Prague, March 31, 2022
A recent article in the Czech press plays fast and loose with context, attempting to paint the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia in a negative light, supposedly as nothing more than a Russian vassal, a representative of the Prague Diocese writes in a recent statement.
On March 16, Česká televize ran a report entitled, “Anonymous owners operate under the banner of the Church. Searching for Putin-linked Russian property isn’t easy,” which states that:
The Czech Ministry of Finance is trying to trace the domestic assets of those Russian businessmen who have ties to the regime of President Vladimir Putin. The task is challenging because many lucrative properties have ended up being owned by companies with anonymous owners. In addition, many buildings financed by Russian capital are operated under the auspices of the Orthodox Church.
The Prague Diocese responded with a statement on March 18.
“From the point of view of the Prague Orthodox Diocese, we consider it necessary to put some facts in perspective, because we believe that the report, as it was broadcast, puts the Orthodox Church in the wrong light,” begins Protopresbyter Jan Beránek, Director-in-Charge of the Prague Diocesan Council.
Such statements as found in the report are significantly vague, Fr. Jan writes, and “can mean almost anything.” Talk of Russia, anonymous owners, Putin, the Orthodox Church, and so on, can create the impression that the Czech Church patronizes some illegitimate activities.
Such a created impression “places our local independent Orthodox Church in the Czech Lands and Slovakia in the position of a kind of vassal of Russian interests, dubious and suspicious organizations, which damages the reputation of our Local Church in the eyes of society,” which, of course, the Church rejects.
Referring to specific properties mentioned in the given article, Fr. Jan responds that the Prague Diocese has no knowledge of any funds from any suspicious sources being used to acquire or repair them. The diocese wouldn’t have knowingly accepted dirty money, he writes.
The Česká televize report paints the Monastery of Sts. Wenceslaus and Ludmila in a decidedly negative light, stating that a chateau in Loděnice near Prague was repaired with Russian investments, and “transformed into an Orthodox monastery with a strict order and a secret regime for anyone outside.”
“The mother superior did not share the details of the monastery's operation,” the report says.
However, Fr. Jan points out that the nuns actually don’t know speak Czech very well, as they never leave the monastery, and so, “even with the best of intentions, they couldn’t provide your reporters with relevant information.”
The Sts. Wenceslaus and Ludmila nuns hail from Ukraine, OrthoChristian was informed.
According to the Česká televize report, the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands could see some of its property seized, given the accusations of Putin connections.
“We are the rule of law and we’re looking for tools so that we can at least freeze the property” of people connected to the Russian regime, says the head of the State Treasury, Zbyněk Stanjura. The Czech Secret Services are also helping with the search for such property.