Czechoslovak Church

National church of Czechoslovakia, founded in 1920. Against the background of Hapsburg central government repression, which sought to curb Czech nationalism by appointing bishops favoring centralization and Germanization, an association of Catholic priests called “Jednota” was formed in 1890. They sought the introduction of the Czech language into the liturgy, the abolition of priestly celibacy, and lay participation in church government. Their demands were rejected by Rome in 1919, whereupon they formed an independent religious body, forty priests meeting in the national house in Prague-Smichov in January 1920. They won many adherents and were soon recognized by the secular government. Constituted on Presbyterian lines, the church elected but did not consecrate four bishops, there being no doctrine of apostolic succession. Since 1946 bishops are appointed for seven years only. A strongly rationalistic church-largely because of the influence of the first patriarch, Karl Farsky-it rejected the doctrines of original sin, purgatory, and veneration of saints; christological and eucharistic doctrines were liberally interpreted.

A more conservative group under Matthias Pavlik, who was ordained an Orthodox bishop under the name Gorazd (1921), entered into relations with the Serbian Orthodox Church. The majority followed Farsky, but after his death (1927) they too became more conservative. Patriarchs succeeding Farsky were Gustav Prochazka (1928-42), Francis Kovar (1946-61), Miroslav Novak (from 1961). In 1963 there were some 750,000 members in 345 parishes and five dioceses. Candidates for the ministry are trained in the Hus Czechoslovak theological faculty in Prague.