Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Beran, Josef (1888–1969)

Czech nationalist, anticommunist, and archbishop of Prague. Born in Plzeň, Bohemia, on 29 December 1889, Josef Beran graduated from gymnasium in 1907 and then studied theology in Rome. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 1911. He returned to Bohemia in 1913 as a parish priest and also taught at a women's teaching school. In 1928 he received a doctorate from the Theological Faculty of Charles University in Prague, where he began teaching in 1939. That same year he received an appointment as a professor and rector of the Catholic seminary in Prague.

After the Germans occupied Bohemia and Moravia in March 1939, Beran was arrested in June 1942 and sent to the first of several concentration camps. After the war, he returned to his positions in Prague. On 4 November 1946 he became the archbishop of Prague and primate of Czechoslovakia.

Following the communist coup in February 1948, Beran celebrated a mass in the Prague cathedral to mark Klement Gottwald's ascension to the presidency of Czechoslovakia. Gottwald attended the ceremony, which led many Czechs to hope that the new communist regime would practice religious toleration. Such was not the case, however.

As the Gottwald regime persecuted the Catholic Church, Beran actively defended its interests and was placed under house arrest in June 1949. He refused to resign as archbishop, and until 1963 the government interned Beran at various locations, keeping his whereabouts secret. He received a government amnesty in October 1963 but was not allowed to return to Prague; instead, he took up residence in a series of small villages in southern Bohemia.

On 17 February 1965 Beran became a cardinal and went to Rome, after which the Czech government refused to allow his return. While in exile, he became a spokesman for the independence of the Catholic Church. He also traveled to many nations including the United States, where he received numerous honors. Beran died in Rome on 17 May 1969.

Gregory C. Ference


Further Reading
Československý biografický slovník [Czechoslovak Biographical Dictionary]. Prague: Academia, 1992.; Ftantisek, August, and David Rees. Red Star over Prague. London: Sherwood, 1984.; Kryštłfek, Zdeněk. The Soviet Regime in Czechoslovakia. Boulder, CO: East European Monographs, 1981.
 

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