Calendar of events


Anti-church policy in Czechoslovakia since 1948: the Catholic Church and religious orders in Slovakia

25 February 1948
President of the Czechoslovak Republic Edvard Beneš
accepted the resignation of non-communist ministers, and instead of elections supplemented the government with candidates proposed by the Chairman of the Communist Party Klement Gottwald. This led to Gottwald’s mainly communist second government being formed, which was the culmination of the February coup as celebrated by communists as Victorious February (more details at www.februar1948.sk). The Central Action Committee of the National Front (ÚAV NF) was established to oversee the administration and management of the republic, but it acted without any legal basis or freely elected members. Regional and district action committees were gradually established to assume the competences of the District National committee (ONV) and Regional National Committee (KNV), as well as the management of businesses.
March 1948
Decision-making regarding Church policy

was transferred to the Central Action Committee of the National Front (ÚAV NF). On 18 March a commission for religious and ecclesiastical issues was formed, headed by Secretary of the UAV NF and  Minister of Justice Čepička. The commission was divided into Catholic and non-Catholic sections at the suggestion of the Catholic Episcopate.  A church department at UAV NF was in charge of all clergy personnel records. Church secretaries (clerks) began to work at action committees in regions and districts, and the Church commission of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia was also operational from the summer of 1948.

3 May 1948
Czech and Slovak Catholic bishops met in Olomouc

They responded to preparations for the elections (to be held 30 May 1948) and banned the candidacy of priests for parliament, the Slovak National Council, national committees, and action committees. This principled approach led to an open dispute between the bishops, the communist leadership, and an emerging pro-regime group called the ‘patriotic priests’ – whose suspension  of these priests (especially Horák and Lukačovič in Slovakia) was a useful new argument for the communists against the bishops.

10 May 1948
Negotiations commenced on the church’s position
with Catholic Church representatives at ÚAV NF.
9 June 1948
At a meeting of the Central Committee of the Communist Party

Gottwald set out the short-term church strategy to pit lower clergy against higher clergy; and the long-term strategy to uncouple the Catholic Church from the Vatican and lead it towards becoming a national church. Gottwald considered the church’s neutralization a success. These objectives were subsequently presented in the summer of 1948 by Minister of Justice Čepička at the NF (National Front) training of church secretaries.

Summer, July 1948
Shortly after the totalitarian regime’s establishment

State Security (ŠtB) carried out several harsh repressive measures against Greek Catholic monasteries in eastern Slovakia. Monastery inspections at the Basilians in Prešov and Trebišov, and the Redemptorists in Michalovce and Stropkov uncovered “incriminating material” and several monks, including superiors, were arrested. Despite the protests of the head of the Greek Catholic Church, Bishop Gojdič, there were further arrests of superiors and nuns at women´s monasteries in August and September 1948.

15–16 August 1948
A Nitra conference of Czech and Slovak bishops

adopted a memorandum addressed to the government and a pastoral to the faithful: “We could not give our unconditional consent to everything because unfortunately we received too much evidence that, despite the promised religious freedom and emphasis on good will not to provoke religious strife, a covert anti-religious and anti-church struggle has been launched, in accordance with a plan carried out against religion and the Catholic Church in other countries.” Bishops protested against interventions in the appointment of parish administrators, restrictions on the Catholic press and associations, confiscation of church property, and attempts to condemn Catholic bishops by using “progressive priests”.

30 August 1948
At a meeting of Hendrych, Čepička, Taussigová, and representatives of the ÚAV NF ecclesiastical commission

the ÚAV NF’s Church Department proposal for the solution of religious issues in Czechoslovakia was approved. In addition to the ideology and negative characteristics of religion, this key document set out three main tasks: 1) to prevent religion from becoming a weapon for the regime’s enemies; 2) to limit the possibility for religion’s abuse for political purposes; 3) to use religion as an ally of the regime. The document pays most attention to the Catholic Church, which it states is governed by enemy power against the “People’s Democratic Establishment”. The means and methods to achieve the strategy and its procedures for implementation were also set out. A solution to the problem of the “reactionary” Greek Catholic Church is first mentioned here so that “…it does not establish itself as separate, but joined to the Orthodoxy.”  The document’s other measures pertaining to finance, culture, tax, education, and other proposals were also planned to the detriment of churches.

6 October 1948
Act no. 231/1948 was passed to “protect” the People’s Democratic Republic

It imposed disproportionately high penalties for treason, espionage, and other acts directed against the regime and its authorities, with only the intention to carry out such acts also considered a crime. While this law affected a wide range of the population, it also paid special attention to the clergy. According to Section 28 Abuse of the Office of Clergy or other Similar Position: “He who abuses the discharging of his office or similar religious position in order to influence political matters deemed unfavorable towards the People’s Democratic Republic shall be punished with a fixed prison term of between one month and one year, unless the offense merits more severe punishment.”

16 October 1948
In a special report Vatican Bishop of Spiš Ján Vojtaššák

drew attention to the communist government’s intensifying anti-church stance: “Adults that are oppressed by materialistic terror seem to gravitate more toward the Catholic faith. But there is a danger: young people have been forcibly employed almost since childhood, and at every place at every opportunity are nurtured by the teaching of dialectical materialism. No religious youth associations are tolerated...Catholics can still attend church to pray, but the word of God is no longer spoken freelyThe moral doom that subsequently emerges from those schools saturated with Marxist ideology will be greater than any perishable price. However, nothing can be attempted from within against the total terror and absolutism of the communist government… May the merciful God shorten the days of this beast and bind them with chains. Because if its days are not shortened, the righteous will be deceived.”

20 November 1948
A meeting led by Čepička was held at the Central Action Committee of the National Front (ÚAV NF) in Bratislava
Slovakia was represented by Husák, Baštovanský, Viktory, and Holdoš. It was decided to immediately restrict the Catholic newspaper’s (Katolícke noviny) circulation to just 50,000 copies. An accurate record of monastic orders and monasteries was also to be conducted with the aim to reduce their numbers, especially monasteries founded after 1945 (there 50 such ), under the false pretext that these monasteries were not officially allowed. The Catholic Charity was to be put under State administration and a smear campaign launched against the “Vatican’s reactionary policy” and priests convicted of anti-state activities. Such measures were sanctioned by the decision of the Presidium of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Slovakia on 9 December 1948 based on a report by Novomeský.
After 20 November 1948
After the Čepička meeting at UAV SNF on 20 November 1948 in Bratislava

the Commission of Education prepared a plan for the concentration of religious orders. The plan called for the abolition of 30% of both men´s and women´s monasteries, and a ban on the activities of most Greek Catholic religious orders. Monks and nuns were to be concentrated into fewer monasteries that had a ‘good political reputation’. The planned interventions against the religious orders were delayed by events connected with the state’s Catholic Action (including Actions K and R).

24 November 1948
Bratislava’s Central Catholic Office

– which had played a leading role activating and coordinating the religious life of Slovak Catholics – was closed down.

31 December 1948
Publication of the religious press had been curtailed

with 47 religious magazines stopped. Remaining periodicals became completely dependent on the state officials of the UAV SNF press commission and press councils. Only Katolícke noviny weekly, Duchovný pastier monthly, and Pútnik Cyrilometodejský fortnightly remained and only published by the Society of St. Vojtech. The Evangelical Church a. v. could publish the weekly Evanjelický posol spod Tatier, and the fortnightly Cirkevné listy and Stráž na Sione.

19 January 1949
President Gottwald received a delegation from the Catholic Episcopate

and agreed to start new negotiations with the Church. The bishops handed him a memorandum  in which they stated the systematic and planned manipulation of public opinion against the Catholic Church – especially the Pope and bishops. The memorandum included proposals as a basis for the negotiations: stop attacks on the radio and in the press, stop public speeches against the church and its representatives, stop the abolition of church schools, adjust the anti-religious curriculum in state schools, stop exclusion from universities for religious beliefs, fairly solve issues of the religious press, put  freedom of assembly into practice, and adjust the clergy’s salary conditions.

21 January 1949
Two days after the bishops’ meeting with the president

the ÚAV NF prepared a long-term proposal for further church policy measures for the Organizing Secretariat of the ÚV KSČ (The Central Committee of the Czechoslovak Communist Party). This proposed the need to strengthen state control of religious life, enforce the legal regulation of the church, and for the campaign to continue against the Vatican, bishops and “reactionary” priests.

22 February 1949
The State Security Service (ŠTB) carried out repeat raids

on all three Greek Catholic monasteries and dormitories in Prešov, detaining 11 monks and seven nuns. The closure of Basilian men´s and women´s monasteries began in February 1949, followed by the politic trials of Greek Catholic priests and monks.

8 March 1949
Greek Catholic Bishop Gojdič protested against the interventions and raids at monasteries
in a letter written to President Gottwald: “Such an approach by the security forces towards our monasteries – where the god-chosen souls of our diocese live, whom the entire diocese respects and loves, and whose pain is the pain of all our believers so whose incarceration has caused great upset and outrage in our diocese – because no one could have imagined that especially  nuns could pose a risk to the Czechoslovak Republic and give cause for these terrible raids night after night…”
22–23 March 1949
Meeting of the Bishops´ Conference in Nový Smokovec broken up by the State Security Service
bringing negotiations between the state and episcopate to an end. Adoption of the Communist Party’s new political approach towards the Church.
25 April 1949
After the escalation of relations with the Catholic Church in the spring of 1949

the presidency of the Central Committee of the Czechoslovak Communist Party (ÚV KSČ) created a new commission with stronger powers. Originally, it had six members (hence the term “Church Six”) appointed by the ÚV KSČ: Alexej Čepička (chairman), Vladimir Clementis, Zdeněk Fierlinger, Jiří Hendrych, Václav Kopecký, and Viliam Široký, with Zdeněk Nejedlý subsequently joining.

28 April 1949
At a meeting of ÚAV NF (Čepička, Holdoš, Hub, Felcman, Havelka)

with “progressive priests” in Prague (Horák, Lukačovič and Fiala from Slovakia attended) the organizational structure and character of Catholic Action organized by the communist leadership were agreed.

February to April 1949
The trial of Cardinal and Primate József Mindszenty

which began in early February in Hungary, signaled action against Hungarian priests and lay people in Slovakia for contacts with Mindszenty from 1946 to 1947. Numerous arrests took place from late-February to early-April 1949, with the first two charges made on 18 and 20 May, and the other two 20 December (Bokor, et al. – 10 persons, Hentz, et al. – 26 persons, 20 Roman Catholic priests and three Calvinist pastors in total). The main hearing took place at Bratislava’s State Court on 30 December 1949.

3 & 14 May 1949
On the basis of consultations with Čepička

and a report by Novomeský in the Presidium of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Slovakia, Holdoš finalized policy principles against the Church (in Slovakia): “…pressure must be increased on priests and their finances limited… The church left to the bishops’ leadership would mean an open struggle between church and state, obscuring the line between church and hierarchy…” On 14 May the Commission of the Interior issued a circular that banned church pilgrimages, public celebrations, and gatherings.

11 May 1949
The first Czech issue of the Bulletin of the Catholic Clergy

was published without the consent of the bishops, since its aim was to isolate them from priests. The journal’s first Slovak issue was published on 30 May 30 1949.

April - May 1949
After preparations in April, Catholic Action was launched by the communist regime

as a “movement of progressive Catholics” and a counterweight to the church hierarchy. The name imitated but was not connected to an international movement founded by Pope Pius XI in December 1922, and indeed was in stark contrast to the papal focus. The event was run by the Communist Party and state authorities – without the consent or initiative of the Catholic Church, and initially seemed to achieve its aims.

15 May 1949
The Salesian house in Michalovce

 was liquidated.

18 May 1949
The “Church Six” approved a ban on sending theologians to study abroad

and a ban on those having done so repatriating. Superiors of religious orders were not allowed to make visits to monasteries in Czechoslovakia. Records of religious orders and monasteries in Slovakia and measures against church fund-raising were also approved.

23 May 1949
The first known uprising with a religious theme took place in Trstená

The State Security Service and SNB (National Security Corps) intervened against about 200 protesters, and on 11 June the local canon Michal Bačík was detained and imprisoned.

7 June 1949
Catholic bishops responded with a circular to the Catholic Action

In this circular they warned that the planned movement was provoked by the Catholic Church’s opponents and was “…schismatic and will be prosecuted by ecclesiastical punishments… Stay true to your purely religious mission! Don’t get lured into non-religious and especially political activity! Stay true to Christ! Praise for the freedom of the Church and the freedom to proclaim the rights of Christ, whether it is liked or not.”

10 June 1949
Catholic Action’s founding assembly met in Prague

attended by 283 people including 68 priests from all dioceses. While Catholic Action was defined as a free association of Catholics dedicated to a democratic Czechoslovakia, in fact it was a movement initiated by the leadership of the Communist Party and had a specific political goal whereby it had mostly Communist Party members. A six-point programme and the “Reflection of the Catholic Action” document were adopted, subsequently issued as a special supplement to the Catholic Newspaper (Katolícke noviny). It became the Catholic Action’s official newspaper without the faithful’s consent.

June 1949
The signing of “The Response of Slovak and Czech Catholics to Faithful in the Republic”

which originally aimed to create a mass base to support the communist Catholic Action, de facto turned into a way of checking the loyalty of members of the Communist Party and civil servants, with strong State Security Service involvement. Yet of the 2,128 secular and 408 religious priests in Slovakia, only 214 Slovak priests signed.

15 June 1949
A secret conference of Czech and Slovak bishops took place in Prague

The Catholic bishops sharply rejected the Catholic Action in the pastoral letter “The Voice of Czechoslovak Bishops and Ordinary in the Hour of the Trial.” The bishops categorically condemned the regime’s steps as illegal and subversive, and “any participation in and with it must be prosecuted by ecclesiastical punishments.” They also mentioned many examples of restrictions on religious life, and denied the failure to negotiate an agreement between the Church and the state. The pastoral letter was to be read in all churches on 19 June 1949.

17 June 1949
The Presidium of the Central Committee of the Slovak Communist Party

sent Commission of the Interior agents to episcopal offices in Trnava and in the Spiš Chapter (and over the summer and autumn to other episcopal offices as well). According to a telex of 18 June 1949, ŠtB regional directorates in cooperation with SNB (the National Security Corps) regional headquarters were to seize the pastoral letter in cooperation with the local officials of action committees and national committees, and thus prevent it being read in churches, or 26 June This led to civil unrest, especially in Slovakia.

17 June 1949
The Interior Commission sent instructions

to ONV (District National Committee) security officers to immediately forbid pilgrimages, church assemblies, priestly retreats, and all general meetings of priests.

20 June 1949
The Vatican also responded to the Catholic Action

Pope Pius XII called it fraudulently named and schismatic in an excommunication decree, and threatened excommunication of all who “consciously and voluntarily joined it or would later  join  it.”

22 June 1949
The Commission of the Interior issued a decree

according to which the dissemination of the “defective” pastoral letter established the offense under law  Section 32 of Act 231/1948 Coll. Three-member commissions were to be set up in districts (ONV chairman, security clerk, and official of the department) during the investigation into the reading of the pastoral letter.

June/July 1949
Dozens of mass revolts by believers took place in Orava, Kysuce, and especially Spiš and spread across Slovakia

In response to the reading of the pastoral letter of the bishops by priests on 19 June and fears about their imprisonment, believers set up patrols to protect parishes and prevented state officials from accessing parishes and municipalities. With clashes against security forces, the army, and People’s Militia units,  this was the most serious confrontation against state authorities since the February 1948 coup d’état. As a result of these – often provoked by the ŠtB itself – riots, there was a wave of arrests of actual or presumed participants and organizers. By mid-July more than 717 people including several priests had been arrested and 345 taken to forced labor camps. The biggest uprisings were in Drahovce, Čadca and Levoča (the latter on 25 and 26 June had 2,000 attendees). Dozens were injured in the clashes, and some  in Čadca and Horná Krupa subsequently died.

29 & 30 June 1949
KSS and ŠtB leadership had two special meetings

in light of the tense situation during the uprisings – especially in Levoča. They resolved to return the People’s Militia to standby, seek political solutions, only use police during riots, and to avoid antagonizing the citizen patrols around parishes (since participants’ were soon expected to become fatigued anyway).

1 July 1949
The Holy Office (Sanctum officium) issued a “Decree on Communism

prohibiting believers from joining and supporting the Communist Party and its controlled organizations. All those who knowingly and voluntarily advocated and promoted the communist doctrine as members or sympathizers should be considered apostates from the church, excommunicated, and lose the right to sacraments. Priests who enforced the decree and refused to apologize to the communists or join the Eucharist received several years’ imprisonment “for refusing a spiritual act” or even high treason. 

11 July 1949
The Presidium of the Central Committee of the Communist Party decided

that Catholic bishops would not take part in preparatory negotiations on laws regulating the status of churches in the state. They could only comment on the bill. Negotiations were to be held with representatives of other state-recognized churches, and instead of Catholic bishops representatives of the state’s Catholic Action took part, with further steps unilaterally determined by the state.

13 July 1949
Chargé affairs of the Vatican Gennaro (Januarius) Verolino

was forced to leave the Czechoslovak Republic after he had visited episcopal residences (25-28 June), and thus contributed to the unified approach of the bishops and the pastoral letter’s reading. Yet ŠtB accused him of “encouraging the organization of anti-state uprisings and riots.” Prior to his departure, Verolino commissioned Ottavio de Liva, but he was not recognized by the government. 

14 August 1949
The solemn episcopal ordination

of the Trnava apostolic administrator Ambróz Lazík and the Rožňava chapter vicar Róbert Pobožný to the consecrated bishops, appointed by the Holy See in late June 1949, took place in Trnava. As they were not resident bishops, but only consecrating bishops, their appointment was not subject to the government’s approval. The third consecrating bishop became  the rector of the Spiš diocesan seminary, Štefan Barnáš (25 October).

13 and 14 August 1949
Catholic bishops discussed the draft laws

at a Trnava conference during the episcopal ordination. They rejected the nationalization of the church and proposed amending the current 1926 law. Priests also expressed their disagreement with the draft law at joint meetings, and sent their dissenting opinions to the National Front and government. Resolutions against the draft law were suddenly declared to be criminal. A significant part of the Evangelical Church clergy opposed to the draft law was also contested.

22 Aug 1949
The Presidium of the Central Committee of the Communist Party

established the State Office for Ecclesiastical Affairs (SÚC), and approved the “Church Six” proposal to concentrate monks in only several selected places.

31 August 1949
“Church Six” members stated at their meeting

that the preliminary registration of monasteries had been completed. They took note of preparations for the concentration of monks and approved the use of some emptied monasteries for the internment of “reactionary” priests. A plan for the gradual changing  of the Greek Catholic Church into the Orthodox Church was also approved.

14 Oct 1949
The National Assembly of the Czechoslovak Republic

unanimously adopted two laws in Prague: Act no. 217/1949 Coll., Establishing the State Office for Ecclesiastical Affairs and Act no. 218/1949 Coll. on the Financial Security of Churches and Religious Societies. The first law established the State Office for Ecclesiastical Affairs (SÚC) as a central office headed by a minister appointed by the President of the Republic. The Office’s task was “to ensure that church and religious life developed in accordance with the Constitution and the principles of the People’s Democratic Establishment, thus ensuring for everyone the Constitution’s guaranteed right to freedom of religion, based on the principles of religious tolerance and equality of all denominations.” In Slovakia this was carried out “principally through the Slovak Office for Ecclesiastical Affairs (SLÚC), headed by a Prime Minister appointed by the Government”. However, as the church had no influence on the composition and orientation of these offices, it was only the executor of the restrictive state policy against churches.

Law 218/1949 Coll. aimed to provide personal benefits (basic salary, seniority allowance, and higher performance reward) to clergy of all recognized churches and religious societies. The condition for this provision was state consent, which was also required for any spiritual or preaching activities, and preceded any election or appointment. The relevant ecclesiastical authority was obliged to request such provision in writing from the relevant KNV or from the government, depending on the level of spiritual function. Allowance for spiritual activity also depended on a pledge of allegiance to the authorities, according to the level of the function. The state also supervised all church property, ordered the inventory thereof, and in the case of the Catholic Church the state declared itself the patron of churches and ecclesiastical institutions (i.e. the right of patronage).

18 October 1949
Five government regulations adopted on 18 October 1949

followed and specified laws no. 217/1949 Coll. and 218/1949 Coll. This was Regulation no. 219/1949 Coll. on the Financial Security of the Roman Catholic Church by the state and other regulations (reg. no. 220 – 223/1949), similarly on the financial state security of the Czechoslovak Church, Evangelical Churches, the Orthodox Church, and religious societies. These adopted laws and government regulations had a major impact on religious life in Czechoslovakia: churches lost common law protection, and the state completely controlled their finances and personnel issues.

21 October 1949
Catholic bishops responded to the adoption of church laws

with a joint petition addressed to the Prime Minister´s Office, where they stressed that the new laws and government regulations toughened already restrictive measures. The Catholic Church found itself de facto outside legal status, deprived of the freedom of its internal establishment, constitution, and organization. The laws superseded the Church’s authority to independently administer matters of faith, morals, worship, religious education, and affiliation. The petition proposed that the laws and regulations be revised based on an agreement with the Church.

November 1949
The Holy See responded to the adoption of ecclesiastical laws

Through the Prague nunciature, Pope Pius XII gave Czech and Slovak bishops (from November 1949 to March 1950) extraordinary (‘Mexican’) faculties, which ensured the functioning of an independent church structure in the event of relations breaking with the Holy See. This gave bishops the power to decide matters hitherto under the auspices of Vatican congregations, and persecuted, deported, imprisoned or hidden priests could serve mass and give sacraments, even without observing all relevant liturgical rules. The State Security Service referred to these extraordinary faculties as the Vatican’s “secret instructions” and were mentioned in several anti-church show trials.

22 November 1949
The State Office for Ecclesiastical Affairs (SÚC)

proposed the following objectives against religious orders: 1) Obstruct religion’s growth (to prevent influence especially on youth and adults, hinder entering the novitiate, abolish theological schools); 2) Reduce the number of monasteries (appoint monks instead to vacant parishes, have nuns join medical staff, expel foreign clergy, concentrate monks, ban religious orders for anti-state reasons); 3) Reduce orders’ property; 4) To regulate orders’ activities into missionary, nursing, and production; 5) Interrupt contacts with other countries. The document counted on political trials against monks and conditioning. The whole operation was to be completed by 30 June 1950.

23 November 1949
Members of the People’s Militia

stormed the women´s Salesian Institute in Dolný Kubín at 11 p.m. to liquidate it.

7 December 1949
The National Assembly in Prague

approved Act no. 265/1949 Coll. on Family Law and Act no. 268/1949 Coll. on Registries. Compulsory civil marriages were introduced, with a valid marriage only registered at the relevant national committee. A symbolic church ceremony could only take place when the couple presented the clergyman with an official civil marriage document first.. This held for church marriage as well as announcements. The Law on Registries removed parish authorities’ right to keep church registries that had been declared state-owned.

21 Dec 1949

Communist Stalin celebrated his 70th birthday

marked by a nationwide “Salutatory speech to Stalin” signing event. In Slovakia, its implementation was entrusted to the SLÚC, requiring signatures from all clergy. In parallel with the greeting, the recruitment of Union of Czechoslovak-Soviet Friendship (SČSP) membership was also carried out. Both events became a welcome means to further frame priests, and their not signing was an aggravating circumstance in court proceedings.

4 January 1950
The “Church Six” decided on the manner and form of state allegiance at its Prague meeting

More detailed instructions were issued by the SÚC and individual KNV, while individual church secretaries submitted detailed reports on the taking of vows.

8 January 1950
Following the death of Bishop Škrábik

the Banská Bystrica Chapter elected Daniel Biedroň at a secret meeting (13 January). When the government representative at the episcopal office warned him that he needed state approval, Biedroň requested the assistance of SLÚC (The Slovak State Office for Ecclesiastical Affairs). Yet Biedroň resigned after being warned that the wording of this request was unacceptable and that he could not act on behalf of his office. On 25 January the “Church Six” of the Central Committee of the Communist Party decided that if Biedroň did not apply for state consent within the statutory 30-day period pursuant to Government Decree no. 219/1949, SLÚC would appoint its own candidate. On 11 February Biedroň was forced to resign. The nominated “progressive” priest Ján Dechet was appointed without the approval of church authorities and on 13 February became administrator of the Banská Bystrica diocese. In accordance with valid canon law, Dechet was excommunicated.

18 January 1950
The list of monasteries and monks

was presented at the “Church Six” meeting as an appendix to material for the Presidium of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. It listed 14,230 monks in Czechoslovakia at 891 monasteries as per January 1950. There were 16 male orders at 96 monasteries and 1,019 monks in Slovakia, and 24 female orders at 168 monasteries and 4,253 nuns. The “Church Six” only considered the option of either taking action against the orders gradually and individually or with a radical intervention. The planned measures against men’s orders had not yet affected women’s orders.

25 January 1950
The “Church Six” decided that women’s orders

would appeal against working at hospitals and social institutions. It was approved that the concentration of women’s orders would take place in the next stage, i.e. after men’s orders.

17 February 1950
Bishops drew attention to the appointment and excommunication of Dechet

in circulars confirmed by the Holy See by decree on 18 February. On 22 and 27 February the “Church Six” decided to fully support Dechet and neutralize any resistance. Kopecký’s proposal to organize a pontifical mass of priests and government members took place on 19 March:  Husák oversaw festivities in Banská Bystrica (including radio broadcasts). State Police arrested a canon and the well-known Catholic publicist Juraj Koza Matejov and professors of theology Augustín Dokupil, Ignác Chladný and Petr Kosťov on the night of 16/17 March. During the 1950s, all Banská Bystrica Chapter members (except the resigned Biedroň) were arrested and interned.

27 February 1950
The Presidium of the Central Committee of the Communist Party

definitively leaned towards a more radical intervention against religious orders on the basis of a “Church Six” proposal: “all at once, on one night in a well-organized strike, we will present our and the world’s public with a fait accompli”. This crackdown was to equally apply to all male orders and monasteries.

1 March 1950
Census of religious affiliation

showed only 9,679 non-believers (i.e. 0.28% of the Slovak population). It was the last time that the regime monitored religious affiliation in a census.

16 March 1950
The Ministry of the Interior in Prague

and subsequently, the Slovak Commission of the Interior on 23 March, issued a decree restricting church activities in an effort to restrict them to churches and prayer houses. Public meetings and closed-door meetings could only be held with the permission of the District National Committee (ONV), with the latter requiring written notification of the purpose, place and time at least 48 hours in advance. These measures also applied to clergy meetings (retreats, pastoral conferences, dean meetings, sessions of chapter and episcopal meetings), all church meetings, missions, processions, pilgrimages, processions, open-air masses, etc.

18 March 1950
In connection with celebrations during the installation of Dechet in Banská Bystrica

a conference of “progressive” priests was held in Sliač that led to their own organization being established. But as the leadership of the Communist Party understood that it could not succeed with such few priests (only about 80 in Slovakia), a broader organization was envisioned to bring together passive and reluctant priests with the regime’s support.

31 March – 5 April 1950
One of the three show trials of church dignitaries took place

Ten religious monks were tried, selected – with Čepička’s approval –  from the monks arrested and investigated by the State Security Service. The trial aimed to justify the violent action against orders and to prepare public opinion. It led to Operation K (monasteries), and become part of the largest ecclesiastical trial in Czechoslovak communist history. Of the ten accused, only one was from Slovakia – the Redemptorist of the Eastern Rite, Ruthenian Ján Mastiliak who on 5 April was given life imprisonment, while the others received a total of 132 years.

12 April 1950
A special Minister of the Interior order scheduled Operation K for 13/14 April

The head of the (ŠtB) Department, Baláž agreed the date with chairman Holdoš of the SLÚC (the Slovak State Office for Ecclesiastical Affairs): Thursday, 13 April at midnight.

13 April 1950
Barbarian Night

At midnight 13/14 April members of the armed forces – the People’s Militia, Public Security and State Security – occupied almost all male monasteries throughout Czechoslovakia for alleged ‘anti-state activities’. In the morning monks were sent by bus to concentration monasteries and divided into three groups:

1. The superiors and “most reactionary” monks were concentrated at the disciplinary Capuchin monastery in Pezinok.

2. Other monks (priests, friars, clerics and novices) were divided into four concentration monasteries: Franciscans to the Salesian monastery in Hronský Beňadik, Salesians to Šaštín monastery, Jesuits (isolated from others as the most high-risk) to the Premonstratensian monastery in Jasov, Comforters, Redemptorists and Basilians to the Redemptorist monastery in Podolínec.

3. Religious persons with a pro-regime stance were reassigned to public clerical administration. A total of 881 monks from 11 denominations (Franciscans, Salesians, Jesuits, Comforters, Redemptorists, Premonstratensian, Basilians, Merciful Brothers, Minorities, Dominicans, Verbists) were concentrated throughout Slovakia. The Operation K taskforce and Okáli – the military defense intelligence and interior commissioner – met throughout the offensive.

14 April 1950
On the first day of Operation K

residents of Nižné Ružbachy and neighboring villages – at the initiative of local resident Štefan Šelep – set off to Podolínec to free the interned monks. After breaking through the monastery gate they were shot at, injured, and several protesters imprisoned in the monastery and beaten. It was so serious that Commissioner Okáli and Vomáčka personally intervened. After this security breach, Podolínec monastery had iron bars put on windows, barbed wire surrounded the site, and it had armed guard and dogs from Leopoldov prison. Further riots broke out on 14 April in Pruské where 400-700 people demonstrated after Franciscans were removed, and 600 demonstrated in Pezinok. In Spišský Štvrtok, about 200 women tried to storm the emptied monastery. In several municipalities, residents expressed anger with Operation K.

17 April 1950
The “Church Six” was tasked

with the preferably voluntary concentration of nuns and their putting to use in civilian employment.

24-25 April 1950
Interned monks were transferred

from the centralization monasteries in Jasov (to Podolínec) and Šaštín (to Báč) on the night of 25 April in Operation K1.

28 April 1950
As part of Action P (Orthodoxization)

a state-led meeting of the “sobor “ (i.e. assembly, synod) took place in Prešov with 820 “delegates”, Greek Catholics, 73 priests, and 3000-4,000 supporters of Orthodoxy, usually communists. This declared the Užhorod Union (which in the 17th century established unity between some religious societies of Byzantine rites and Rome) abolished, and its resolution led to the Orthodoxization of the Greek Catholic Church. The manifesto targeted the Catholic Church as a whole. After this gross violation of canon law, the Greek Catholic Cathedral was taken over almost immediately (during the ensemble through the KNV) and handed over to the Orthodox Bishop Alexij. Settlement Bishop Gojdič and Auxiliary Bishop Hopko were interned.

2 May 1950
The Presidium of the Central Committee of the Communist Party

approved the new church commission which was renamed the church council: Zdeněk Fierlinger (chairman), Alexej Čepička, J. Havelka, Jiří Hendrych, Václav Kopecký, Zdeněk Nejedlý, and Viliam Široký. Holdoš also took part in council meetings from June and Nosek (replacing Nejedlý) from December 1950. 

Midnight 3/4 May 1950
Following Operation K, the intervention against remaining male orders continued in Operation K2

The only difference was that the SNB, ŠtB and ĽM raids forced the monastery superiors to sign declarations of their allegedly voluntary concentration and relocation. K2 took place in Bratislava, Nitra, Banská Bystrica, and Žilina. Men’s monasteries no longer existed in the Košice and Prešov regions. A total of 299 people from five denominations (School Brothers, Piarists, Verbists, Lazarists, Capuchins) were concentrated. In both actions, a total of 1,180 monks from 15 orders living in 76 monasteries were concentrated. 

14 May 1950
Another propaganda operation began throughout Czechoslovakia

a petition for the Stockholm Appeal. This was led by the communist-controlled World Peace Council at the Stockholm Conference, which called for a ban on nuclear weapons. Like “Salutatory speech to Stalin”, this petition served to frame and persecute bishops and clergy. Bishops Vojtaššák, Lazík and Nécsey refused to sign the Stockholm Appeal, which was deemed a suitable pretext for the gradual complete isolation of all Catholic bishops. 

17 May 1950
Key Greek Catholic representatives

Bishops Hopko. Rusnák, Rojkovič, and Gojdič – removed at night to internment monastery in Báč.

23 May 1950
As per this date, there were 1,002 monks at concentration camps and SLÚC training centres

Outside such camps, 28 monks could perform ceremonies in monastic churches, 16 were ill, one was detained, and 22 escaped. The number concentrated had decreased due to the departure of civilian (lay, non-religious) religious staff and inmates who had not taken their religious vows (152 persons).

May 1950
A delegation of Catholic women from Trnava

visited the SLÚC in Bratislava and then the presidential office in Prague to demand the return of monks to their original workplaces.

4–6 July 1950
Communist Party leadership organized a celebration in Velehrad

on the occasion of the feast of St. Cyril and Methodius (Action “V”). To prepare the large-scale clergy organization, a conference of “patriotic” priests was attended by almost 500 priests, 110 from Slovakia. But some attended under duress or on the basis of disinformation that the aim of the event was to issue a call for the resumption of negotiations between the Church and the state. Most priests expressed respect for bishops’ authority and rejected the conflict with them. On the contrary, supporters of the fledging “progressive” priests movement were isolated after returning home – the movement only gained a stronger organizational framework in 1951. 

June - July 1950
The 348 nuns

who had worked as teachers at the Commission of Education were dismissed.

10 July 1950
A meeting of representatives of the SÚC and several ministries (education, healthcare, labor)

was held at the SÚC in Prague, chaired by Fierlinger. The aim was to find the most suitable way to liquidate women’s orders. A special commission was to prepare the “displacement” of monasteries. It was agreed to take over children’s homes and refuges, old people’s homes, care facilities for the physically and mentally ill, and other institutions. In the Czech Republic nuns could work in hospitals, while in Slovakia they were assigned to monastery work. Authorized SÚC (SLÚC) representatives were to supervise at provincial and general boards of directors. In the following days, an implementation plan was drawn up on the basis of these principles. 

14 July 1950
The SÚC submitted to the Presidium of the Central Committee of the Communist Party

a proposal for the gradual concentration of nuns – Action “R” (nuns) was set for 29-31 August. The main principles were to include a “voluntary” and moderate approach. The intervention plan had two stages:

1) From 24 to 28 August a preparatory phase (emergency service and telephone service in KNV and ONV church departments, briefings by KNV (The Regional National Committee) and ONV (District National committee) officials, ensure security measures, and explaining the action among faithful at monasteries. Action “R” was discussed on 2 August with the “Security Three” and “Church Three”,  and extended by representatives of the Presidency of the KV KSS and OV KSS and the most reliable comrades from mass organizations and people’s administration.

2) From 28 to 31  August the implementation phase: informative visit by the chairmen of MNV (Local National Committee) and MO KSS on 28  August, on 29 – 31 August the chairman of the ONV, district church secretary, official of the people’s administration and representative would visit monastery and submit notes to the SLÚC. It was recommended to use false reasons for the evictions, and give the assurance that the monastery would remain in the hands of the order and this measure is only a temporary solution. The Presidium of the KSČ adopted this detailed plan on 28 August 1950 – after the actions had been implemented. 

14 July 1950
Government Decree no. 112/1950 Coll.

stipulated that all Roman Catholic theological studies in Slovakia were to be concentrated at the Roman Catholic Cyril and Methodius Faculty of Theology in Bratislava. The faculty was first excluded from the scope of the Commission of Education and its supervision taken over by the SLÚC, which also determined the study regulations, curricula, and method of admitting theologians. Other theological faculties and religious education were abolished.

23 Aug 1950
The SLÚC invited by official letter

the superiors of provincials and convents to a meeting on 28 August – its subject was not announced, but participation was compulsory and necessary. Of 21 invited, 16 came and were presented with a fait accompli during the SLÚC interview. Provincial superiors had to take note of the decree regarding the relocation of nuns and their new work duties, although they failed to inform the superiors of individual religious communities about the meeting’s results. Consequently, the liquidators took advantage of this surprise to draw up a decree that the eviction had been agreed with the provincial superiors.

29 Aug 1950
Operation R began from 08:00 a.m.

ŠtB played a significant role, often visiting monasteries in individual districts. The regional ŠtB headquarters announced a strict emergency from 28 to 31 August. Both SNB strike units and army emergency units (ČSĽA) were put on stand-by. According to Holdoš, there were “difficulties in about 15-16 places” during Operation R. Between 28 and 31 August, 1,962 nuns were concentrated and 137 buildings were emptied (in Slovakia).  Nuns were held in 16 concentration monasteries in very cramped conditions under the supervision of SLÚC proxies. In principle, nuns working in health and charity were excluded from the concentration.

7 September 1950
The religious superiors concentrated in Báč so far

were transported to the monastery in Podolínec. Báč remained in the administration of the SLÚC as a detention monastery for special cases. 

26 October 1950
After the internment of the Bishop of Spiš Vojtaššák

Vicar General Tomanóczy led the diocese. SLÚC forced him into accepting the “progressive” priest Scheffer as the director of the episcopal office. But Tomanóczy refused and was arrested and interned at various centres for priests in October 1950 on the basis of a fabricated accusation of copying “illegal pastoral letters”, and in 1953 sentenced to 12 years in prison after being tortured in Prague.

26 October 1950
After the arrest of Vicar General Tomanóczy

members of the Spiš settlement chapter were instructed to elect Scheffer as the chapter vicar – he appointed on 5 November with media fanfare. He held the position until 1968. 

27– 28 September 1950

A preparatory committee of the emerging Centre of Slovak Evangelical Priests (ÚSEK) association

was established at a conference in Komárno.

20 November 1950
By this date 69 people had been interned at Mučeníky

of which only seven monks and 62 secular priests including Hanus, Špirko, Koza-Matejov, Trstenský, Bolek, Mitošinka, Barnáš, and Janega.

9 January 1951
Nuns were violently removed from the concentration monastery in Ladce

Several Vincentians were arrested by the ŠtB and taken to prison in Trenčín and later Žilina where they were tortured. They were finally tried at the State Court for alleged high treason. 

9 March 1951
Inaugural Centre of Slovak Evangelical Priests (ÚSEK) assembly held in Zvolen

playing a similar role in the Evangelical Church as the Peace Movement of Catholic Clergy. Official data stated “… in the ranks of patriotic ev. a.v. clergy, about 85% of the whole priesthood.”

23 May 1951
At a peace rally in Bratislava

SÚC’s Horák officially announced organized diocesan peace committees of the clergy as a preparatory step for their national conference in September.

8 June 1951
The Hronský Beňadik concentration monastery was closed

with most monks transferred to Podolínec.

27 September 1951
The Peace Movement of the Catholic Clergy (MHKD)

was constituted at a national congress in Prague attended by over 1,200 priests. Plojhar became chairman, Lazík from the Slovak bishops took part, and Čársky sent a greeting message.

12 October 1951
The first stage of the deportation of nuns (330) to the Czech Republic began

second stage 20 October 460, and third stage 21 November 2179 nuns. 767 nuns remained concentrated in Slovakia.

1 November 1951
To date, 219 religious persons

still concentrated in Slovakia.

29 November 1951
There were 112 monks evicted

from the monasteries in Podolínec and Mučeníky (Sládečkovce) to Bohemia, 99 were priests and 13 were fraters . Other monks were evicted to Czechia in the summer of 1952. Their number increased to 187. They were concentrated here in centralizing monasteries and employed in manual labor. These “monasteries” functioned until the 1960s. The number of monks in compulsory military service, especially in the PTP, usually also in the Czech Republic, reached 131 people.

11 December 1951
Podolínec concentration monastery closed

It had been the last such functioning monastery in Action “K” with interned monks. Old and sick monks were moved from Podolínec and concentrated in Belušské Slatiny. Yet Podolínec monastery was also used by the communists twice more as an internment monastery in Operation R.

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