CHAPTER 26 How the Churches Were Broken

ARCHBISHOP Josef Beran of Prague, a tiny, gently smiling figure beneath the tall jeweled miter on his head and the gold and silver stole over his shoulders, gripped the pulpit railing, leaned forward and silver in a loud, clear voice, but tense with emotion, to three thousand men and women pressed into Strahov church and overflowing into the monastery garden outside.

"I don't know how many more times I will be able to speak to you," the archbishop said. "Whatever happens, don't believe that I have surrendered." A murmur and a wave of sobs went through the church as he paused.

It was June 18, 1949. Negotiations between the Roman Catholic church and the Communist state had broken down. The Czechoslovak Council of Bishops had found a police-installed microphone hidden in their conference room. They had protested to President Gottwald. They had made public a series of letters to cabinet ministers protesting against the suppression of Catholic newspapers and periodicals, interference with Catholic education and other efforts to force the church out of public life and back behind the walls of its churches. The government's insistence that it would administer the entire educational system "in the spirit of Marxism" made further church-state negotiations "vain and hopeless," the bishops had said.

The government, for its part, had arrested about 150 priests on charges of various kinds of antistate activity. A week before the archbishop's appearance in Strahov church, it had founded a so-called Catholic Action which was supposed to win support among the lower clergy and Catholic laymen and to bring pressure to bear on the bishops to submit to the government's demands. Finally, the government had, only three days earlier, placed Archbishop Beran's palace under police surveillance and

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