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PM Sobotka speaking highly of Hus legacy

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Prague, July 2 (CTK) – Czech medieval religious reformer John Huss, burnt at the stake for his teachings in 1415, is one of the most outstanding figures of Czech history, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) said Thursday.

Huss was not afraid to oppose those who wanted to determine from the position of power what was the truth, Sobotka said.

This is why Czechs invoked him in difficult moments of their history, he added, speaking at an academic assembly of Charles University (UK) devoted to the forthcoming 600th anniversary of Huss’ martyr death.

The assembly was attended by representatives of state institutions, rectors of Czech and Slovak universities, diplomats and the UK academic community.

Huss (1369-1415) criticised the contemporary arbitrary church practices and called for a return to the poor church, for which he was anathematised.

He, however, refused to revoke his teaching and he was burnt at the stake by a decision of the Catholic Church Council in Constance, south Germany, on July 6, 1415.

Late Pope John Paul II expressed regret at Huss’s death, but this does not amount to his complete rehabilitation since the Catholics still consider some of Huss’s ideas erroneous.

The anniversary of Huss’ death on July 6 is a national holiday in the Czech Republic.

Sobotka said for interwar Czechoslovakia and its President Tomas Garrigue Masaryk (1918-35), Huss was a figure symbolising moral autonomy as a national programme.

Huss’ life in truth was followed up by the Czech resistance during World War Two, the sacrifices of Jan Palach and Jan Zajic and the momentous events in 1989, he added.

In 1969, Palach and Zajic immolated themselves in protest against the restoration of a hard-line Communist regime in the aftermath of the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.

UK rector Tomas Zima stressed that John Huss had made his mark at the Prague university.

“Huss’ legacy may be more urgent Thursday than in past years. Democracy is more fragile than we imagined after the fall of Communism,” Zima said.

Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek (CSSD) said he could see some parallels between Huss’ behaviour and his era and the present-day era.

Huss’ public appearances were a sort of political behaviour and he was able to lead large groups of people and to provoke a conflict with the official power, which was Rome at the time, Zaoralek said.

Huss’ death incited the establishment of a proto-political movement, he added.

“He worked at the time of a general crisis, at the time of a crisis of values that were associated with the church power,” Zaoralek said.

“Huss has shown how to behave in the situation of a general crisis. He tried to renew an order in the situation in which order was losing its general legitimacy,” he added.

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