Vatican, April 19 (CTK) – The remains of Cardinal and Prague Archbishop Josef Beran (1888-1969) were taken from the Vatican St Peter’s Basilica on Thursday, on Friday, they will be flown to Prague and then interred in St Vitus Cathedral.

Beran’s last wish to be buried at home will be fulfilled only now, half a century after his death. His coffin will be put in the tomb of Prague archbishops in Saint Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle on April 23.

The farewell ceremony with Beran is attended by a Czech delegation comprising representatives of the Catholic church and the state. It is headed by Culture Minister Ilja Smid (ANO) who will meet Vatican secretary of state Cardinal Pietro Parolin and current Secretary for Relations with States within the Holy See Richard Gallagher.

On Wednesday, the slab from the tomb from the grave, considered temporary at the time of Beran’s burial, was removed in the chapel. The slab is to be placed in Plzen, West Bohemia, where Beran was born.

In St Peter’s Basilica, a commemorative plaque will be installed for a permanent memory.

Along with the coffin, a small bag with earth from Beran’s homeland, which was placed in his grave, was taken out from the chapel. It will also return to the Czech Republic.

After the coffin was taken out of the chapel, one of the cardinals evoked the life of Beran and his persecution. There were prayers and farewell ceremonies in the presence of Italian church representatives and Czech guests.

“Beran’s return to his homeland is a big triumph,” Smid said.

“His repatriation has ended his emigration. I would like to thanks the Holy See for having enabled after Beran’s death in 1969 that his remains could lay in this sacred place near the remains of Saint Peter,” Smid said.

He said Beran’s life was an example for the whole nation.

“It is the example of a man whose fate seems to have mirrored the fate of the whole nation. He was persecuted by two totalitarian regimes, but he never yielded to them. His personality always radiated consistency, he fought for religious freedom and the freedom of conscience not only for the church-goers, but for all who were oppressed in various totalitarian regimes,” Smid said.

“In connection with what is going on in Czech politics, where one can hear the view that the Communists can return to the top power posts without any problems, it is quite symbolic that the remains of Beran, a resolute opponent of the ideology, are returning to his homeland,” church historian Jaroslav Sebek said.

“It is quite bizarre that at the moment Cardinal Beran is coming to the Czech Republic, President Milos Zeman is coming as the first post-Communist president to the congress of the Communist party,” he added.

“The symbolism in Beran returning just in this time is very strong,” Sebek said.

Beran was born in 1888 in Plzen, west Bohemia. He studied theology and Christian philosophy at the Pontifical Urban University in Rome and was ordained a priest in 1911.

Within the persecutions in reaction to the Prague assassination of Nazi top official Reinhard Heydrich in 1942, the Gestapo arrested Beran and imprisoned him. He was sent to the Terezin (Theresienstadt) camp and survived the Dachau concentration camp.

When the war ended, Beran was named Prague archbishop in late 1946. After the communist coup, he refused to be loyal with the Communist rule on behalf of the Catholic church and he banned priests from public and political activities.

When Pope Paul VI named Beran a cardinal, the Czechoslovak state let him go to the ceremony in Rome, but it did not let him return. Beran thus stayed in the Vatican.

Beran died on May 17, 1969. As he could not be buried in his homeland, Paul VI decided to inter him in St Peter’s Basilica, in which almost exclusively popes are buried.

After the fall of the Czechoslovak Communist regime, President Vaclav Havel decorated Beran posthumously in 1991. The process of Beran’s beatification began in 1998. In January 2018, Pope Francis approved the repatriation of his remains.

On Friday, a liturgy will be held in the Nepomucenum college in Rome.

A mass will be served by Slovak Cardinal Jozef Tomko and the remains will be laying in state till 22:00.

On Friday, the remains will be flown to Prague and on Monday interred in the Saint Vitus Cathedral.