Tomášek, František

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Cardinal, archbishop of Prague; b. June 30, 1899, Studénka, Moravia; d. Aug. 4, 1992, Prague, Czechoslovakia. Tomášek's father was a teacher and director of the local school; he died in 1906 at the age of 40. In order to provide a good education for her six children, his mother moved the family to Olomouc. There Tomášek did his elementary and secondary studies and served a stint in the army during the First World War. He entered the seminary of Olomouc in 1918 and was ordained to the priesthood on July 5, 1922. For the next 27 years he exercised his pastoral ministry in the archdiocese of Olomouc, joining the Cyril-Methodius theological faculty in 1934; he obtained a doctorate from the faculty in 1938.

The Nazi occupation of the country and the closing of all the universities in Moravia and Bohemia interrupted his priestly and teaching activities. At the end of the war in 1945, he was able to resume teaching, and continued to do so until 1950 when the Communist authorities closed the faculty. During these years he published his most important work, the best-selling Katolicky katechismus.

On Oct. 12, 1949, Tomášek was elected titular bishop of Buto and appointed auxiliary of Olomouc. His election and consecration were kept secret because of the religious persecution of the Church by the Communist regime. Bishop Tomášek was imprisoned in the concentration camp of Zeliv from 1951 to 1954. After his release, he resumed his pastoral work as a parish priest in Moravaska Huzova. He was the only Czech bishop allowed to go to Rome to participate in the Second Vatican Council. When the Communist authorities sent Archbishop Josef Beran to exile in Rome in 1965, Bishop Tomášek was named apostolic administrator of Prague. He embraced the reforms of the "Prague Spring" of 1968, establishing a Movement for Conciliar Renewal; this was repressed when the state suppression of the Church was reasserted following the Soviet invasion later that year.

Pope Paul VI created Tomášek a cardinal in the consistory of 1976, but reserved his name in pectore until June 27, 1977 when his name was published and he received the titular church of SS. Vitale, Gervasio e Protasio. Later that year he was promoted to the metropolitan see of Prague. His cautious approach to the "Charter 77" movement that was trying to gain concessions from the government produced dismay among Catholic intellectuals. He later took a firmer stand towards the regime and the dissatisfaction faded.

Cardinal Tomášek participated in the two conclaves of 1978, as well as in four assemblies of the Synod of Bishops. In 1985, he led the Church in Czechoslovakia in the celebration of the 1,100th anniversary of the death of St. Methodius, even as Pope John Paul II issued the encyclical slavorum apostoli to celebrate the evangelization of the Slavic nations by Sts. cyril and methodius. He supported the "Velvet Revolution" of 1988, insisting on the use of non-violent methods to peacefully oust the Communist government. He hosted Pope John Paul II's visit to Czechoslovakia in 1990; the following year, the pope accepted his resignation of the pastoral government of the archdiocese. He died on Aug. 4, 1992 in Prague and was buried in the crypt of the metropolitan cathedral of St. Vitus.

See Also: czech republic, the catholic church in.

[s. miranda]