The archbishop of Trnava, Róbert Bezák, has been dismissed from his position by the Roman Catholic Church. He read out a letter he had received from the Vatican authorities informing him of their decision during a mass held in Trnava Cathedral on Sunday, July 1. He also read out a letter in which the papal nuncio to Slovakia – i.e. the Vatican ambassador – Archbishop Mario Giordana, asked him to resign from his position. Bezák was officially removed from his post as of 12:00 today (Monday, July 2), upon publication of the announcement in L’Osservatore Romano, the official daily newspaper of the Vatican, the Sme daily reported.
Bezák, aged 52, replaced controversial former archbishop Ján Sokol three years ago. The step was widely welcomed given Sokol's repeated praise of President Jozef Tiso, a Catholic priest who led the Nazi-allied wartime Slovak state under which tens of thousands of Slovakia's Jews were deported to Nazi death camps. Bezák won popular respect when he announced that Tiso, should have resigned as soon as the first transport with Jews left the country.
Bezák has said that he does not know why he is being dismissed. He added that the Vatican even told him not to talk to the media.
“I should refrain from statements to the mass media, but you are not the mass media, you are my believers,” he told churchgoers, as quoted by Sme, during the Sunday mass.
Bezák added that although all the letters he has received the Vatican refer to “serious accusations”, nobody has yet accused him of anything specific. He said he believes that one reason for his firing may be his criticism of his predecessor, Sokol, Sme wrote.
A spokesperson for the Conference of Bishops of Slovakia (KBS) refused to comment on Bezák’s statements, saying that the dismissal had not been officially confirmed.
Meanwhile, several supporters of Bezák have launched a petition on the internet in which they demand that the KBS and the papal nuncio in Slovakia explain why Bezák had to be dismissed, the SITA newswire reported.
“We require this explanation since this is an abnormal procedure which creates space for various suspicions,” reads the petition text on the internet. “Regardless of obedience towards hierarchical rules we cannot hide from the fact that this procedure does not throw a good light on the institution of the Church, [and that] it divides and disgusts believers as well as society.”
The authors of the petition also voice support for Bezák who, according to them, was able to connect religious tradition to life in the 21st century, and bring a theological soundness with humanity which brought about a revival of faith in the Trnava archdiocese, SITA wrote.
Sources: Sme, SITA
Compiled by Radka Minarechová from press reports
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