A Cardinal who was imprisoned

16 August 2021
Secret monastic life, prison, freedom, value saving, bridge-building – chapters from the life of Cardinal Dominik Duka, Archbishop of the Prague Archdiocese, also a guest speaker of the Congress.

Dominik Duka was born in Hradec Králové, a city in eastern Bohemia. His father was incarcerated by the authorities of the communist dictatorship and was in captivity together with János Esterházy.

Deprived from the priestly vocation

Dominik Duka was strongly harassed by the communist regime, and was not admitted to start his theological studies until 1965. He was ordained priest in 1970. Two years later he made his monastic profession in the Dominican order. In 1975 his state permit as a “spiritual administrator” was withdrawn, thus for the following years until 1989 he worked as a designer in the Skoda Plzen automobile factory.

Secrets and prison

Father Dominik Duka lived an illegal monastic life and helped to set up a clandestine religious study centre. He finished his theological studies in 1979, graduating at the Pontifical Theology Faculty in Warsaw, Poland. As a result of his illegal religious activities he was arrested and imprisoned from 1981 to 1982 in the Bory Prison, Plzen, where his fellow prisoners included Vaclav Havel writer, the future Czech President.


A few years after his release he became the Prefect of the Dominical Provincial of Moravia. Following the regime change the Dominic friar was elected President of the Conference of Major Superiors of the Czech Republic. From 1992 to 1996 Father Duka held the office of Vice President of the Union of European Conferences of Major Superiors. Between 1990 and 1998 he was the professor of biblical studies at the Faculty of Theology of the Palacky University in Olomuc. In 1998 he was appointed bishop of Hradec Králové by Pope John Paul II. In 2010 Pope Benedict XVI appointed him Archbishop of Prague, then in 2012 elevated him to Cardinal.

Saint Adalbert binds us

Cardinal Duka’s name is associated with setting up the faith life possibility for the Hungarian speaking population in the Czech Republic. He works hard to develop the Hungarian-Czech religious relationships. The bond between the two countries grounds on the fact that Dominik Duka’s idol, St. Adalbert, had his missionary service in Hungary during the foundation of the Hungarian state. As to the legend it was St. Adalbert who baptized King St. Stephen of Hungary.

Reborn Czech-Hungarian relations

Ten years ago Cardinal Duka blessed the memorial plaque of János Esterházy at the Memorial to the Victims of Communism. Upon Cardinal Duka’s initiative a Requiem Mass was held in tribute to the 60th anniversary of the 1956 revolution of Hungary, and a publication was issued in commemoration of József Mindszenty.


Following several years of interval, Hungarian pastoral life was reborn in Prague with Cardinal Duka’s effective assistance. The Church of St. Henry and St. Cunigunde, along with its parish in the city centre of Prague were put at the disposal of the Hungarian speaking faithful.

The IEC Mission Cross in Prague

Last year the Mission Cross, the symbol of the Eucharistic Congress, had a stop in Prague as well. The communities organised a commemorative ceremony that was more than touching, and even a tribute was paid to János Esterházy, the person who binds the two nations.


The Mission Cross is a reliquary, in its centre with relics of Saints whose life can be a real role model both for the faithful and every benevolent people. The reliquary includes a János Esterházy relic as well. The lives of the saints are such supports that everyone can rely on in all the difficulties. As János Esterházy did all along the horrors of the labour camps (the Gulags), as well as during the adversities of his years in a Czech prison, he placed all his hopes and beliefs in Christ and was clinging on to his love. Now we beg for the help the same way in our everyday life both of Esterházy, and all the Hungarian blessed and saints – as it was voiced in the ceremonial Holy Mass.

The IEC is important for all of us

Prior to the great ceremony in Prague, Cardinal Duka issued a circular letter encouraging everyone to attend the Budapest Congress. “This World meeting is important not only for the Hungarian Church, but for all of us living under the protectorate of Saint Adalbert. We would like to give our contribution to the success of this prominent event, while granting all the necessary and available support we can.” – the Cardinal wrote.

Photo: IEC

Source: Magyar Kurír, felvidek.ma