property over the following 30 years. Simultaneously, the state will gradually cease financing churches.
The Catholic Church will get most of the total sum, or 47.2 billion Kč plus inflation.