Since February 25, 1948, Czechoslovakia was a communist dictatorship with a rigid antireligious policy. Only with the election of the new president Václav Havel on December 29,1989, one of the most brutal regimes of it’s time found an end. Religious work was hindered massively, and official bishop’s appointments were nearly impossible; parts of the clergy were bound to the Pacem in Terris organization addicted to the regime. Up to December 21, 1989, only five of thirteen dioceses had regular bishops.
At the beginning of this difficult period the Czechoslovakian episcopacy had these members:
1943 – 1950 Andrej Škrábik, Bishop of Banská Bystrica
1946 – 1972 Karel Skoupý, Bishop of Brno
1947 – 1972 Joseph Hlouch, Bishop of Ceské Budejovice
1931 – 1956 Moric Picha, Bishop of Hradec Králové
1948 – 1962 Jozef Cársky, Ap. Administrator of Košice
1947 – 1974 Štěpán Trochta, S. D. B., Bishop of Litoměřice
1949 – 1968 Eduard Nécsey, Ap. Administrator of Nitra
1948 – 1961 Joseph Matocha, Archbishop of Olomouc
1940 – 1969 Stanislav Zela, Auxiliary Bishop of Olomouc
1946 – 1969 Josef Beran, Archbishop of Praha
1933 – 1961 Antonín Eltschkner, Archbishop of Praha
1940 – 1960 Peter Pavel Gojdic, O. S. B. M., Bishop of Prešov of Byzantinians
1946 – 1976 Vasil Hopko, Auxiliary Bishop of Prešov of Byzantinians
1949 – 1959 Robert Pobožný, Capitular Vicar of Rožnava
1920 – 1965 Ján Vojtaššák, Bishop of Spiš
1949 – 1969 Ambróz Lazík, Ap. Administrator of Trnava
1938 – 1961 Michal Buzalka, Auxiliary Bishop of Trnava
In 1950, both Greek Catholic bishops Gojdic and Hopko were imprisoned respective deported, but also the Latin rite bishops were not allowed to practise further at all. Josef Beran, Archbishop of Prague, was put to jail from 1949 up to 1963 and then went to Roman exile. Only in 2018 his remains returned from Saint Peter’s to Prague. Bishop Ján Vojtaššák of Spiš as well was imprisoned for a long time and not allowed to work as a bishop afterwards. Most of the other bishops lived with similar circumstances. The former German auxiliary bishop of Prague, Johannes Remiger, was expelled already in 1946 and then went to Munich.
Therefore in the following time some bishops were consecrated in clandestine and published only afterwards.
Secret Bishop Consecrations in early Years:
17.09.49 Kajetán Matoušek, Auxiliary Bishop of Praha, by Antonín Eltschkner
13.10.49 František Tomášek, Auxiliary Bishop of Olomouc, by Joseph Matocha
05.11.49 Štefán Barnáš, Auxiliary Bishop of Spiš, by Ján Vojtaššák
26.03.50 Ladislav Hlad, Titular Bishop of Cedie, by Stepán Trochta, S. D. B.
29.04.50 Anton Richter, Bishop in Bratislava, by Michal Buzalka
00.00.50 Myron Podhájecký, Bishop of the byzantine rite, by N. N.?
30.04.50 Karel Otcenášek, Ap. Administrator of Hradec Králové, by Moric Picha
These new bishops were hindered to practise functions immediately by the regime. Auxiliary bishop Matoušek could work as bishop not before 1988, while bishop Hlad, imprisoned for a long time, was never allowed to work as bishop. Bishop Otcenášek, for long years an unlearned worker, was only able to work free as a bishop after communism crashed down. Bishop Richter and the probable Bishop Podhájecký never could be published.
Therefore a new way was practised to obtain pastoral needs and clandestine bishops were not published furthermore; they did their duties only in underground.
Secret Bishop Consecrations from 1951 to 1967:
02.01.51 Pavol Hnilica by Robert Pobožný, Bishop of Rožnava
24.08.51 Ján Chryzostom Korec, S. I., by Pavol Hnilica
09.09.55 Dominik Kal’ata, S. I., by Ján Chryzostom Korec, S. I.
18.05.61 Peter Dubovský, S. I., by Dominik Kalata, S. I.
28.10.67 Jan Blaha by Peter Dubovský, S. I.
29.10.67 Felix Maria Davídek by Jan Blaha
Pavol Hnilica, who left the CSSR, was appointed titular bishop of Rusado on May 13, 1964, officially. Ján Chryzostom Korec, S. I., became bishop of Nitra on February 6, 1990, and a cardinal on June 28, 1991. Dominik Kal’ata, S. I., became titular bishop of Semta on March 16, 1985, when he already lived in exile. Peter Dubovský, S. I., was elevated titular bishop of Carcabia and auxiliary bishop of Banská Bystrica on January 12, 1991. Jan Blaha relinquished an official approbation by Rome, and the 1988 deceased Felix Maria Davídek as well is not acknowledged officially as bishop by the Holy See up to now. However, the validity of their consecrations is proofed by the fact Rome recognized Mgr Davídek’s consecration of Mgr Kociš (see below) in 2004. Miklos Waclaw Docekal is said to have been consecrated in the 1950s, but no details are reported. Maybe a reported consecration of Emil Prohátzka in 1953 never took place.
Bishop Davídek developed a numerous work of consecrations without obviously having had an opportunity to ask the Holy See for an explicit order to do so; obviousely he as probably Bishop Blaha before recurred on the so-called Mexican faculties. During Mexican persecution since 1915 the Holy See allowed the local bishops to consecrate necessary new prelates without obtaining papal approval. Within an extreme situation of desparation, in which the church in CSSR especially after the putting down of the „Prague spring“ and the following repression had to live, he felt he had to do everything possible to help the church to survive and to enable necessary pastoral work. Thus, this led to irritations and tensions of partly serious extent within the local churches, from which several clandestine bishops and priests had to suffer even after years.
Secret Bishop Consecrations by Mgr. Felix Maria Davídek 1967 up to 1987:
03.12.67 Ján Kočiš
23. (24.?) 03.68 Ivan Ljavinec
22.08.68 Jirí Jan Pojer
27.08.68 Marian Dobroslav Kabelka, O. Praem.
27.08.68 Stanislav Krátký
00.08.68 Josef Dvořák
28.11.70 Martin Hrbča
00.00.70 Josef Blahnik
00.08.72 Oskar Formánek, S. I.
00.08.72 Marián Potáš, O. S. B. M.
02.03.73 Jiří Krpálek
15.03.73 Siard Ivan Klement, O. Praem.
00.12.78 Václav Razik
06.10.79 Dušan Spiridon Špiner
04.12.84 Josef Hinterhölzl
18.12.87 Karel Chytil
From these seventeen bishops, who were consecrated without an explicit mandate of the Holy See, only Mgr Kočiš and Mgr Ljavinec were recognized by Rome; both had to be re-consecrated „sub conditione“. The consecrations by Mgr Davídek took place without any co-consecrators and therefore often without any witnesses which lead to some disturbations afterwards. As far as Mgr Špiner reports of episcopal co-consecrators, these memories obviousely do not correspond to historical facts. Bishop Davídek, who considered himself ordinary of the underground Church, and several bishops of both rites consecrated by him lived in Brno; Mgr Špiner had been chosen by Mgr Davídek to be his coadjutor, while the others were comparable to an auxiliary bishop. Mgr. Pojer lived for his last thirty years in Switzerland.
Secret Bishop Consecrations by the Davídek Line 1967 up to 1982:
03.12.67 Ján Kociš by Felix Maria Davídek
24.08.69 Bedrich Provazník by Ján Kociš
24.10.70 Fridolin Zahradník by Bedřich Provazník
00.00.71 Ján Krajnák by Bedřich Provazník
00.00.7? Serhej Kovc by N. N.
00.00.73 Josef Jindra by Fridolin Zahradník
00.00.75 Nikodém Mikulaš Krett by Fridolin Zahradník
14.06.75 Bartolomej Urbanec by Nikodém Krett
00.00.81 Ondrej Fogaš by Nikodém Krett
00.00.81 Anton Novobilský by Nikodém Krett
29.05.82 Jan Konzal by Fridolin Zahradník
29.05.82 Pavel Hájek by Fridolin Zahradník
The consecrations of Ondrej Fogaš and Anton Novobilský are not for sure. Except of Mgr Ján Kociš, no-one of these priests is recognized as bishop by the Holy See.
To understand, why so much clandestine bishops, who often did not know from the others‘ existence, were consecrated without Rome’s approbation, it may be usefull to have a look at the little number of those bishops, who could be appointed officially since 1949:
00.00.1965: František Tomášek, Ap. Administrator of Praha
28.02.1973: Jozef Feranec, Bishop of Banská Bystrica
28.02.1973: Julius Gábriš, Ap. Administrator of Trnava
28.02.1973: Ján Pasztor, Bishop of Nitra
28.02.1973: Josef Vrana, Ap. Administrator of Olomouc
30.12.1977: František Cardinal Tomášek, Archbishop of Praha
19.05.1988: Jan Lebeda, Auxiliary Bishop of Praha
19.05.1988: Antonín Liška, Auxiliary Bishop of Praha
19.05.1988: Ján Sokol, Ap. Administrator of Trnava
26.07.1989: Josef Koukl, Bishop of Litoměřice
26.07.1989: Ján Sokol, Archbishop of Trnava
26.07.1989: František Tondra, Bishop of Spiš
26.07.1989: František Vanák, Ap. Administrator of Olomouc
On May 19, 1988, Mgr Kajetán Matoušek was allowed to practise as auxiliary bishop of Prague. From the four newly elected bishops of the year 1973 two, Mgr Feranec and Mgr Vrana, stood close to „Pacem in Terris“. When Paul VI made Mgr Štěpán Trochta, S. D. B., in 1969 and Mgr František Tomášek members of the college of cardinals, it had to happen „in pectore“; the publication of these creations took place in 1973 respective in 1977.
The photos of this page were taken by the archives of Hofrat Dr. Manfred Kierein, Vienna, of Andreas Brender, MA, Kirchzarten, of Michael Kurt, Obertshausen, and of the author.
Birtz, Mircea Remus/Kierein, Manfred: Voices from Ecclesia militans in Czechoslovakia, Editura Napoca Star 2011. – On the one hand this booklet should be read with critical distance regarding some points of view, but on the other it compiles the history of the dark years mainly in a correct way.
Vybiralová, Eva: Untergrundkirche und geheime Weihen, echter 2019. – Profound historical survey basing on countless interviews; compiles also clandestine priestly ordinations.