As Pope Benedict XVI arrived in the Czech Republic on Saturday on a three-day pilgrimage aimed at battling against the forces of secularism, religious leaders warned that he faced a daunting challenge in a nation of mostly natural-born skeptics.
When the pope comes to town, a city usually pulls out all the stops. Not so here in the Czech capital, where banners heralding the pope’s visit and large crowds were conspicuously absent. The local newspapers that highlighted the trip seemed more preoccupied with the pope’s penchant for bright red loafers than with the substance of his religious mission.
“If the pope wants to create a religious revival in Europe, there is no worse place he could come to than the Czech Republic, where no one believes in anything,” said Jaroslav Plesl, a self-confessed lapsed Catholic who is deputy editor of Lidove Noviny, a leading daily newspaper here. “Add to that the fact that the pope is German and socially conservative and he might as well be an alien here.”
That eerie sound you hear in the distance is the ghost of Jan Hus, laughing.