Totalitarian regimes and the struggle for freedom of the Christian faith

1939–21st century

Bohemia and Moravia find themselves on the eastern side of the Iron Curtain under atheistic Communist regime with the end of World War II. One of the darkest periods in Czech history of Christianity begins, characterized by harsh persecutions, attraction to the collaboration with the regime and controlled withdrawal of Christianity from the life of ordinary people. Many Christians, however, do not passively accept this situation and fight to maintain the relevance of Christianity in society.

The Second World War (1939-1945) and the subsequent period of the Communist totalitarianism (1948-1989) meant a violent interruption of the First Czechoslovak Republic’s development in our society. The Czech nation during the time of war returns for consolation to the major epochs of the past. This is for example greatly helped by Vladislav Vančura with two-piece paintings of the images from the history of the Czech nation or by Zdeněk Kalista - the student of Pekař and a historian. Many Sudeten Germans cooperate with Nazi Germany (though some are involved in the resistance, for example - priests Richard Henkes, Johan Nepomuk Smolik). And so the German churches often hang red flags with a swastika. Some Christians from organizations such as the Eagle Scout (Orel), Junák or YMCA are persecuted and imprisoned. Many Christians and spiritual leaders are actively involved in the resistence (Jaroslav Šimsa, Bohumír Opočenský, Miloš Bič, Štěpán Trochta, Antonín hrabě Bořek-Dohalský).

A group of clerics around the Orthodox Bishop Gorazd II. cooperates on the assassination of Reich Protector Reinhard Heydrich when they try to hide the Czech paratroopers who carried out the assassination, in the crypt of the St. Cyril and Methodius church in Prague. The shelter location was disclosed, and although the Bishop did not initially know about the hiding, he tried to take full responsibility for the matter in an effort to protect the faithful people. He was along with other collaborators executed. The German population is after the Second World War expelled from Bohemia and Moravia. This ends the mutual coexistence and struggle between the two nations which lasted for centuries. Many churches since then deteriorated.

The Latest Dark Age

The atheistic communist regime wanted to deal with the opponents of their ideology in their own way - many of the clergy and brave Christians, particularly Catholics, were tried in the made-up trial processes in the 1950s, imprisoned, executed and many were banned from their clerical activities. The Catholic religious orders are scattered. The monasteries in Želiv and Broumov for some time became an internment camp for prosecuted priests. Charitable and youth organizations along with church schools are banned. The functioning of theological faculties is restricted. The so-called monetary reform affected the entire nation and the savings of parishes and congregations as well. These savings were intended to pay for the repair, expansion or construction of new churches. Some clergy collaborates with the regime (for example - a group of priests in Pacem in Terris), some are involved in the anti-Communist activities in the dissent, especially with Charter 77 or the so-called underground Church. There are rarely any churches or prayer houses built during the Communism period.


Although the regime prevented the dissemination of information about the development of the Second Vatican Council (1963–1965) – it was for the Catholic Church one of the most significant events of the entire 20th century. The Second Vatican Council responded to the challenges of contemporary society, opened the Church to the world and to other Christian paths (ecumenism). Cardinal Josef Beran also attended these meetings and the regime forbade his return to his homeland. After the Velvet Revolution of 1989, the Churches seek to restore their activities, to once again establish severed ties, work in education, welfare and charitable fields. The Catholic pilgrimages are restored. John Sarkander and Zdislava of Lemberk are canonized during the visit of Pope John Paul II. in 1997. Zdislava of Lemberk becomes the patron saint of the family. The papal visits (John Paul II. and Benedict XVI) become an important event for Catholics.


The Czech Republic is said to be the most atheist and religiously cold country in the world but there are still new churches being built, community centers, new parishes and congregations. The spiritual journeys of today to a large extent are taking place over the Internet, navigation and mobile networks. They are continuing, however, and discovering new horizons on the way towards approaching God’s “heavenly Jerusalem”.

Important dates

1804 – 
French emperor Napoleon, Napoleonic Wars
1813 – 
Napoleon defeated at Leipzig
1815 – 
Napoleon defeated at Waterloo (100 day Empire)
1825 – 
Decembrist revolt in Russia
1825 – 
The first railway in England
1848 – 
February Revolution in France, influences Austria, Italy and Germany
1861 – 
The Civil War between North and South in the U.S.
1870 – 
Franco German War
1914-1918 – 
World War I
1917 – 
The October Revolution in Russia
1920 – 
League of Nations established (in Geneva)
1922 – 
Fascist regime in Italy
1933 – 
Hitler Chancellor of Germany
1936-1939 – 
Spanish Civil War
1939-1945 – 
World War II