Prague, April 21 (CTK) – Church dignitaries and hundreds of church-goes paid homage to the memory of Cardinal Josef Beran (1888-1969), who was repatriated from the Vatican after an extended period of exile enforced upon him by the Communist regime, in the Saint Vitus Cathedral in Prague on Saturday.

The mass was served by Prague Archbishop Cardinal Dominik Duka.

“I welcome my glorious predecessor,” Duka said at the opening of the mass.

Duka also turned to the current events.

He said the moments when Communists despite their electoral defeat were demanding an increasing share of power, were among the decisive hours of the Czech nation.

The Communists only received 7.8 percent of the vote in the 2017 general election, but they may provide tolerance to the government in the making of Prime Minister Andrej Babis’s ANO and the Social Democrats.

They are holding a congress which was attended by President Milos Zeman earlier on Saturday.

“All the bigger the responsibility for the head of state. A clear word should be said,” Duka said. The people in the cathedral reacted with a stormy applause.

The coffin with Beran’s remains will lay in state in the cathedral for three days, during which people will be able to come and pay homage to it.

On Monday, Beran’s remains will be buried in a newly created sarcophagus in the Saint Agnes chapel.

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.

Due to this, the Communist regime persecuted him. 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.

The guests included Defence Minister Karla Slechtova (ANO), the leader of the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), Petr Fiala, and deputy Miroslava Nemcova (ODS).

Nemcova said the transfer of Beran’s remains to the homeland showed that the crimes of the Communist regime were not forgotten and that even now the past arbitrariness had still to be redressed.