František Tomášek

František Tomášek* 30. 6. 1899 † 4. 8. 1992
František Tomášek, a Czech Roman Catholic priest and theologian, a cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church in Bohemia and the 34th Archbishop of Prague, was a notable religious figure who stood at the forefront of the renewal process within the Catholic Church after the restoration of democracy following the Velvet Revolution of November 1989.

František Tomášek was born on 30 June 1899 as the second eldest son of a schoolteacher and had five siblings, three brothers and two sisters. The whole family lived in Studénka in the building of the then new school, the birthplace of all six children.

František's father died at a young age of 41 on 9 February 1906 making six-year old František a half-orphan. After his father's death, young František and his other siblings were raised by their mother, who had become a widow at the age of 32.

In 1918 František graduated from secondary school and after a brief stint in the army he enrolled in the seminary at the Saint Cyril and Methodius Faculty of Theology in Olomouc. Just before he left for the front, he had become ill with tuberculosis and was discharged from the army as medically unfit.

On 5 July 1922, František Tomášek was ordained to the priesthood by Antonín Cyril Stojan, the Archbishop of Olomouc and Tomášek's great role model.

After his ordination, František Tomášek served as a catechist in Moravia (Olomouc-Pavlovice, Kelč u Hranic na Moravě) and in 1934 he joined the faculty of Saint Cyril and Methodius Faculty of Theology in Olomouc as an assistant professor of pedagogy and catechism, where he earned a doctorate in theology in 1938.

After the end of World War II, František Tomášek rejoined Olomouc's Saint Cyril and Methodius Faculty of Theology as a faculty member when he was appointed associate professor of pedagogy and catechism by the president of Czechoslovakia in 1947.

On 23 July 1951, at the time of the most severe repressive measures of the Communist regime against the Catholic Church, František Tomášek was arrested and interned in a labour camp for priests in the former Premonstratensian Monastery in Želiv, which served as a camp for politically suspicious persons.

For the Communist regime to placate the worshippers before the elections in 1954, some religious figures were released. Among them was Bishop Tomášek, who was released on 28 May 1954. Tomášek, who had never stood trial, was subsequently allowed to work as a parish administrator in Moravská Huzová (1954 – 1965).

František Tomášek became a prominent figure of the Czech Catholic Church – the Communist authorities saw him as someone who is able to subordinate the Church to state control and Tomášek became a counterpart to Communists in negotiations regarding the relations between the Czechoslovak Communist regime and the Catholic Church. Even though he was made to choose his words carefully, his views on ecumenism and poverty in the world gained wide acceptance.

Every time František Tomášek visited Rome, he would pay a visit to Padre Pio, with whom he had developed a warm personal relationship. Padre Pio, known for his stigmata, had a gift of seeing into the hearts of others and predicting the future. Padre Pio's vision of Tomášek living to see the freedom of the church in his homeland helped Tomášek to overcome the attacks of the Communist regime.

František TomášekFrantišek Tomášek

After Cardinal Josef Beran, the Archbishop of Prague, was not allowed to return to Czechoslovakia from Rome, Tomášek was appointed in his place as Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Prague on 18 February 1965.

During the Prague Spring, a brief period of political liberalization in 1968, František Tomášek became actively involved in the renewal process within the Catholic Church. On 20 March František Tomášek issued a declaration in which he explicitly drew attention to the persecution of the church in the previous period of the Communist regime, expressing hope about the era coming to an end and demanding that more religious freedom be granted in the country.

At the same time, he spoke out against the government sponsored Peace Movement of the Catholic Clergy, which he had reluctantly become a member of as a parish priest. Also, he became a member of the Society for Human Rights and co-founded the Movement for Conciliar Renewal. In the year 1978, František Tomášek attended the two conclaves that elected John Paul I and John Paul II.

Despite his illness and under constant police surveillance, he continued to perform all his pastoral duties. In 1989 Tomášek flew to the Vatican to attend the canonization of Blessed Agnes, who was formally canonized by John Paul II on 12 November, just days before the Velvet Revolution began on 17 November 1989 and peacefully ended Communist rule. Many Czechs appreciated the symbolism of the moment, as if Saint Agnes of Bohemia blessed the entire nation on its way to regaining freedom. On 21 November 1989, Cardinal Tomášek issued a proclamation openly endorsing the peaceful overthrow of the Communist regime and the democratic changes in Czechoslovakia.

In 1990, Tomášek's dream came true when he welcomed and accompanied Pope John Paul II during his first visit to Czechoslovakia. On 26 March 1991, at the age of almost 92 and long past the age of 75 at which bishops are to offer their resignation, František Tomášek was relieved from office at his own request due to his advanced age. He was succeeded by Miloslav Vlk, the Bishop of České Budějovice, who was appointed as the Archbishop of Prague by John Paul II on 27 March 1991, and formally assumed the administration of the diocese on 1 June 1991.

Rodný důmPamětní deskaCardinal František Tomášek, the 34th Archbishop of Prague died on 4 August 1992 in Prague. Eight days later, he was interred in Saint Vitus' Cathedral, a Roman Catholic cathedral and the seat of the Archbishop of Prague.

During his term in high office, Tomášek visited Studénka in 1969 on the occasion of Confirmation and in 1980 to celebrate the centenary of the completion of St Bartholomew's Church.

In 1990 František Tomášek was made an honorary citizen of Studénka and three years later a commemorative plaque was unveiled on the school building in which he was born to mark the birthplace of one the greatest theologians and luminaries in the modern history of the Catholic Church in our country