Perplexed in trnava

Pope Benedict XVI's dismissal of Slovak Archbishop Robert Bezak. has been causing unrest among Catholics and politicians in the country since the weekend. The media in the country continue to speculate about the background – but it remains unclear.

In Bezak's former bishop's town of Trnava (German Tyrnau) several hundred sympathizers gathered for prayer. In the capital Bratislava, too, believers showed solidarity; their base: the Lourdes Grotto. Several signature campaigns started on the Internet. Patrik Dubovsky, a former employee of the "National Memorial Institute" and a specialist in the history of the collaboration of priests with the communist state security service, called in the daily "SME" for people to put on black clothes on Thursday, the state holiday in honor of the Slavic apostles Cyril and Methodius. Women should braid black ribbons in their hair.

The reason for Bezak's removal remains unclear. The strongest suspicion is directed at the partisans of Bezak's predecessor Jan Sokol (76), whose shady financial dealings Bezak had announced he would clarify. In a trial with the weekly newspaper "Tyzden" in 2009, the then new archbishop had even testified as a witness. Critics of Bezak's ouster would have found it far more plausible if the Vatican had removed his predecessor, Sokol, from office in good time.

On church line
As for Bezak's ministry as a pastor, some media speculate that Bezak has ordained candidates to the priesthood whose ordination other bishops have rejected. Defenders of the archbishop also reject this accusation. An unpopular consecration activity was not the subject of the Roman examination (visitation) of the diocese at the beginning of the year, it says. Even the presumption of sexual misconduct, which has become common in the removal of bishops, plays only a minor role at all in media reports. Also no allegedly harassed person came forward to speak.

Bezak has always taken the ecclesiastical line on irritant ies such as homosexuality or abortion, according to most media, which also point to the bishop's willingness to engage in dialogue and his popular character. Bezak's dismissal became legally effective with the publication of the papal decree on Monday. Earlier, the Apostolic Nuncio in the Slovak Republic, Archbishop Mario Giordana, had informed him of the Roman decision. Bezak himself read out the document on Sunday in Trnava Cathedral.

Bezak reads resignation itselfa
Literally Giordana's text says: "I refer to the letter of 26. June, by which I informed you, on behalf of the Congregation for Bishops, that His Holiness, having taken note of the results of the Apostolic Visitation held on 22. January to 1. February, and with a written reply to Your Excellency, in view of serious problems in Trnava, asked you to resign from the post of Archbishop of Tyrnava. Since you have refused to renounce present office, I perform my duty and give you notice on behalf of the Holy See, which has informed me of your refusal, that if Your Excellency insists on your decision, His Holiness will relieve you of the pastoral direction of the Archdiocese of Trnava. This news is published on 2. July 2012 published in the Osservatore Romano."

The spokesman for the Slovak Bishops' Conference, Jozef Kovacik, commented on the event simply: "We accept the Holy Father's decision in the spirit of faith and obedience of the sons and ask the Lord to bless the Church in Slovakia."Beyond that, no official statements of any kind have been made by the Church.

Since the results of the visitation were also never made public, the Slovak media will probably speculate for some time about the background of the papal decision. For all the rumors, of course, counter-arguments are also brought into the field.

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