Bells rang across the Czech capital Prague on Friday marking the arrival of the remains of a Catholic cardinal, persecuted by both the Nazis and the Communists, for reburial at home after he died in exile at the Vatican decades ago.
Josef Beran, who survived two Nazi camps during World War II and 15 years of internment by the communist regime, is widely respected by Czechs, despite the high proportion of atheists and agnostics in the EU country of 10.6 million people.
Beran died in exile in Rome in 1969, five years after he travelled to the Vatican to be named a cardinal by Pope Paul VI. The communist regime in then Czechoslovakia never allowed him to return.
"After more than half a century in exile, Cardinal Josef Beran returns to his homeland," Senate Speaker Milan Stech told reporters, adding that Beran's life reads like "a book about the history of our country in the twentieth century".
Born in Plzen in the west of the present Czech Republic, Beran was ordained a priest in 1911.
He became the rector of a seminary in Prague in 1932 and was later imprisoned in the Terezin and Dachau Nazi concentration camps between 1942-45.
Appointed archbishop of Prague in 1946 by Pope Pius XII, Beran refused to collaborate with the new communist totalitarian regime that came to power in February 1948.
Between 1949-64 he was held in custody by the communists at various locations.
Before the 1989 Velvet Revolution swept away the communist regime, the Catholic Church and others suffered severe persecution in Czechoslovakia, including the confiscation of property and the imprisonment, torture and killing of priests.
© 2018 AFP