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Czechoslovak-Vatican accord on appointment of bishops (1973): Summary by Radio Free Europe Czechoslovak-Vatican accord on appointment of bishops (1973): Summary by Radio Free Europe

By 1973, when the last Slovak bishop had retired, it was clear that the Vatican would have to enter negotiate with the Communist regime to fill vacant dioceses in Czechoslovakia. However, neither side wanted to set a precedent by letting the other one choose the bishops. The full text of this Vatican agreement is still being kept secret, decades after the fall of the regime that signed it.

The Vatican hoped that this modus vivendi with the Communists would eventually lead to a concordat. Although that regime fell without a further pact with the Vatican, this Cold War agreement with the Communists sets a dangerous precedent. And, indeed, an unratified concordat for the Czech Republic is now awaiting a more favourable political climate. 

Like many other agreements with countries behind the Iron Curtain, the text of the 1973 modus vivendi appears to be unavailable. However, Radio Free Europe wrote a nine-page report on it for internal use, which can be downloaded here. Relevant excerpts are given below.

Czechoslovak-Vatican accord on appointment of bishops

Excerpts from Radio Free Europe research, 1973

Summary: A first step forward in Czechoslovakia's relations with the Vatican has been registered by an agreement on the appointment of four new bishops. This result of difficult and protracted negotiations shows evidence of compromise on both sides and, in addition, reflects recent policy shifts by both parties which accord with a policy of détente and a desire to settle outstanding questions in East-West relations.

After protracted negotiations between the Vatican and representatives of the Czechoslovak regime, a partial agreement has been reached and the appointment of four new bishops announced by the Vatican. Msgr. Agostino Casaroli, head of the Vatican's Public Affairs Council (equivalent to a foreign ministry), went to Czechoslovakia personally to consecrate the four new bishops [...].

Vatican sources described the negotiations with  Czechoslovak officials as among the most difficult of recent times, especially in view of the limited results. [...]

The Vatican has taken pains to stress that papal prerogatives have been respected in the appointment of the new Church officials. Casaroli's trip to Czechoslovakia was said to signify Rome's full endorsement of the new bishops. The  Czechoslovak side, in an implicit defense of its own prerogatives, noted that the new Church functionaries had been appointed with the "state consent" of the Czech and Slovak governments, "on the basis of an agreement between Czechoslovakia and the Vatican." [...]

In commenting on the new appointments, Pope Paul said: "The Church was even on the point of losing its episcopal hierarchy. In Slovakia there were no more bishops left." [...]

Rome hopes in future to fill more vacant dioceses, and eventually to resume the full diplomatic relations severed in 1950. [...]

Commenting on the oath of loyalty to the state which the newly appointed bishops took, [Casaroli] argued that such action was not necessarily indicative of a proregime attitude, Such an oath" was customary in all East European states, and when the bishops had taken it they had expressly stated that their loyalty to the state ended at the point where it became incompatible with their consciences as bishops. [...]

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