Prime Minister Iveta Radičová expressed "deep sorrow" at the sudden death of bishop of Banská Bystrica Rudolf Baláž who died of a blood embolism on July 28 at the age of 70.
"He confirmed the greatness of his personality and his high moral values during the communist regime, which didn't allow him to carry out his priestly vocation for some time, as well as during Mečiarism, when he, as a bishop, stood up for the principles of freedom and democracy, for which he was openly besmirched by the regime," said Radičová as quoted by TASR referring to activities of Baláž during the rule of Vladimír Mečiar in the mid 1990s.
"My own meetings with bishop Rudolf Baláž were always marked with a spirit of respect and open dialogue, and will always remain in my mind as a testimony of a real personality," said Radičová.
Baláž was active as a parish priest without the permission of the communist regime, so later had to find secular work as a tractor driver and lorry driver before returning to his priestly activities. He was ordained as a bishop in March 1990, and chaired the Slovak Bishop's Conference (KBS) between 1994-2000.
In the mid 1990s, Baláž become involved in the so-called Triptych case. Members of the Slovak Intelligence Service (SIS) allegedly discovered that the Banská Bystrica diocese office had ordered a copy of "The Adoration of the Magi" triptych and wanted to sell the original. An SIS agent pretending to be Swiss citizen Thomas Grabner was supposed to have bought the painting for $200,000. The use of money for a fictitious purchase was allegedly approved by SIS head Ivan Lexa. After the purchase, the police searched the diocese office, TASR reported.
According to the results of an investigation carried out after Mečiar lost the general election in 1998, SIS carried out and monitored the transaction illegally, intending to discredit the diocese and bishop Baláž. The triptych was returned to the diocese office on November 17, 2000. It is now part of the Slovak National Gallery collection, TASR wrote.
Mikuláš Dzurinda's first cabinet apologised to the diocese office for the activities of state bodies under Mečiar's government. Lexa denied any guilt, however, and claimed that SIS acted in accordance with the law, according to TASR.
29. Jul 2011 at 6:00