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Father Josef Kolacek, SJ, on the terrace of the Jesuit Curia in Rome Father Josef Kolacek, SJ, on the terrace of the Jesuit Curia in Rome 

Witness of the “Church of Silence”: a tribute to Czech Jesuit Joseph Koláček

Jesuit Fr Joseph Koláček died this week. He was 90 years old. Between 1971 and 2001, he headed the Czech-language Section of Vatican Radio.

By Vatican News

Like so many in his country Czechoslovakia, and throughout what was then Eastern Europe, Fr Joseph Father Koláček SJ lived his faith in total secrecy because of the fierce persecution of the communist regime.

Ordained in secret

Originally from the city of Brno, he entered the Jesuit novitiate in 1948.

It was an extremely difficult time: in Communist Czechoslovakia, priests were imprisoned, and young men were forced into military service, which was particularly harsh, and itself almost a form of imprisonment.

Fr Koláček had to conduct his studies in Theology and Philosophy in secret, and in 1968, still in secret, he was ordained a priest.

The Prague Spring

1968 was a critical year for Czechoslovakia: in August, Soviet tanks entered the capital to suppress the so-called "Prague Spring", Alexander Dubcek's courageous but futile attempt to reform the communist regime from within.

While young people in Western Europe and the United States were taking to the streets to claim vague demands for freedom, the youth of Eastern Europe were prevented even from living their faith in the light of day.

Vatican Radio

Because of this climate of growing intolerance, the young Fr Koláček was forced to emigrate to Innsbruck, where, on the instructions of his Jesuit Provincial, he spent time training with Austrian radio.

That training stood him in good stead when he arrived in Rome in the 1970’s and began working at Vatican Radio.

He remained there as Head of the Czech language Section until 2001, but continued to collaborate up until 2012.

13 September 2019, 13:12