The Czech Christian Academy (Česká křesťanská akademie [ČKA], called the Christian Academy Prague in 1990 - 1993) was founded as one of the first organisations independent on the totalitarian state immediately after November 1989, when the Czech communist regime fell apart. It is an independent civic association open to the Christians of all churches and to everybody feeling responsible for promoting and encouraging Christian cultural and moral values within the society. The Academy wants to create a space for dialogue between the churches and the community as well as meetings between faith and culture, and to support development of science, arts and education in the Czech Republic. The ČKA follows the tradition of the underground seminars of theology and philosophy from the time of the communist oppression and also the moral heritage of older Christian cultural and educational institutes and initiatives, e.g. Akademie křesťanská v Praze (the Academy of Christians in Prague, founded in 1875), Studium Catholicum, Akademické týdny (the Academic Weeks) or in exile founded Křesťanská akademie v Římě (the Christian Academy in Rome, 1951). At the beginning, the head of the newly founded ČKA was Josef Zvěřina, an important Czech theologian, human rights activist, political prisoner of both Nazis and Communists and first post-Communist honorary dean of the Catholic Theological Faculty of the Charles University, Prague. When Zvěřina, a living symbol of moral and intellectual renewal of the 20th century Czech Catholicism, died in August 1990, Prof. Tomáš Halík became a new ČKA president. He has been several times re-elected since.
The ČKA's supreme body is the GENERAL MEETING of all members (once every three years), last one being held in January 2005. The executive bodies are the ACADEMIC COMMITTEE and the PRESIDIUM. The general meeting elects the supreme representatives of the ČKA, a president (for 6 years) and two vicepresidents (for 3 years). The president nominates the director of the ČKA. The academic committee meets twice a year and consists of the directors of the specialised sections, the chairpersons of the local groups and the members of the presidium.
Presidium coordinates the activities of the ČKA between the sessions of the academic committee. Members are president Tomáš Halík, first vice-president Prof. Jan Bednář, second vice-president Jan Stříbrný, director Stanislav Novotný and one representative each for local groups and professional sections. The honorary council consists of personalities who in an extraordinary way promoted the aims of the ČKA. The membership is being granted by the academic committee. The members of the the honorary council are for instance Radim Palouš, Rector Emeritus of the Charles University, former president of the Catholic University in Eichstätt Prof. Nikolaus Lobkowicz, theologian Monsignor Oto Mádr, philosopher Prof. Jan Sokol, musical composer Petr Eben and astronomer Jiří Grygar.
The ČKA concentrates mainly on following areas:
· creating space for the dialogue between the churches and the Czech society, namely between the leaders of the churches, theologians and Christian intellectuals and representatives of the political, academic, cultural and economic life
· creating space for dialogue within the Church
· supporting ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue
· education and adult education of lay people within the churches, support of their cultural activities in the church as well as civic society
· creating intellectual centres in the regions of the Czech Republic
· education and further education of the 'multiplicators' (teachers, journalists and other professionals working in mass media) in the field of relations faith-culture, church- society, in Christian social ethics
· advisory, consultancy and expert services for the churches
· international co-operation with similar Christian organisations all over the world
· bringing to the Christians in the Czech Republic new developments in Christian thinking and present trends in the cultural and Christian life abroad
· the spiritual and intellectual development of young generations (co-operation in the pastoral care for students and teachers, mediating scholarships for Christian students to study abroad, special courses and seminars for students etc.)
· research and opening possibilities for research especially in the area of religion and church history
· publishing, administration of libraries
· supporting and taking part in Czech-German dialogue and further activities aimed at overcoming national, ethnic and cultural prejudice as well as respecting minorities within the society
The aims are being fulfilled by very varied ways, i.e. by organising lectures and lecture series. educational courses, panels, colloquia, conferences, seminars, literary events, events combining literature and music, exhibitions, art study trips, publishing magazines, scientific research. The individual events has been mostly organised by the ČKA itself, however, some of them has been prepared in co-operation with churches and important national and international organisations. During the past period, the most important partners were: Ackermann-Gemeinde, Renovabis, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, Union Stiftung from the Saarland, Germany, Centrum pro studium demokracie a kultury (Centre for Study of Democracy and Culture), Akademie věd ČR (Academy of Sciences, Czech Republic) and its institutes, the Bishop Conference USA, Protestant Theological Faculty and Catholic Theological Faculty at Charles University in Prague, St. Cyril and Methodius Faculty of Theology at Palacky University in Olomouc, the Faculty of Theology at the University of South Bohemia in České Budějovice, Unie katolických žen (The Union of Catholic Women), Občanské sdružení Akademické týdny (the Academic Weeks Civil Association), Občanský institut (the Civic Institute), Vyšší odborná škola publicistiky (the College of Journalism), Institut komunikace (the Institute of Communication).
Dialogue between the churches
and nation's elites
In co-operation with several personalities well-respected within the fields of their expertise, the ČKA strives to create space for dialogue where the important representatives of the world of science, culture, politics and economy might, together with the representatives of the churches and theologians, look for the answers to relevant social, political, cultural and economic questions.
A laboratory of dialogue
The ČKA has organised specialised colloquia called 'A laboratory of dialogue' since 1997 . Except for the church representatives, the evening discussions has always been attended by about twenty personalities – experts in given area. The composition of people involved, representing different points of view, has always varied as to the topic discussed. There have been almost 50 colloquia with 60 lecturers and more than 800 guests. Some of the topics were:
· Relevant questions of bioethics
· Social tension and social peace in the present Czech society
· Spiritual ministry in the armed forces
· Presence of the churches within the area of university education
· Conservatism a liberalism
· Concepts of anti-drug policy
· Values, identity and uncertainty after September 11, 2001
· Religiosity of the Czech society in view of 2001 census
· Sustainable development
· Education– a priority for Europe
· Latest problems of the European integration
· The agreement between the Czech Republic and Vatican
· Human being and the phenomenon of death today
· Meaning and perspectives of Christian schools
· Homosexuality from different points of view
· Changes in the social role of priest – minister
· What kind of responsibility does the church bear for cultural monuments?
· The phenomenon of terrorism and defence of the civilian population
· Between the religious freedom and a non-confessional state
· Tendencies and risks in the Czech politics
· New phenomena on the Czech religious stage
· Experience of foreign priests with the pastoral ministry and life in the CR
To encourage dialogue with the world of culture and arts, the ČKA has offered 'Ash Wednesday for the artists' as a meeting between Christian believers and people representing various arts. The event has been regularly held in the Prague academic parish since 1996. It has included, except for the church service, also concerts, readings with underlying music, drama, art exhibitions and informal social meetings.
Dialogue within the churches
The ČKA has hold every year 'Days of Josef Zvěřina', which has given space mainly to the intra-church dialogue. Professional theologians, bishops, priests and committed lay people could listen to interesting lectures which has been consequently discussed. The latest themes of the 'Days' were: 'The Horizontal and Vertical in Christianity' (1997), 'Current Theological Thinking“ (1998), 'Czech and Moravian Church 10 Years after November 1989' (1999), 'The Catholic Church and Democratic State in the Past and Today' (2000), „Our Church at the Threshold of the 21st Century' (2001), 'Christians in the Civic Society“ (2002), 'The Second Vatican Council – an Unfinished Task?' (2003), 'The Christians and the Sympathisers' (2004), 'Christianity and Lifestyle – Spirituality and Solidarity' (2005). The intra-church problematics has also been discussed during several colloquia within the cycle 'A laboratory of dialogue', i.e. 'The Internal Situation of the Catholic Church in the CR', 'The Church and Free Society', 'The Church and Media', 'What is the Content of the Agreement between the Czech Republic and Vatican', 'Meaning and Perspectives of Christian Schools'. The ČKA has taken an active part in preparing a programme for 'The Academic Weeks' since 1997 which has been organised by a civic association of the same name from Nové Město nad Metují. Christians of all generations has taken part in the two weeks of this public summer academy held in an area of a beautiful nature scenery . They could always find here an open space for the intra-church and ecumenical dialogue.
Dialogue with the world of politics
The ČKA has organised 'Meetings of the Politicians Inspired by Christianity' in 1998 - 2000 where important representatives of the Czech political life has participated (politicians, senators, ministers and their deputies) from all the important democratic parties (social democrats [ČSSD], civic democrats [ODS], Christian democrats [KDU-ČSL], Freedom Union [US], Civic Democratic Alliance [ODA]), some members of the ČKA and other guests from the Christian churches. The meeting has taken the whole evening. It has been opened by a short speech. However, then the main focus of the evening has been on discussion and dialogue. Topics discussed were for instance 'Power and Money', 'Freedom', 'Churches and a Non-Confessional State', 'Kosovo Crisis', 'Political Parties and Civil Initiatives' etc. Relations between state and church are an issue which has been seriously and thoroughly discussed in the ČKA, for instance during the conference 'Relations Between State and Church in Future'. The conference was held by the ČKA and the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung in September 1996. Several leading representatives of the churches, theologians, politicians and journalists took part in it. Another similar event was a specialised colloquium organised by the ČKA during the autumn 1998 as a part of the research project 'The Contribution of the Churches towards the Transformation Process in the Post-communist Countries'.
Creating intelectual centres
in the regions
Several regional intellectual centres has emerged in some towns and cities through the local ČKA groups which had a positive impact at their neighbourhood. The programme of the local groups has attracted the representatives of the intelligentsia of the region and often has brought a new dimension into the local culture. This way the ČKA has added indirectly to the creation and development of the civic society in the Czech Republic.
The Czech Christian Academy is, by its very name, an ecumenical organisation. The members come mostly from the Roman Catholic Church or the Evangelical Church of the Czech Brethren, a Czech mainstream Protestant church. However, the believers from other Christian denominations are also represented here. The ecumenical dimension is evident from the selection of the topics and lecturers and also from the co-operation in the specialised sections and the documents which have been published by the ČKA or which are in the process of being written.
There has been a work group in the ČKA since 1998 which has been involved in the inter-religious dialogue. Except for the Christians, also Jews, Buddhists, Muslims and neo-Hindus are represented there. The activities of the group has been met with a real public interest and its evening discussions has had a high attendance. Now we are looking for new forms of presentations.
The ČKA has been seriously involved in the process of educating 'multiplicators', the opinion makers in the religious, spiritual and ecclesiastical spheres of life, and mainly in two professional groups – teachers and journalists.
An educational series called 'Christianity in the Czech and World Culture' has been read for the teachers in co-operation with the Ackermann-Gemeinde since 1998. These seminars in individual regions which generally take several days has offered more thorough education in religions and Christian culture as well as a platform for a dialogue between the churches in the region (local bishop, representatives of other churches) and teachers. The topics of the seminars were for instance: 'Religions from the Point of View of Social Sciences'; 'The Bible and its Meaning';'Christianity and Culture'; 'Beginnings of Christianity in the Czech Lands'; 'Christianity in a Secularised Society'; 'Christian Churches and Ecumenical Movement'; 'The Current Religious Scene in Our Country'. The lectures, followed by a discussion, has been designed mainly for the teachers in humanities and arts at the primary and secondary schools.
Their form of dialogue was obviously successful as the ČKA has received a very positive response to it.
Topical colloquia were held for the journalists by the ČKA and the Institute of Communication at the second half of the 1990s which stressed mainly the issue of the ethics in journalism.
Education of both lay people and ministers
This task has been fulfilled by regular lecturing in the individual sections and local groups. There has been series of lectures and individual lectures on current issues held for the general public. Among the lecturers were: Cardinals Edward Cassidy, Franz König, Joseph Ratzinger, Christoph Schönborn, Walter Kasper, Tomáš Špidlík; Bishops Andreas Laun, Egon Kapellari, Josef Homeyer, Helmut Krätzl; several theologians, sociologists and philosophers from Europe, USA and Latin America, i.e. Michael Novak, Ernst-Ludwig Ehrlich, John T. Pawlikowski, Anselm Grün, Robert Fulghum, Jon Sobrino, Dietmar Mieth, Karl-Josef Kuschel, Miklós Tomka, Paul M. Zulehner, Manfred Spieker, Tomasz Weclawski. The ČKA with the Chrysalis Ministries, a US educational organisation, also held two very popular seminars for the Catholic priests (in Olomouc and Plzeň, 1997) and a seminar for the Christians in leading positions in politics and state administration. The ČKA has also been involved, together with the Defence Ministry, in the training of military chaplains in the last few years.
The ČKA supports an intense dialogue between the Czechs and Germans aimed at the common past, present and future with the view to improve and strengthen a good relation between the two neighbouring countries. Mariánskolázeňské rozhovory (The Dialogue in Mariánské Lázně) is the main ČKA activity in this field of work. 'The Dialogue' has been developed, in the partnership with the Ackermann-Gemeinde, as one of the first contributions to the Czech-German informal talks and it has already been held for 15 years. The contribution of 'The Dialogue' towards the development of the Czech-German understanding was highly appreciated in 1994 and 1995 by the presidents of the both countries Václav Havel and Roman Herzog who granted an audience to a delegation of both organisations as well as by the presidents of the Czech and German bishop conferences who participated in 'The Dialogue' in 1999. The conclusions and some proposals coming from various discussions during 'The Dialogues' were then reflected in political and church documents (i.e. in the Czech-German declaration from 1997 or in the 'Common Proclamation of the Czech and German Bishops on the Occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the End of the WWII' in 1995).
The ČKA also organised, with the Land Centre for the Political Education in Dresden, Germany, and the Christlich-soziales Bildungswerk, Saxony, Germany, a series of lectures on current social problems (1977). The ČKA has had an intense co-operation with the Union Stiftung from the Saarland since 2001. Together they have organised a specialised symposium every year alternately in Prague and Saarbrücken: 'The Options and Limits of Biomedicine – Cloning' (2002); 'Non-Profit Organisations and Their Importance in the Extending Europe' (2003); „The Europe of Regions' (2004).
Co-operation and dialogue with other European partners
In the years 2002 - 2003 the ČKA participated in a project run by the association of the French Christian intellectuals Confrontations. The project's name was 'Research into Common Cultural Foundations for Building Europe' (also called 'White Book'). Seven European countries - Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Italy, Germany, Poland and Sweden – were involved in the project. The ČKA, as a partner organisation of the French Social Weeks (Semaine sociales de France), was involved in preparation of the meeting of European Christians in Lille, France, 2004. The ČKA has also taken an active part in the preparation of international conferences in Gniezno, Poland (together with St. Adalbert [Vojtěch] Forum and other organisations in Poland, Slovakia and Hungary) .
The ČKA has systematically worked on an extensive sociological and historical research project called 'Church in a Free Society' since 1995.The first step was a series of lectures and panels 'Czech Christianity in the Totalitarian Regimes of the 20th Century' during 1995 – 1999. The aim was to collect and to present Christian experiences and testimonies during the time of Nazism and Communism. The collection of several tens of recorded interviews has been since continually extended by new stories. The first step was followed by several conferences (in 2000 – 2003) on some issues of recent Czech church history during Communism: 'The State and Church in 1950'; 'Babice after Half a Century' (linked with the 50th anniversary of the tragic massacre in Babice); 'The Trials of the Church Representatives in 1950s'; 'Literature Designed to Be Destroyed' (50th anniversary of the trial of the Catholic writers and intellectuals); 'Women Religious Orders during the Communism'. The partners in research were the Institute for the Contemporary History, the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, the Faculty of Arts at Masaryk University in Brno, the Centre for Democracy and Culture Studies, Obec spisovatelů (the Society of Czech Writers), the Office of Prague Archbishop, the Office of Brno Bishop; the Carmelite Order in the Czech Republic, the Conference of Major Religious Superiors of Women Orders and Congregations in the Czech Republic. The ČKA was one of the organisations which inspired the international research project 'Aufbruch' (1995 – 2001), supported by the Pastorales Forum from Vienna, Austria. The project was designed to explore the religious and church development in ten post-Communist countries of the Central and Eastern Europe in the time of Communism as well as the influence of democratic transformation on the situation of Christian churches in these countries since 1989. The data collected through the historical and sociological research became a basis for theological and pastoral inspiration and visions. The result of the research has been published in the edition 'Gott nach dem Kommunismus' by the Schwabenverlag publishing in Ostfildern, Germany. The ČKA also participated in the international research project 'The Contribution of the Churches towards the Process of Transformation in the Post-Communist Countries' (1997-2000), run by the university in Osnabrück, Germany. The project tried to uncover how much the Catholic Church contributed by its social teaching to the transformation process and emerging civic society in four countries of the Central and Eastern Europe (the ČR, Poland, Lithuania, Slovakia). The output was the book 'Katholische Kirche und Zivilgesellschaft in Osteuropa'. Paderborn, Germany, 2003.
Since 2004 the ČKA has been working on the project 'Social Commitment of German Companies in the Czech Republic'. There has been a project in process 'The Book of Catholic Martyrs in the Czech Lands during 20th Century', part of an envisaged complex project 'Christians against Totality'.
Advice, consultancy and expertise for the churches
Individual bishops and the Czech Bishops' Conference as a whole has approached the ČKA, asking for expertise, research and processing various issues important for the church as well as society. This kind of consultancy has developed into a special service which the ČKA offers to the church representatives. The Czech Bishops' Conference has asked the ČKA to put together the document on the social issues in the CR 'Peace and All Good'. Similarly, the ČKA has taken part in analysing the polarisation of opinions within the Czech Catholic Church and in the preparation of an internal seminar on the same topic for the bishops' conference. The ČKA has co-operated in the preparation of the legislation regulating the relations between the state and the church as well as in the preparation of an agreement between the Holy See and the Czech Republic. Some of the ČKA members has participated in various advisory and consultative church committees, nowadays mainly connected with the Plenary Council of the Catholic Church in the Czech Republic.
The ČKA published in its small publishing house, during 1990–1999, almost 50 books mostly on theology and philosophy by both domestic and foreign authors as well as anthologies from the conferences organised by the ČKA. The publishing activities has been only occasional since 2000. Except for the books, the ČKA has been publishing also three periodicals:
1/ Revue „Universum“ ('Universum Review' – four times a year)
2/ Revue církevního práva ('Church Law Review' – 3-4 times a year)
3/ Zpravodaj ČKA ('ČKA Newletter' - twice a year)
Authorised by the Office of Prague Archbishop, the ČKA run the Central Catholic Library in Prague in 1996 – 2004. The library has more than 80 000 volumes of books documenting the development of theology and philosophy in the last 40 years and as such is the biggest Czech library of the post-Second Vatican Council literature. The library came under the administration of the Catholic Theological Faculty, Charles University, Prague in 2004.
Together with the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung and the German Catholic Academic Ministry to the Foreigners (KAAD), the ČKA has mediated scholarships for Christian students to study abroad, mainly at the German universities.
People interested in becoming members can write to:
Česká křesťanská akademie
(The Czech Christian Academy)
128 00 Praha 2
By your prayer, advice, expertise,
by connecting us with interesting and helpful people
or by a financial contribution.
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