The truth will set us free

A solemn meeting on the occasion of 20th anniversary of the exchange of letters between the bishops’ conferences of the Czech and Slovak Federative Republic and Germany, organized by the Ackermann-Gemeinde and supported by current presidents of German and Czech bishops’ conferences Archbishop Robert Zollitsch and Archbishop Dominik Duka OP, will take place on November 18, 2010 at 2.00 pm at the Prague Archbishop’s Palace.
Published: 3. 11. 2010 13:45

Prague: On January 11, 1990, shortly after the fall of the Communist regime, Cardinal František Tomášek released a declaration on the reconciliation of nations of then Czechoslovakia and Germany and on the common responsibility for the future of Europe. In the spring, bishops of Germany could meet for the first time after 25 years. Encouraged by Cardinal Tomášek’s declaration, they sent him a letter with their attitude towards reconciliation with the Czech nation and named it symbolically with the quotation from the cardinal’s message, “The truth will set us free”. Worth mentioning is the fact that through Cardinal Tomášek, German bishops wanted to address President Václav Havel as well. Bishops of then Czechoslovakia answered this document of German bishops, sent to Cardinal Tomášek on March 8, 1990, with their letter called “Christ is our common hope” from September 5, 1990, after the creation of the bishops’ conference.

Importance and consequence of the documents for the development of Czech-German relations will be discussed during the solemn meeting by many significant persons. An opening address on behalf of the organizers will be delivered by Jaromír Talíř, president of the Ackermann-Gemeinde Association, and Martin Kastler, president of the Ackermann-Gemeinde. Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, president of the German Bishops’ Conference, and Archbishop Dominik Duka OP, president of the Czech Bishops’ Conference, will speak on the topic “Steps towards reconciliation – 20 years from the exchange of letters between the bishops’ conferences of Czechoslovakia and Germany”. A significant guest will be First Deputy Prime Minister of the Czech Republic and Minister of Foreign Affairs Karel Schwarzenberg, who will sketch out current perspectives in his discourse named “Steps to renew Czech-German neighbourhood – assessment and outlooks after twenty years”.

The solemn meeting will be closed with a prayer by Prof. Albert-Peter Rethmann, spiritual advisor of the Ackermann-Gemeinde, and Father Adrián Zemek OPraem, spiritual advisor of the Ackermann-Gemeinde Association.

The 1990 letters of the German and Czechoslovak bishops’ conferences are documents from the beginning of free contacts between Germany and Czechoslovakia. Their aim was to heal the wounds of history. In the Catholic background – and not only there – they opened an official space where the reconciliation between Czechs and Germans could develop; today we often harvest its fruits as it were something natural. Even today the documents can offer an inspiration for strengthening current and future relations between Czechs and Germans,” says director of the Ackermann-Gemeinde Association office in Prague Msgr. Anton Otte, who has been working in this field for many years. Martin Kastler, president of the Ackermann-Gemeinde and Member of the European Parliament, says about the significance of the historical step: “Since the exchange of letters, reconciliation between Czechs and Germans as well as between Sudeten Germans and Czechs moved forward significantly. Despite old wounds and borders (between states), the reconciliation is lived actively and shaped in various ways. Thanks to the exchange of letters, the Church became a pioneer in this procedure. Christians are those who are called to reconcile and heal the wounds of history. We want to make the best of the new Czech-German coexistence that is offered to us in Central Europe.

The program of the delegation of the German Bishops’ Conference, led by its president Archbishop Zollitsch, will start in the morning November 18 with a mass at the St. Wenceslaus Chapel of the Prague cathedral of Ss. Vitus, Wenceslaus and Adalbert and subsequent prayer at the tomb of Cardinal František Tomášek.

Media accreditation at tisk@cirkev.cz no later than November 15, 2010:

9:00 am Photo opportunity at the St Vitus Cathedral

2:00 pm Solemn meeting at the Prague Archbishop’s Palace

Arrival at both events at least 15 minutes before the beginning, formal dress expected. Detailed information will be sent to the accredited journalist by e-mail on November 16, 2010.

Contact: Irena Sargánková, Press Office of the CBK, +420 220 181 436, +420 731 625 984, sargankova@cirkev.cz

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