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A stolen abbey in Moravia

Pá 15.07.2016 14:22

Zdeněk Koudelka

In contemporary struggle of civilisations it is impossible to be a successful society without historically anchored churches. Also the churches have to assume their role with regard to the restituted property. The Catholic Church especially which is the most important church in Moravia. The church consists of various people who strive to embrace intention of God, but they do not always succeed. Important transfers of property in the framework of restitutions of ecclesiastical property, which should serve as a remedy for property loss caused by the Communist regime, can stimulate appetite for taking possession of the property of their fellow men.

A bad step is the takeover of traditional ecclesiastical institutions by foreigners at a time when historical monasteries get huge properties in restitutions. In February 2015, a long-time Abbot Lukáš Evžen Martinec was removed from the governance of the Abbey Old Brno of the Order of St. Augustine. Without being dismissed, he was sent on one-year leave by the Prior General of the order in Rome and a group of Polish members of the order, who were staying in Brno only several months before, took charge of the monastery. The Spaniard Juan Provecho, the head of Augustinians of Prague, became the official administrator of the abbey. The alleged leave of the Abbot Martinec was an obvious lie in order to facilitate the arrival of the usurpers of the abbey.

Before the arrival of Lukáš Evžen Martinec in 1995, about 30 000 CZK were on the account and the abbey was burdened with a debt of 20 million CZK. After his departure in February 2015 the abbey was without debt, there were about 65 million CZK on the account of the abbey, about 8 million CZK were on the account of the parish and in the interim, repairs of the basilica and the monastery have been carried out for 100 million CZK without any help from the centre in Rome or from Augustinians in Prague. In addition, he managed to return from abroad previously stolen books belonging to the monastery. During 20 years he organised various charitable actions in collaboration with the company SNIP&CO which earned more than 10 million CZK. It was a good administrator and shepherd whose sermons in the basilica were largely attended.

In time when there were no restitutions of ecclesiastical property Abbot Martinec managed to put the neglected monastery on its feet again with the help of various donors from Moravia, without any interest from the side of the order. Many ecclesiastical institutions in Bohemia do not have so important restitutions of property in kind like ecclesiastical institutions in Moravia which is given by a greater number of catholic believers and also because the Hussite movement has stolen less ecclesiastical property in Moravia. It is not surprising that the Augustinians from Prague (i.e. foreigners - Spaniards) got the appetite to take possession of the property of their fellow men and to seize control over a well-run abbey in Moravia with important restitutions that never belonged to them. The Abbot Lukáš Evžen Martinec could not return in the abbey even after one year and so it was confirmed that his forced leave had in fact served his removal from the abbey. Where and when will the funds of the abbey be misappropriated?

The Augustinian monastery was founded in Brno in 1350 by the decision of the Moravian Margrave John Henry and the tomb of the Moravian Margraves was established in his Church of the Annunciation and St. Thomas. By this act it became an important institution of the Moravian Church and an integral part of the statehood of the Moravian Land. The exceptional status of the Augustinian monastery in Brno has been emphasized by Pope Benedict XIV who promoted the Brno monastery of Augustinian hermit brothers to any abbey with the right to have an infulated abbot in 1752. By this act, the Augustinian abbot, appointed for life, became the highest ecclesiastical prelate in Brno, the capital of the Moravian land, until the establishment of the Brno Bishopric in 1777. The decision of pope created a unique situation in the Order of St. Augustine different to any other Augustinian monastery. The decision of Benedict XIV about the position of Brno Abbey of the Order of St. Augustine is still valid according to the fourth canon of the Code of Canon Law. It is good to maintain the independence of the abbey on the Czech province of the Order of St. Augustine in Prague. The importance of the abbey is underlined by the work of the famous Abbot Johann Gregor Mendel and in modern times by the fact that the monastery was used as their place of representation by the region of South Moravia, the city of Brno and Masaryk University during important events in Brno. Pope Saint John Paul II promoted the monastery church to basilica minor in 1987.

The transfer to Prague of the administration of the abbey is a bad thing for believers from Moravia when the Pope made the monastery independent by its promotion to an abbey. It is similar as if the Castilians from Madrid took over the administration of Sagrada Familia in the Catalan Barcelona. All this at a time when there are ongoing restitutions of land property of the church and the abbey should acquire thousands of hectares of forest. The management of this property outside Moravia raises fear about the preservation of property of the abbey which was formed by donations from the Moravian land, Moravian Margraves and believers from Moravia. The suspicion is reinforced by the fact that the installed Polish parish priest has changed his civilian name and dismissed the economic council of the parish connected to the abbey which has to supervise its management.

The Black Madonna of St. Thomas, who is worshiped as the Pearl of Moravia and the Guardian of the city of Brno, is kept in the basilica of the abbey. Moravians are looking with sadness at the usurpation of the historical Moravian institution. However, the Czech Augustinian province of Prague itself is made up of foreigners only and led by a Spaniard. This is an example of pluralism in the Church which has been criticised many times in history. Besides the fact that he dominates the Prague province, he recently gained a leading position in the abbey of Brno. He rented the monastery in Malá Strana in Prague as a hotel. Hopefully, the abbey of Brno will also not end up like this. It reminds of the dominion of Spaniards in their colonies. If the Spaniards behave towards Catalonia in this way, the call of Catalans: "Away from Madrid!" is understandable.

The pastoral impact is sad. A foreigner does not have such language ability as someone with Czech as mother tongue. A worship, which is difficult to understand, does not address. Therefore St. Cyril and Methodius served in an understandable language in Moravia and the 2nd Vatican Council allowed the worship in national languages. Installing linguistically unprepared foreigners where it is not necessary contradicts to the doctrine of St. Cyril and Methodius as well as to the Council. Moravia has an older Christian tradition than Bohemia or Poland. It is not a missionary territory. Transferring administration of historical ecclesiastical people to foreigners instead of domestic priests undermines the confidence of believers towards church officials.

The state of health of the Moravian Augustinian Father Jan Budil, who remained in the abbey of Brno at the age 87, is sad. The linguistic inadequacy of foreigners has led to the fact that he was burdened with church service over a reasonable range in an old age. The foreigners also wanted his pension to be paid into their account, not his, but another with which they could dispose. But this has been refused as illegal by the social security administration. Because he had not received an earlier diet treatment, everything finished so that he was hospitalized as a malnourished person with only 49 kg of weight in the hospital in summer 2015. The care for elderly priests is a reference of a diocese. The bishopric had to be aware that if they allow linguistically poorly prepared foreigners to take over the parish, they will overload a single domestic priest. A reduced attendance of worships in Old Brno gives evidence what believers think about all this.

Zcizené moravské opatství