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Cardinal František Tomášek

Cardinal František Tomášek, Archbishop of Prague and apostolic Administrator of the Prague Archdiocese was a remarkable man. He had been active as a teacher and Catholic clergyman since his youth, but made his deepest impression in the public mind November 1989. At that time, he successfully brought about the beatification of the Přemyslid Princess, Agnes of Bohemia.

  • Cardinal František Tomášek

* 1899 – Studénka
† 1992 – Prague

František Tomášek spent his youth in Moravia. After graduating from school, he entered the Olomouc seminary, where he was ordained a priest in 1922. From his early years he devoted himself intensively to pedagogy, and as a teacher of the Catechism worked with the Cyril and Methodius Faculty of Theology. In 1938 he became a Doctor of Theology and a Lector, albeit only until the closure of Czech universities by the Nazis. After World War II, he returned to the faculty as an extramural professor of pedagogy and Catechetics, but not for long. His activities were stopped in June 1950.

The events of the 1950s and religious persecution in Communist Czechoslovakia were to prove fateful for František Tomášek, too. He was ordained in secret as a Bishop in October 1949 and joined the theological underground movement. This soon led to his arrest, imprisonment and hard labour at an internment work camp, where he remained until May 1954.

In 1962, Pope John XXIII summoned the Vatican Council, which was also attended by Bishop František Tomášek, with the consent of the state Communist authorities. He drew attention in debates by highlighting the need to support family life and ecumenism. At the conclusion of the Council in 1965 he was appointed Apostolic Administrator of the Prague Archdiocese.

He spent the subsequent period attempting to highlight the persecution of the Church. His declaration of March 1968, as well as support for the modernization of the Church greatly encouraged other clergy and believers. In May 1976 he became a Cardinal and on 20 December 1977 the Pope named him Archbishop of Prague. In his Archbishop’s role, Cardinal Tomášek could not avoid confrontation with Communist power. An open split occurred in 1982 when he supported the Vatican’s ban on the Pacem in Terris movement, whose clergy collaborated with the Communists.

In November 1987 he declared ‘The decade of the nation’s spiritual revival’ – a major impetus for the faithful. The culmination of these efforts came on 12 November 1989 with the beatification of St Agnes of Bohemia, when Cardinal Tomášek led a pilgrimage of believers to Rome, numbering in the thousands. His declaration ‘To all Czechoslovak People’ gave support for the Velvet Revolution and the democratic changes it brought. Toward the end of his life, Cardinal Tomášek was to witness another major historical event. He was able personally to accompany Pope John Paul II during the Pontiff’s historically first visit to Czechoslovakia in April 1990. He then stood down from his office for medical reasons.