Pope Benedict XVI accepted invitation to visit the Czech Republic in autumn
Vatican: "His Holiness expressed his thanks for the invitation and confirmed the end of September" as a date of his visit to the Czech Republic, said Radim Ochvat, the press spokesman of the Czech president, on Thursday, Jan 22. The visit is supposed to include September 28, feast of St Wenceslaus, patron saint of the Czech Republic, and it should last two or three days. Further details and program of the journey are still being discussed by the Office of the President, the Czech Embassy to the Holy See, the Apostolic Nunciature in the Czech Republic, and the Czech Bishops' Conference. Msgr Vaclav Maly, auxiliary bishop of Prague, was entrusted to set a preparatory group.
Bishops invited the Holy Father on several occasion, last of them being 1100th anniversary of St Wenceslaus' birth in 2008. They also suggested he could joint the visit of the Czech Republic with his journey to Germany in Sep 2006 or Austria, Sep 2007. "However, it was not possible because of organizational reasons," Cardinal Vlk explained. He also said this time the visit was an initiative of the Pope. "He bears it in his heart, it doesn't have any political background" the cardinal added. He also said the high point of the journey could take place in Moravia, because more than three quarters of the Czech faithful live in this region.
Press spokeswoman of the Czech Bishops' Conference, Irena Sargankova, explains how the process of a papal visit goes: "First step of planning a papal visit to a country are invitations on behalf of the bishops' conference and the head of the state, as the Pope is head of the universal Church as well as head of the Vatican City State," she says. "If the assumed visit is convenient with the Holy Father's program, negotiations between the Holy See's Secretariat of the State (through apostolic nunciature in the country), bishops' conference and representatives of the state to be visited," she explains necessary steps and continues: "The Holy Father then informs the bishops' conference and the head of state that he accepts the invitation. The Vatican finally announces the journey when all preparations are formally closed."