By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
tPope Benedict XVI began his three-day trip to the Czech Republic by marking the 20th anniversary of the 1989 Velvet Revolution, which swept what he called an “oppressive regime” under the Communists from power, and urged Czechs to see religion as an essential ingredient of the new society they’re still trying to build twenty years later.
tIn effect, the pope’s “pitch” was that Czechs should take a new look at Christianity, not as a fossil from their past but as a resource to building a more humane and satisfying future.
tThat may be a tall order in what is commonly reckoned to be one of the most secularized societies on earth, in which some 60 percent of Czechs profess no religious affiliation and in which, although baptized Catholics represent roughly a third of the population of 10 million, the number of practicing Catholics may be as low as two to three percent.
tAccording to Ted Turnau, a professor of religion at Prague’s Charles University, the Czech lands may be one of the few places on earth where the phrase “Catholic atheist” is not a contradiction in terms.