Catholic Church in Czech Republic to screen priests for collaboration with Soviet secret police

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The head of the Czech Roman Catholic Church, Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, announced on Wednesday that it was setting up a joint project with the Interior Ministry under which the country's Catholic priests will be screened for evidence of collaboration with the former regime. Historian Petr Blazek, present at the ministry's StB archive during a visit by the cardinal, explains that such collaboration took various forms.

"Many priests collaborated through different pro-regime organisations. They openly worked with the regime and it was clear to believers that they were not independent. But later there were priests who collaborated with the secret police in many different ways. They were agents, they provided depended on the agency they were involved with - whether it was intelligence or counter-intelligence."

Cardinal Vlk has called for measured and objective judgement of members of the clergy who collaborated, describing the methods of the StB as "very tough". But was the pressure put on them really so great?
"In some cases their methods were very, very tough. They applied pressure, sometimes using compromising materials or putting pressure on the relatives of priests. In some cases the priests came to regard collaborating as a normal part of their lives. I'd like to say also that many of the people in the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church used by the StB were lay people involved in the church."
Cardinal Vlk's new project is called Otevrena minulost - Open Past.

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