Prague, June 20 (CTK) – An ecumenical service including a prayer for forgiveness for the death of John Huss, a medieval priest, teacher and church reformer, took place in Prague’s Church of Mother of God before Tyn for the first time in history Saturday.
The service, celebrated by representatives of several Christian churches, was one of the main events marking the 600th anniversary of the martyr’s death of Huss, whom the Constance Church Council sentenced to death for heresy and burnt at a stake on July 6, 1415.
“This divine service is a historic event. This is no exaggeration because never before in history did the churches in our country stage an event to unite, in a mutual dialogue, in their view of a certain issue,” former Prague archbishop Cardinal Miloslav Vlk told CTK.
Saturday’s service culminated in the expression of mutual forgiveness and reconciliation. The present dignitaries and believers adhering to various Christian churches shook hands with each other as a symbol of peace.
Apart from Vlk, the ecumenical service was chaired by Czechoslovak Hussite Church representatives Tomas Butta and Sandra Silna, who is also general secretary of the Ecumenical Council of Churches, Czech Brethren Church head Daniel Fajfr and other dignitaries.
Both the Hussite and Czech Brethren churches are based on the legacy of the ideas promoted by Huss.
A sermon was given by Fajfr and Cardinal Dominik Duka, the current Prague archbishop and Czech Catholic primate.
Vlk spoke about the importance of the 2nd Vatican council in 1962-65, which opened the Catholic Church to ecumenical cooperation and the promotion of the freedom of religion.
Czech-born Cardinal Josef Beran, persecuted and ousted into exile by the Czechoslovak communist regime, significantly contributed to this progress, Vlk said.
He also mentioned the statement Pope John Paul II made during his first visit to Czechoslovakia in 1990, that experts should define John Huss’s position among church reformers.
Before, the Catholic church considered Huss a heretic.
In 1999, a symposium on Huss was held in the Vatican, where the results of a commission of experts were presented.
Vlk said the immolation of Huss was a painful event.
In the past 25 years, churches have conducted a dialogue and dealt with the issue. They have arrived at the conclusion that it is necessary to apologise to each other for wrong steps and mistakes on both parties, Vlk said.
The churches have decided to show their willingness to reconciliation. This is why the event is historic, Vlk said, referring to the ecumenical service.
“Each of the two sides has recognised their respective mistakes, we apologised for them and shook hands in reconciliation,” he said.
On June 15, a delegation of Christian churches’ dignitaries from the Czech Republic was received by Pope Francis in the Vatican.
Although the Pope had a busy schedule, he spent almost an hour together with the Czech delegation. “This shows what importance the Pope ascribes to this step of mutual reconciliation,” Vlk added.