Since February 25, 1948, Czechoslovakia was a communist dictatorship with a rigid antireligious policy. Only with the election of the new president Václav Havel on December 29,1989, one of the most brutal regimes of it’s time found an end. Religious work was hindered massively, and official bishop’s appointments were nearly impossible; parts of the clergy were bound to the Pacem in Terris organization addicted to the regime. Up to December 21, 1989, only five of thirteen dioceses had regular bishops.

At the beginning of this difficult period the Czechoslovakian episcopacy had these members:

1943 – 1950 Andrej Škrábik, Bishop of Banská Bystrica

1946 – 1972 Karel Skoupý, Bishop of Brno

1947 – 1972 Joseph Hlouch, Bishop of Ceské Budejovice

1931 – 1956 Moric Picha, Bishop of Hradec Králové

1948 – 1962 Jozef Cársky, Ap. Administrator of Košice

1947 – 1974 Štěpán Trochta, S. D. B., Bishop of Litoměřice

1949 – 1968 Eduard Nécsey, Ap. Administrator of Nitra

1948 – 1961 Joseph Matocha, Archbishop of Olomouc

1940 – 1969 Stanislav Zela, Auxiliary Bishop of Olomouc

1946 – 1969 Josef Beran, Archbishop of Praha

1933 – 1961 Antonín Eltschkner, Archbishop of Praha

1940 – 1960 Peter Pavel Gojdic, O. S. B. M., Bishop of Prešov of Byzantinians

1946 – 1976 Vasil Hopko, Auxiliary Bishop of Prešov of Byzantinians

1949 – 1959 Robert Pobožný, Capitular Vicar of Rožnava

1920 – 1965 Ján Vojtaššák, Bishop of Spiš

1949 – 1969 Ambróz Lazík, Ap. Administrator of Trnava

1938 – 1961 Michal Buzalka, Auxiliary Bishop of Trnava

Josef Cardinal Beran
Bishop Karel Skoupý
Bishop Antonín Eltschkner
Moric Picha, Bishop of Hradec Králové
Bishop Ambróz Lazík
Bl. Bishop Vasil Hopko
Stepán Cardinal Trochta

In 1950, both Greek Catholic bishops Gojdic and Hopko were imprisoned respective deported, but also the Latin rite bishops were not allowed to practise further at all. Josef Beran, Archbishop of Prague, was put to jail from 1949 up to 1963 and then went to Roman exile. Only in 2018 his remains returned from Saint Peter’s to Prague. Bishop Ján Vojtaššák of Spiš as well was imprisoned for a long time and not allowed to work as a bishop afterwards. Most of the other bishops lived with similar circumstances. The former German auxiliary bishop of Prague, Johannes Remiger, was expelled already in 1946 and then went to Munich.

Therefore in the following time some bishops were consecrated in clandestine and published only afterwards.


Secret Bishop Consecrations in early Years:

17.09.49 Kajetán Matoušek, Auxiliary Bishop of Praha, by Antonín Eltschkner

13.10.49 František Tomášek, Auxiliary Bishop of Olomouc, by Joseph Matocha

05.11.49 Štefán Barnáš, Auxiliary Bishop of Spiš, by Ján Vojtaššák

26.03.50 Ladislav Hlad, Titular Bishop of Cedie, by Stepán Trochta, S. D. B.

29.04.50 Anton Richter, Bishop in Bratislava, by Michal Buzalka

00.00.50 Myron Podhájecký, Bishop of the byzantine rite, by N. N.?

30.04.50 Karel Otcenášek, Ap. Administrator of Hradec Králové, by Moric Picha

Clandestine Consecration: Kajetán Matoušek
Clandestine Consecration: František Tomášek
Clandestine Consecration: Ladislav Hlad
Clandestine Consecration: Karel Otcenášek

These new bishops were hindered to practise functions immediately by the regime. Auxiliary bishop Matoušek could work as bishop not before 1988, while bishop Hlad, imprisoned for a long time, was never allowed to work as bishop. Bishop Otcenášek, for long years an unlearned worker, was only able to work free as a bishop after communism crashed down. Bishop Richter and the probable Bishop Podhájecký never could be published.

Therefore a new way was practised to obtain pastoral needs and clandestine bishops were not published furthermore; they did their duties only in underground.


Secret Bishop Consecrations from 1951 to 1967:

02.01.51 Pavol Hnilica by Robert Pobožný, Bishop of Rožnava

24.08.51 Ján Chryzostom Korec, S. I., by Pavol Hnilica

09.09.55 Dominik Kal’ata, S. I., by Ján Chryzostom Korec, S. I.

18.05.61 Peter Dubovský, S. I., by Dominik Kalata, S. I.

28.10.67 Jan Blaha by Peter Dubovský, S. I.

29.10.67 Felix Maria Davídek by Jan Blaha

With St. John Paul II: Ján Chryzostom Cardinal Korec, S. I., Bishop Emeritus of Nitra
Clandestine Bishop Pavol Hnilica, S. I.
Clandestine Bishop Dominik Kal’ata, S. I.
Clandestine Bishop Peter Dubovský, S. I.

Pavol Hnilica, who left the CSSR, was appointed titular bishop of Rusado on May 13, 1964, officially. Ján Chryzostom Korec, S. I., became bishop of Nitra on February 6, 1990, and a cardinal on June 28, 1991. Dominik Kal’ata, S. I., became titular bishop of Semta on March 16, 1985, when he already lived in exile. Peter Dubovský, S. I., was elevated titular bishop of Carcabia and auxiliary bishop of Banská Bystrica on January 12, 1991. Jan Blaha relinquished an official approbation by Rome, and the 1988 deceased Felix Maria Davídek as well is not acknowledged officially as bishop by the Holy See up to now. However, the validity of their consecrations is proofed by the fact Rome recognized Mgr Davídek’s consecration of Mgr Kociš (see below) in 2004. Miklos Waclaw Docekal is said to have been consecrated in the 1950s, but no details are reported. Maybe a reported consecration of Emil Prohátzka in 1953 never took place.

Bishop Davídek developed a numerous work of consecrations without obviously having had an opportunity to ask the Holy See for an explicit order to do so; obviousely he as probably Bishop Blaha before recurred on the so-called Mexican faculties. During Mexican persecution since 1915 the Holy See allowed the local bishops to consecrate necessary new prelates without obtaining papal approval. Within an extreme situation of desparation, in which the church in CSSR especially after the putting down of the „Prague spring“ and the following repression had to live, he felt he had to do everything possible to help the church to survive and to enable necessary pastoral work. Thus, this led to irritations and tensions of partly serious extent within the local churches, from which several clandestine bishops and priests had to suffer even after years.

Bishop Davídek: latent Fear of the Regime
Bishop Davídek: Letter of Condolence to the Death of Bishop Hopko
Bishop Davídek: Death notice


Secret Bishop Consecrations by Mgr. Felix Maria Davídek 1967 up to 1987:

03.12.67 Ján Kočiš

23. (24.?) 03.68 Ivan Ljavinec

22.08.68 Jirí Jan Pojer

27.08.68 Marian Dobroslav Kabelka, O. Praem.

27.08.68 Stanislav Krátký

00.08.68 Josef Dvořák

28.11.70 Martin Hrbča

00.00.70 Josef Blahnik


00.08.72 Oskar Formánek, S. I.

00.08.72 Marián Potáš, O. S. B. M.

02.03.73 Jiří Krpálek

15.03.73 Siard Ivan Klement, O. Praem.

00.12.78 Václav Razik

06.10.79 Dušan Spiridon Špiner

04.12.84 Josef Hinterhölzl

18.12.87 Karel Chytil

From these seventeen bishops, who were consecrated without an explicit mandate of the Holy See, only Mgr Kočiš and Mgr Ljavinec were recognized by Rome; both had to be re-consecrated „sub conditione“. The consecrations by Mgr Davídek took place without any co-consecrators and therefore often without any witnesses which lead to some disturbations afterwards. As far as Mgr Špiner reports of episcopal co-consecrators, these memories obviousely do not correspond to historical facts. Bishop Davídek, who considered himself ordinary of the underground Church, and several bishops of both rites consecrated by him lived in Brno; Mgr Špiner had been chosen by Mgr Davídek to be his coadjutor, while the others were comparable to an auxiliary bishop. Mgr. Pojer lived for his last thirty years in Switzerland.

Bishop of Byzantine Rite: Ján Kočiš
Bishop of Byzantine Rite: Ivan Ljavinec
Jirí Krpálek
Dušan Spiridon Špiner


Secret Bishop Consecrations by the Davídek Line 1967 up to 1982:

03.12.67 Ján Kociš by Felix Maria Davídek

24.08.69 Bedrich Provazník by Ján Kociš

24.10.70 Fridolin Zahradník by Bedřich Provazník

00.00.71 Ján Krajnák by Bedřich Provazník

00.00.7? Serhej Kovc by N. N.

00.00.73 Josef Jindra by Fridolin Zahradník

00.00.75 Nikodém Mikulaš Krett by Fridolin Zahradník

14.06.75 Bartolomej Urbanec by Nikodém Krett

00.00.81 Ondrej Fogaš by Nikodém Krett

00.00.81 Anton Novobilský by Nikodém Krett

29.05.82 Jan Konzal by Fridolin Zahradník

29.05.82 Pavel Hájek by Fridolin Zahradník

The consecrations of Ondrej Fogaš and Anton Novobilský are not for sure. Except of Mgr Ján Kociš, no-one of these priests is recognized as bishop by the Holy See.

Mgr. Bartolomej Urbanec
Mgr. Fridolin Zahradník
Mgr. Ján Krajnák

To understand, why so much clandestine bishops, who often did not know from the others‘ existence, were consecrated without Rome’s approbation, it may be usefull to have a look at the little number of those bishops, who could be appointed officially since 1949:

00.00.1965: František Tomášek, Ap. Administrator of Praha

28.02.1973: Jozef Feranec, Bishop of Banská Bystrica

28.02.1973: Julius Gábriš, Ap. Administrator of Trnava

28.02.1973: Ján Pasztor, Bishop of Nitra

28.02.1973: Josef Vrana, Ap. Administrator of Olomouc

30.12.1977: František Cardinal Tomášek, Archbishop of Praha

19.05.1988: Jan Lebeda, Auxiliary Bishop of Praha

19.05.1988: Antonín Liška, Auxiliary Bishop of Praha

19.05.1988: Ján Sokol, Ap. Administrator of Trnava

26.07.1989: Josef Koukl, Bishop of Litoměřice

26.07.1989: Ján Sokol, Archbishop of Trnava

26.07.1989: František Tondra, Bishop of Spiš

26.07.1989: František Vanák, Ap. Administrator of Olomouc

Consecrated in 1973: Bishop Jozef Feranec
Consecrated in 1973: Bishop Ján Pasztor

On May 19, 1988, Mgr Kajetán Matoušek was allowed to practise as auxiliary bishop of Prague. From the four newly elected bishops of the year 1973 two, Mgr Feranec and Mgr Vrana, stood close to „Pacem in Terris“. When Paul VI made Mgr Štěpán Trochta, S. D. B., in 1969 and Mgr František Tomášek members of the college of cardinals, it had to happen „in pectore“; the publication of these creations took place in 1973 respective in 1977.

Ave Crux: Consecration Line of Bishop Lazík

The photos of this page were taken by the archives of Hofrat Dr. Manfred Kierein, Vienna, of Andreas Brender, MA, Kirchzarten, of Michael Kurt, Obertshausen, and of the author.


Birtz, Mircea Remus/Kierein, Manfred: Voices from Ecclesia militans in Czechoslovakia, Editura Napoca Star 2011. – On the one hand this booklet should be read with critical distance regarding some points of view, but on the other it compiles the history of the dark years mainly in a correct way.

Vybiralová, Eva: Untergrundkirche und geheime Weihen, echter 2019. – Profound historical survey basing on countless interviews; compiles also clandestine priestly ordinations.