Embassy of the Czech Republic
October 22, 2015
6:00 pm
Embassy of the Czech Republic
3900 Spring of Freedom St NW
Washington DC 20008

Monsignor Tomáš Halík, laureate of the prestigious 2014 Templeton Prize,  will discuss 
The Spiritual and Philosophical Legacy of Karel Čapek at the Embassy of the Czech Republic on October 22, at 6 pm. A published scholar and Catholic priest, Monsignor Halík is a leading international advocate for dialogue among differerent religions. Halík's father was an editor of Karel Čapek's works and even published some of Čapek's work after his death. Engage in an evening of insight into Čapek's intellect and spiritual life at the Czech Embassy.

Event Details: 

Date: October 22, 6 pm

Location: Embassy of the Czech Republic
                3900 Spring of Freedom Street NW, Washington DC 20008

 Light refreshments follow the discussion.

RSVP required by October 19


Tomáš Halík was born on June 1, 1948, soon after a Soviet-backed coup ended the brief Czechoslovakian experiment with democracy that followed World War II and plunged that nation into a long period of communist dictatorship. Growing up in a society largely free of religion, he nonetheless was drawn to English Catholicism in the works of authors G.K. Chesterton and Graham Greene. Two years after receiving his first communion at age 18, Czechoslovakia experienced 1968’s Prague Spring, a fleeting relaxation of government restrictions on speech, assembly and travel that Halík, like most of the nation’s youth, vigorously embraced.

During that window, he began English-language studies at the University of North Wales. Shortly after his arrival, Warsaw Pact forces crushed the Prague Spring, reverting the nation back to full dictatorship. Despite having the opportunity to remain free as an émigré, he returned to his native land determined to clandestinely fight for freedom. Soon after his return, fellow student Jan Palach set himself on fire in Prague’s central square, an event that shocked the nation and the world and led Halík on a deep inner search that would bring him to the priesthood. After delivering a speech at his doctoral graduation at Charles University extolling the need for truth, the government labeled him an “enemy of the regime,” forbade him to teach at the University and forced him into a career as a counselor and therapist to alcoholics and drug addicts.

Yet, all the while he was maintaining a façade of acquiescence to the system during the 1970s and 1980s, Halík quietly built a vast network of students, academics, philosophers, theologians and others who clandestinely communicated and advanced an agenda of knowledge and faith, activities that would have landed him in prison if he were caught.

During this time, Halík began secretly studying theology in Prague with Josef Zvěřina, a priest banned from public instruction by the authorities. One day before the enthronement of Pope JohnPaul II in 1978, he was clandestinely ordained in 1978 in East Germany, a milestone kept secret even from his mother.

With the final fall of Communism in the Eastern Bloc in 1989, the “underground university” and “underground church” that Halík and others had organized and nurtured provided a solid foundation to help launch the new democratic era.

Immediately after the fall of the communist regime, John Paul II invited Halík to the Vatican to help prepare the Pope’s visit to Czechoslovakia in April 1990, his first trip to a post-communist country. At the end of his stay in the Vatican, the Pope appointed him to serve as an advisor to the Pontifical Council for Dialogue with Non- Believers.

Besides serving as an advisor to many of the Czech Republic’s political and religious leaders, Halík has been at the forefront of engaging and encouraging dialogue and understanding between religions and cultures including Muslims, Jews, Christians and non-believers. Further, he has introduced unorthodox approaches to long-running conflicts, suggesting, for example, that the intellectual diligence prized by both Muslims and Catholics may help bridge relations among diverse Western secularism, traditional religions and Islamic culture. 

In 199,6 Halík worked with Havel, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Elie Wiesel and Japanese philanthropist Yohei Sasakawa, to help establish the Forum 2000 Foundation which holds annual international conferences in Prague. The organization pursues Havel’s legacy through support of democratic values and respect for human rights, the development of civil society, and encouragement of religious, cultural and ethnic tolerance.

Since 1989, Halík has lectured at numerous universities and conferences throughout the world. Among his many awards, he was named “Man of Reconciliation 2010” by the Polish Council of Christians and Jews, Warsaw, for outstanding services to dialogue between Christians and Jews. In 2010 he received the Romano Guardini Prize in Germany for outstanding merit in interpreting contemporary society.

Halík holds a Ph.D. in philosophy and sociology from Charles University (1972); a post graduate degree in clinical psychology from the Institute for Medicine in Prague (1984); the licentiate of theology from Pontifical Lateran University, Rome (1992); a higher doctorate in sociology from Charles University (1992); and a ThDr.hab. in practical theology from the Pontifical Theological Faculty in Warsaw (1992). Since 1990 he has served as rector of the Church of Holy Saviour in Prague. In 2008 he was granted the title of Monsignor – Honorary Prelate of His Holiness by Pope Benedict XVI.


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