Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The President is in Bratislava

Bratislava? So what? Bratislava's Catholics and the role they played in bring freedom to Easter Europe may be of interest to Catholics here in America:

The dissident movement in the Slovak half of Communist Czechoslovakia included secular liberals, Jews, environmentalists, and reformed apparatchiks, but its most powerful current flowed underground through the unofficial Catholic Church. A 1988 demonstration in Bratislava on behalf of religious freedom was the first intimation of the "Velvet Revolution" of the following year.

Led by dissident lawyer Jan Carnogursky, the underground church held secret study groups in theology, law, and philosophy and clandestine services with priests whom the official church had banned. Every Easter this hidden city would gather in numbers large enough to overwhelm the secret police; in hundreds of thousands its members would march to the holy shrines of Levoca, in Eastern Slovakia, where for a few hours they could congregate on hilltops, freely and in peace.

Jan Carnogursky would be too modest to mention the sacrifices, such as frequent imprisonment, that he made on this movement's behalf. But we ought to remember the evenings when the Carnogurskys waited desperately for smuggled shipment of medicines that a vicious regime had denied their son.

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