Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Tomášek, František (1899–1992)

Archbishop of Prague. František Tomášek was born in Studénka, Moravia, on 30 June 1899, the son of a teacher. He served in the Austro-Hungarian Army during World War I, after which he entered the Roman Catholic seminary in Olomouc. He was ordained in 1922. He received two doctorates in theology from and taught at the Theological Faculty of Saints Cyril and Methodius in Olomouc before the Germans and later the communists closed the school in 1940 and 1948, respectively.

Shortly after Tomášek became bishop of Buto and auxiliary bishop of Olomouc in 1949, Czechoslovak authorities arrested him on antigovernment charges and sent him to a labor camp. Following his release in 1954, he served as a parish priest until 1965. The Czechoslovak government permitted him to attend the Vatican Council II in Rome during 1962–1965.

When the communists refused to allow Archbishop Josef Beran to return to Prague from Rome in 1965, Tomášek became the apostolic administrator of the archdiocese. He supported the 1968 Prague Spring reforms, attempted to revitalize the Roman Catholic Church in Czechoslovakia, and urged religious freedom. After the Warsaw Pact invasion ended the Prague Spring, he discreetly sought concessions from the government and openly criticized Charter 77, much to the dismay of Czechoslovak dissidents.

In 1976 Pope Paul VI secretly named Tomášek cardinal and archbishop of Prague, publicly releasing the news in 1977. With the election of Pope John Paul II in October 1978, Tomášek attacked the government-sanctioned organization of priests in Czechoslovakia and, in 1985, led the celebrations of the 1,100th anniversary of the death of St. Methodius.

In 1988, Tomášek supported a petition demanding religious freedom in Czechoslovakia and actively backed the 1989 Velvet Revolution by celebrating the first televised mass in Czechoslovakia, on 21 November 1989. In 1990 he hosted John Paul II's visit to Czechoslovakia. Tomášek retired in 1991 and died in Prague on 4 August 1992.

Gregory C. Ference


Further Reading
Hartman, Jan. Kardinál Tomášek Generál bez vojska? [Cardinal Tomášek: A General without an Army?]. Prague: Vyšehrad, 2003.
 

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