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Modus Vivendi with Czechoslovakia (1928)

This agreement, made ten years after Czechoslovakia was founded, was a diplomatic note needing no approval by the new country's democratic parliament. The Vatican was obliged to give the government a veto over the appointment of bishops (Article 4) in return for state subsidies for the Church (Article 1) and an end to state administration of Church property (Article 2).

"The Holy See...was not too amicably disposed towards the new democratic state." [1] It took ten years of negotiations to reach an accord, even one which did not have to face a parliamentary vote. Finally Pius XI removed the main impediment by issuing a bull which granted the Slovaks their own separate diocese. [2] A regular concordat was out of the question for this democratic, secular state whose Constitution said that "All religious confessions shall be equal before the law". It stated further that "Public instruction shall be given so as not to be in conflict with the results of scientific investigation". [3]


Agreement between the Czechoslovak Republic and the Holy See
Reached in January 1928

(came into force on 2 February 1928)

The note of the Czechoslovak Government, dated 29 January 1928
sent to the Vatican by the Foreign Minister, Dr. E. Beneš

To His Eminence
Cardinal Gasparri,
The Secretary of State to the Holy See in Rome

Your Eminence,
Several years ago the Government of the Czechoslovak Republic had the honour of negotiating with the Holy See about regulating some political and religious questions, which had not been resolved between both parties. The result of these negotiations was signed on 17 December 1927 by representatives of both sides and it was agreed, that these will be submitted for acceptance to His Holiness, as well as to the Government of the Czechoslovak Republic and that it will come into force by exchange of reciprocal notes between the Secretary of the Holy See and the Foreign Minister of the Czechoslovak Republic.

I have the honour now to inform you on behalf of the Government of the Czechoslovak Republic that on 20 January 1928 it ratified this agreement (this Modus Vivendi), whose final text was reached during negotiations in the month of December 1927 between Msg.r Borgongini Duca and Mr. Krofta, as follows:

Article I

The Holy See and the Government of Czechoslovakia have agreed on the principle that no part of the Czechoslovak Republic will be subordinated to an Ordinary whose seat is outside the frontiers of the Czechoslovak State and equally no Czechoslovak diocese will exceed the frontiers of the Czechoslovak Republic. The Holy See and the Czechoslovak Republic will reach agreement on the new boundaries and on subsidies to the dioceses. To prepare this agreement two committees will be set up within two months, independently of each other: the first of them will be created by the Holy See from the delegates of all the dioceses involved, under the presidency of a delegate for the Holy See in Prague, the second by the Czechoslovak Government from the delegates of Dioceses involved and experts.

Article II.

The management of Church property in Czechoslovakia, both movable and immovable, which has been sequestered, is temporary until an agreement referred to in the preceding article. A committee authorised by the dignitary of the episcopate of the relevant territory is entrusted with it.

Article III.

Orders and congregations of monks whose buildings are situated in Czechoslovakia will be not subordinated to superiors of provincial monastic buildings belonging to the same order and to congregations abroad. If the establishment of such a province in Czechoslovakia proves not to be possible, these monastic buildings in Czechoslovakia will be subordinated directly to the Vicar-General of the order.

Provincial priors and superiors of monastic houses subordinated to the Vicar-General of the order will be Czechoslovak citizens.

Article IV.

The Holy See, before nominating Archbishops, Diocesan Bishops, Co-adjutants with successor’s rights (cum iure succesionis) and Head Chaplains in the army, will announce the name of the candidate to the Czechoslovak Government, in order to ensure that the Government has no objections of a political nature to this choice. The above-mentioned Ordinaries must be citizens of the Czechoslovak State.

Objections of a political nature include all objections which the Government could raise relating to state security, for instance, if the selected candidate had committed acts of irredentism, separatism, or acts directed against the Constitution or the public order in the Republic.

The name of the candidate selected by the Holy See, as well as the negotiations involved, are to be kept secret.

The nomination of a Head Chaplain in the army is carried out only if the system of independent pastoral care for the soldiers is preserved. At such nominations, besides objections of political nature, objections against the position of the candidate in the army come under consideration.

Article V.

Dignitaries mentioned in the preceding Article will deliver an oath of loyalty to the Czechoslovak State after their nomination by the Holy See, as follows:

"Iuro et promitto sicuti decet Episcopum fidelitatem Reipublicae Cecoslovacae necnon nihil me facturum quod sit contra salutem, securitatem, intergritatem Reipublicae." (I swear and promise, as behooves a Bishop, loyalty to the Czechoslovak Republic, [and] that I will not commit any act what could harm the wellbeing, security and integrity of the Republic.)

Article VI.

The Government will provide that all legal provisions be adjusted to this Modus Vivendi as soon as possible.

This assures your Eminence of the assent by the Czechoslovak Government to the Modus Vivendi agreed upon in our mutual discussions. I have the honour to express to Your Eminence our great satisfaction with the result reached in this agreement and reassure Your Eminence that the Government of the Czechoslovak Republic always expends great effort to secure for its citizens a free development and respect for their belief, their religious feelings and concern for religion, which is happily reflected in this agreement. I have the honour to add that the Government of the Czechoslovak Republic will proceed in the same spirit at the implementation of this agreement, as well as when solving questions which could possibly arise between both parties.

Accept, Your Eminence, the expression of my deepest respect
On behalf of the Czechoslovak Government
The Foreign Minister
Dr. E. Beneš.

Comments [appended to the Czech text]

1. [The original of] this text appeared in Sbírka zákonů a nařízení ve věcech náboženských a církevních, (Collection of Acts and Regulations in Religious and Church Issues) compiled by Fr. Bednář, published in Prague in 1929, under the imprint of the Czechoslovak Evangelical Theological Faculty of J. Hus in Prague.

2. The agreement was not dealt with by legislative means; the Government simply approved it.




1.  JUDr. Katarína Zavacká, CSc., (Slovak Academy of Science -The Institute of State and Law), “V čom je problém základnej zmluvy Slovenskej republiky so Svätou stolicou”, (“The kinds of problems involved in the Basic Treaty of the Slovak Republic with the Holy See”), Práca, 2 June 2000.

2, Pius XI, "Ad ecclesiastici regiminis incrementum", 2 September 1937.

3. Constitution of the Czechoslovak Republic, 1920, Articles 124 and 119.


Modus vivendi: Úmluva mezi republikou československou a Svatou stolicí, sjednaná v lednu 1928
Nóta čs. vlády ze dne 29. ledna 1928, zaslaná Vatikánu ministrem zahraničních věcí dr. E. Benešem

Translated by Dr. Alexander Rehák


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