Website accessibility
Show or hide the menu bar

Draft concordat (rejected in 2003) Draft concordat (rejected in 2003)

The Czechs are the last in Central Europe without a concordat. In 2003 their Chamber of Deputies rejected this concordat draft, arguing that it is disadvantageous for the Czech Republic and gives preferential treatment to the Catholic Church. Although the preamble talks about human rights and Vatican II, (both increasingly under attack by the current pope), the body of this concordat contains the usual demands, as listed by Cardinal Tauran. 

 The American Embassy sent a confidential memo about the negotiatons which was later revealed in Wikileaks:

According to Monsignor Michael Banach, desk officer responsible for the Czech Republic, the negotiations had been difficult, and the Holy See ultimately accepted less binding and more neutral language than they had sought in some areas in order to achieve a text acceptable to the cabinet that would have a chance of securing parliamentary approval.  … Banach said the Holy See was particularly pleased with the official recognition of Catholic marriages and the recognition of Catholic education on a par with the state education system. [1]

The Vatican's satisfaction on the marriage and education clauses (Articles 9 and 12) has good strategic grounds. Allowing the Catholic Church to assume control over the civil aspects of marriage would constitute a break with the Czechs' strict separation of church and state in this regard. [2] And the Vatican's enthusiasm for the education clause is also understandable. It means that anyone who teaches Catholic religion at public universities must have the consent of his local bishop.

As the Czech political scientist Ondrej Slechta warns, these two clauses alone would fundamentally alter the non-confessional character of the state embedded in the Czech Constitution. Article 2 states that “the people are the source of all power in the State” — not the Vatican. Yet, in accordance with Article 10a, an international treaty, such as a concordat with the Vatican, would take precedence over the laws made by the representatives of the people. As Dr. Slechta concludes, a state ceases to be secular where a religious community has the legal right to make decisions about developments in the public sphere. [3]

[Draft] Treaty between the Czech Republic and the Holy See modifying some relations

[signed 25 July 2002, but not yet ratified]

The Czech Republic and the Holy See,

— proceeding from the centuries-long common historical tradition of the Czech Republic and the Catholic Church,
— convinced of the utility and necessity of adapting the mutual relations to the developing relationship between the State and Catholic Church, as well as to conform with the basic changes which have taken place in Europe,
— conscious of the role of the Catholic Church in the Czech nation, as well as in European and world history in creating and protecting spiritual, cultural, and humane values and the potential of the Catholic Church to effect reconciliation in the world,
— acknowledging that the Czech Republic is a democratic State governed by laws protecting the natural and inalienable rights and fundamental freedoms of man,
— guided by the principles of the international law, especially by those which concern the observance of the human rights and fundamental freedoms,
— with reference to the constitutional order and legal system of the Czech Republic and, on the part of the Holy See, to the documents of the Second Vatican Council and the norms of Canon Law,
— expressing their common will to secure a dependable and harmonic co-operation between the parties,

have agreed as follows:

Article 1

The Czech Republic and the Holy See (henceforth referred to as "contracting parties") mutually acknowledge each other as international legal persons, they mutually consider the other party an independent legal person in compliance with international law and they pledge to respect fully this legal personality.

Article 2

The contracting parties confirm their diplomatic representation of the Czech Republic and of the Holy See at the level of an embassy, and the diplomatic representation of the Holy See in Czech Republic at the level of an apostolic nuncio.

Article 3

(1) The Roman Catholic Church and the Catholic Orthodox Church (henceforth referred to as the Catholic Church) are in the Czech Republic legal personalities conformingly to the internal rules of the Catholic Church and the legal order of the Czech Republic.

(2) The Holy See shall ensure that the borders of Roman Catholic dioceses and the apostolic administrative territories coincide with the State borders of the Czech Republic.

Article 4

The contracting parties agree that freedom of religion in the Czech Republic has been guaranteed by the constitutional order of the Czech Republic and by international treaties which are binding for the Czech Republic.

Article 5

(1) The Holy See acknowledges that the Czech Republic is, according its constitutional order, a non-denominational State, thus it is not linked to any religious creed.

(2) The Czech Republic acknowledges that the Catholic Church is governed in its activities by its own principles, especially by the teaching of the Second Vatican Council on the ecumenism and religious dialogue.

Article 6

The Czech Republic guarantees through its legal system that the Catholic Church shall freely perform its apostolic vocation, administer its own affairs, in particular, appoint, change, and suspend its own organs and internal structures, elect, nominate and recall its own clerics and other persons linked with pastoral activities, in conformity with their needs and regulations, and independently of the State authority.

Article 7

The contracting parties acknowledge that nobody can be forced to perform military service as far as it is contrary to his /her conscience or religious creed.

Article 8

The contracting parties acknowledge that the mass media play an important role in protecting the freedom of thought and conscience, as well as the freedom of religious belief, and are prepared to maintain support for them in this.

Article 9

The Catholic Church performs ceremonies in which marriage is concluded. A marriage concluded in this way, as far as the conditions outlined by the legal order of the Czech Republic are fulfilled, has equal validity and the same legal consequences as a civil marriage.

Article 10

(1) The Catholic Church may establish, in conformity with its own regulations, legal personalities for organising and professing the Catholic creed and for their activities, especially in the field of education, health services, social and charity care. Legal personalities of the Church established on this way become legal personalities according to the legal order of the Czech Republic after fulfilling the conditions stipulated by the law.

(2) The Czech Republic guarantees for the Catholic Church the right to teach and to educate its clerics, members of religious orders, and lay persons in their own schools and educational establishments.

Article 11

(1) The Catholic Church has the right to establish and to manage its own schools, pre-school establishments, post graduate studies and establishments in the spirit of its apostolic vocation and its own regulations, which shall become a part of the education system of the Czech Republic after meeting the conditions stipulated by the legal system of the Czech Republic. Universities established by the Catholic Church are authorised to act in the Czech Republic upon fulfilling these conditions. The following Paragraph of this article regulates only the status of schools, including universities, pre-school establishments, and schools, which are, or will become, a part of educational system of the Czech Republic.

(2) Faith schools, pre-school and school establishments (henceforth referred to as “schools”) offer education and school services equal to those in the schools, pre-school and school establishments of the other founders, which are a part of the educational and training system of the Czech Republic. Their status and financing is regulated by the legal order of the Czech Republic. Universities mentioned in Article 1 provide for a university education equal to that provided by the public and state universities.

(3) The contracting parties consider certificates of the qualification attained in the schools and universities, as mentioned in Article 1, to be equivalent to certificates issued by similar schools and universities which are a part of the education and training system of the Czech Republic. The Czech Republic acknowledges university graduation certificates and the academic titles granted in theology and religious sciences abroad by foreign theological faculties administered by the State or by Churches which are recognised by the Catholic Church, under the conditions stipulated by the legal system of the Czech Republic.

(4) The activity of Catholic faculties of theology is regulated in conformity with the legal order of the Czech Republic, and the internal rules of the faculty, which are accepted by the academic senate of the university after a preliminary acknowledgement of the Church authority concerned. Ecclesiastic academic staffs teaching the Catholic religion in public universities must get approval of the Church authority involved. Revoking this approval means loss of the permission to teach Catholic religion granted to the Church academic staff member.

(5) The Czech Republic shall enable the teaching of Catholic religion in schools, pre-school and school facilities and participation of children and the youth in leisure-time activities organised by the Catholic Church, taking into account the freedom of conscience and the responsibility, the concern of parents and other legal representatives of children. Such activities are performed under conditions stated by the legal order of the Czech Republic and according to programmes drawn up by the proper authority of the Catholic Church.

(6) The Catholic Church ensures the teaching of the Catholic religion in schools, pre-schools and school facilities which are part of the teaching and educational system of the Czech Republic, and with teachers who are, on the grounds of their professional and pedagogic qualifications, appointed for teaching Catholic religion by a decree (missio canonica) issued by the local ordinary. Revoking this appointment results in loss of the teacher's authorisation to teach religion. As to the relations under the labour law, equal conditions apply to the teachers of Catholic religion, as for the other teachers.

(7) The content and methods of teaching the Catholic religion according to Paragraph 6 are to be compliant with the teachings and principles of the Catholic Church. The guidelines, programmes, and textbooks for this education need to be approved by the Church authority involved.

Article 12

(1) The contracting parties will keep co-operating in the protection and maintenance of the cultural heritage of the Czech Republic, which is an inseparable part of the European cultural treasury.

(2) In each diocese a committee established by the diocesan bishop shall co-operate with the relevant local authorities with the aim of protecting cultural monuments, especially those which are of nation-wide importance, as well as of precious archives and historical and artistic documents located in Church premises of the Catholic Church.

(3) The Catholic Church, cognisant of its cultural heritage, pledges to allow access to all who show interest in getting acquainted with them in order to make them an object of their study.

(4) The Czech Republic will keep supporting the Catholic Church from the financial resources of the State in its care in respect to the cultural monuments and the national monuments, collections of a museal nature and specific collections as archives, at a level equal to the subsidies for other owners of objects which belong to the national cultural treasures.

Article 13

(1) The Catholic Church grants, according to its facilities, humanitarian help in the Czech Republic and abroad, in the course of which it is prepared to co-operate with the governmental and non-governmental organisations of the Czech Republic.

(2) Charitable institutes of the Catholic Church in the Czech Republic are managed in accordance with their own by-laws in compliance with the legal order of the Czech Republic and have the right to funding for these services which shall be granted to them from the State budget under the same conditions as to other institutions of the same or similar nature.

(3) The Catholic Church has the right to perform ecclesiastic and pastoral service for persons living in institutions in the field of social services, if they ask for it.

(4) Additional conditions for the performance and securing the ecclesiastic and pastoral activity in institutions acting in the field of social services can be reached by agreement between the ecclesiastic representative and the social institution concerned.

Article 14

(1) The Catholic Church has the right to set up and run health service institutes under conditions stated by the legal order of the Czech Republic.

(2) The Catholic Church has the right to carry out priestly and pastoral services for those persons admitted to health service establishments who ask for it.

(3) Additional conditions for performing and securing spiritual and pastoral services in health service establishments can be set up by agreement between the Church representatives and the health service providers concerned.

Article 15

(1) In accordance with the conditions postulated by the legal system of the Czech Republic, the Catholic Church

a) has the right to perform religious and pastoral service in prisons, penitentiaries for detainees, and in establishments of similar nature.
b) has the right to act by exerting its services at probation, mediation and similar services related to penal proceedings and serving the penal sentence, as well as procedures connected with them.
c) can be entrusted with management and running facilities where a penitentiary has been established.

(2) Specific conditions for operating and securing services stated in Paragraph 1 will be determined by agreements between the Catholic Church and the respective administrative office.

Article 16

(1) The Catholic Church has the right to secure ecclesiastical and pastoral services for members of armed forces, who ask for it, under the conditions set up by the legal order of the Czech Republic.

(2) Treaties between the Catholic Church and the respective administrative offices can specify additional conditions for performing activities listed in Paragraph 1. This ruling doesn’t prevent the contracting parties from concluding independent agreements for administering ecclesiastical and pastoral services for members of the armed forces.

Article 17

(1) The Czech Republic will attempt in the quickest and for both parties acceptable way to resolve questions concerning the properties of the Catholic Church.

(2) In the Czech Republic the economic safety of the Catholic Church has been guaranteed by the legal system of the Czech Republic. In case a new model of financing is drawn up, provisions will be made for avoiding economic problems for the Catholic Church in the period of transition before the new model replaces the current one.

(3) The respective bodies of the Czech Republic and the representatives of the Catholic Church will co-operate in issues stated in Paragraphs 1 and 2.

Article 18

(1) In issues concerning the whole Catholic Church in the Czech Republic, especially such, which demand new and complementary solutions, the Czech Bishops Conference shall confer with the ministries and administrative offices of the Czech Republic. This decision leaves the right of the contracting parties to deal in these issues untouched.

(2) Additionally, new treaties between the contracting parties can modify the above-mentioned issues. The same applies to agreements between the respective administrative offices of the Czech Republic and the Czech Bishops Conference or to the agreement with the Holy See.

Article 19

The contracting parties will resolve potential contentious issues concerning the interpretation or implementation of this treaty through diplomatic channels.

Article 20

The treaty can be changed and completed on the basis of a mutual agreement of the contracting parties. Changes and amendments must be done in written form.

Article 21

(1) This treaty is subject to ratification on the part of the Czech Republic in conformity with its legal order and ratified on the part of the Holy See according to its procedural rules.

(2) The treaty enters in validity on the first day of the month following the exchange of ratification documents.

(3) The treaty has been concluded for an unlimited time. Each of the contracting parties can revoke the treaty in a written mode, in which case the validity terminates in 6 months after dispatching the notification about its revocation to the other party.

Dated in Prague on July 25, 2002 in two copies, in Czech and Italian language, both versions having an equal validity.

For the Czech Republic                     For the Holy See
Cyril Svoboda                                     +Erwin Josef Ender


Translated from the Czech original on the site of the Church Law Society in the Czech Republic, by Dr. Alexander Rehák of the Prometheus Society of Slovakia



1. “Holy See signs accord with Czech Republic”, US embassy cable - 02VATICAN3717, 29 July 2002.

2. See the Government website, “Information on requirements for marriage in the Czech Republic”.

3. “Reflex: Church bill, Vatican treaty threaten secular state”, ČTK, Prague Monitor, 16 November 2012.

Go to Notanant menuWebsite accessibility

Access level: public

This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site you agree to our use of cookies: OK