PRAGUE (Reuters) - Czechs have welcomed home the remains of Cardinal Josef Beran, a symbol of defiance of the former Communist government which forced him into exile in the Vatican, where he died 49 years ago.
Beran’s coffin was taken from Saint Peter’s Basilica, where he had been buried in a special privilege normally only reserved for popes, and flown by military plane on Friday to Prague, where it was welcomed by government and church leaders.
In Prague, people will have the opportunity to pay their respects until Monday, when Beran will be buried at St Vitus Cathedral, the main Czech church and the seat of the archbishop of Prague, a post which Beran also held.
Born in 1888, Beran became archbishop in 1946 after surviving the Nazis’ Dachau concentration camp during World War Two.
After the Communist coup in 1948 in then-Czechoslovakia, Beran publicly opposed the new regime. He was put under house arrest and moved by the secret police from village to village to cut the ties with his flock.
The Communists jailed thousands of Catholic priests, monks, nuns and active Catholic lay people, confiscated property and destroyed churches and monasteries, seeing the church as their arch-enemy.
In 1965, Pope Paul VI appointed Beran a cardinal and the Communist government let him leave for Rome, without the option to return home. He died in 1969.
Reporting by Robert Muller; editing by Andrew Roche