End of an era, as the Great One goes

bischof-em-karl-kardinal-lehmannAlthough not unexpected following the prayer request for his health, issued last week by Bishop Peter Kohlgraf, the death of Cardinal Karl Lehmann, early yesterday morning, is a sad conclusion to a long lifetime of service to the Church, one that coincided with and shaped the past decades of her life and development.

Cardinal Lehmann had been bedridden since suffering a stroke last September, weeks after consecrating his successor, the aforementioned Bishop Kohlgraf. After serving for 33 years at the helm of the Diocese of Mainz, it seems sad that his well-earned retirement was so short.

The life of Karl, der Grosse

Karl Lehmann was born in 1936 in Sigmaringen, the son of a teacher and his wife. After his school years, which partially overlapped with the Second World War, he went to study philosophy and theology in Freiburg and Rome. In 1963 he was ordained to the priesthood in Rome by Cardinal Julius Döpfner, then the archbishop of München und Freising. In the 1960s, Karl Lehmann earned two doctorates in philosophy and theology, but his most noteworthy work in that time was as assistant of Fr. Karl Rahner at the the universities of Munich and Münster, and also as the Second Vatican Council. At the age of 32, in 1968, he was appointed as professor in Mainz and three years later also in Freiburg im Breisgau.

Karl Lehmann became bishop of Mainz in 1983, vice-president of the German Bishops’ Conference in 1985 and president of the same body in 1987. He was re-elected as such three times and stepped down, for health reasons, in 2008. In 2011, he was named a cardinal with the title church of San Leone I. Cardinal Lehmann participated in the conclaves that elected Popes Benedict XVI and Francis. He submitted his resignation as bishop of Mainz to Pope Benedict XVI in 2011, but this was only accepted upon his 80th birthday by Pope Francis.

He held numerous other positions as a priest and bishop of Mainz as well. A short list:

  • 1969-1983: Member of the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK)
  • 1971-1975: Member of the General Synod of German Dioceses
  • 1974-1984: Member of the International Theological Commission in Rome
  • 1986-1998: Member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
  • 1993-2001: First vice-president of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE)
  • 1997-2011: Member of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See
  • 1998-2012: Member of the Congregation for Bishops
  • 2002-2011: Member of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity
  • 2008-2011: Member of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications
  • 2008-2014: Member of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches

In his lifetime, Cardinal Lehmann received eight honourary doctorates, the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany and the honourary citizenship of the city of Mainz.

Over the course of yesterday the tributes to the late cardinal poured in, from bishops, priests, prelates of other churches, lay faithful and politicians alike. Bishop Peter Kohlgraf, who broke the news on social media, remembered Cardinal Lehmann as “a great personality, a great loveable human being.” Later on the day, after the Vespers of the dead had been prayed at Mainz cathedral, he commented: “I am grateful for the many meetings and conversations, his warmth and affection. He gave me a lot of courage for a difficult task.”

On Monday, Pope Francis sent a telegram to Bishop Kohlgraf:

“What sadness I received the news of the passing of Cardinal Karl Lehmann. I assure you and all the faithful of the Diocese of Mainz of my deepest sympathies and my prayer fort he deceased, whom God the Lord called to Him after serious illness and suffering. In his many years of work as theologian and bishop, as well as president of the German Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Lehmann has helped shape the life of Church and society. It was always his concern to be open to the questions and challenges of the time and to give answers and direction based on the message of Christ, to accompany people on their way, and to find unity across the boundaries of confessions, convictions and countries. May Jesus, the Good Shepherd, grant His faithful servant the completeness and fullness of life in His heavenly Kingdom. A gladly grant you and all who mourn Cardinal Lehmann, and remember him in prayer, the apostolic blessing.”

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, currently president of the German Bishops’ Conference, characterised Cardinal Lehmann as a “great theologian, bishop and friend of humanity.” He added, “The Church in Germany bows its head to a personality who has significantly shaped the Catholic Church worldwide.’ Archbishop Heiner Koch of Berlin shared Cardinal Marx’s comments: “I bow my head to a great bishop and theologian, who has always been an example to me.”

The passing of Cardinal Lehmann is something of an end to an era, as Bishop Felix Genn of Münster also acknowledges. “After the death of Joachim Cardinal Meisner last year, the death of Karl Cardinal Lehmann equally marks the end of an ecclesiastical era, which he significantly helped to shape.” Considering the cardinal’s personal history, Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck saw him as “a walking and commenting lexicon of [the Second Vatican] Council.”

Cardinal Lehmann is also seen as a major player in ecumenism. Limburg’s Bishop Georg Bätzing said: “With him the Catholic Church in Germany loses a great bridge builder. The bridges that he has established are solid and can be strengthened further. Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, the chairman of the Evanglical Church in Germany, shares these thoughts, saying, “In the past decades he was a very important partner for the evangelical church and co-advocate for ecumenical cooperation.”

Chancellor Angela Merkel also reacted to the death of Cardinal Lehmann, saying, “I am greatly saddened by the death of Karl Cardinal Lehmann. Today, I think with gratitude of our good conversations and meetings over the course of many years. He has inspired me with his intellectual and theological strength and always also remained a person full of eartly vitality”. Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier characterised the cardinals as “a man of clear words who, despite his thoughtfulness and conciliation, did not shy way from political controversy.” It was clear to people who met him, the president added, that the cardinal did not only rely on his own strength, but also on the grace of God.

Another important thread in Cardinal Lehmann’s life was Europe. Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, lauds the cardinal as a “true friend of Europe”. He showed us the way as a moral compass and reminded us of the values that make Europe special.”

The many faithful who visited Mainz cathedral to share their condolences unanimously remember “our Karl”, as he was affectinately known in his diocese, as “sympathetic”, “human, open […] and with his humour”, “a fine Christian”, “a man who acted what he preached”.

Cardinal Lehmann will be buried on Wednesday 21 March. The spiritual testament he has left behind will be read out on that day, Bishop Kohlgraf said yesterday.

 

 

 

 

Photo credit: [1] Bistum Mainz

 

A cardinal in name alone

cardinal o'brienPope Francis yesterday took the unusual and rare step of remoing a cardinal’s rights and duties, and on the cardinal’s own request. Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien, retired archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh asked for the removal of all his rights and duties in the wake of a report about the accusations of sexual abuse against him which appeared several years ago. In 2013 this was also reason for him to retire as archbishop and not to attend the conclave that elected Pope Francis.

There was some confusion as to whether Cardinal O’Brien was still a cardinal, but it would appear that he remains one by name only. He no longer has any duties in the Curia (he was a member of the Pontifical Councils for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples; for Social Communications; and for the Family), including the right to attend and vote in future conclaves (although, being 77, the chances of Cardinal O’Brien taking part in the election of a new Pope were slim anyway), or to attend any future consistories. Gcatholic.org also indicates that he has lost his title church, Santi Gioacchino ed Anna al Tuscolano.

Cardinal O’Brien is not the first cardinal to have lost his rights and priviles that come with the red hat, although it hasn’t happened since 1911, when French Cardinal Louis Billot, who asked Pope Pius IX to accept his resignation as cardinal, allegedly since he supported the nationalist Action Française movement, which the Pope had condemned.

Other cardinals resigned their titles for rather different reasons. Intitially, back in the fifteenth century, a number of pseudocardinals (cardinals created by a pope who was not accepted as legitimate) lost heir titles for supporting an antipope. Other cardinals wanted to lead a simple life of solitude, mostly in a monastery or other form of religious life. The most recent example of this is Carlo Odescalchi, who resigned because he wanted to enter the Jesuit Order. He did so in 1838, three years before his death.

A more secular reason for cardinals to resign was, since they often came from the nobility, the fact that their families had no male heirs. In 1807, Cardinal Marino Carafa di Belvedere resigned for this reason, became the prince of Acquaviva and married.

Political reasons could also lead to cardinals resigning. In 1788, Pope Pius VI made Étienne-Charles de Loménie de Brienne a cardinal, but the latter never went to Rome to accept his red hat and title. He later accepted the terms imposed by the French revolutionairy government. The Pope severely rebuked him for his disloyalty, after which Cardinal de Loménie de Brienne resigned. In 1793 he was jailed, and he renounced his faith for fear of his own safety.

Other cardinal resigned or even refused to be created cardinal since they considered themselves unworthy of the honour or simply too old.

The reasons for cardinals to resign have been varied, but Cardinal O’Brien’s case remains unique in that he has been allowed to keep his title, even if he has lost everything that comes with it.

One year of @pontifex

On year, two Popes, 215 archived Tweets, 10,778,852 followers at the time of my writing this. It’s been a year since Pope Benedict XVI tapped an iPad and sent the first papal tweet. It’s hard to argue that the presence of the Pope on Twitter has not been a success. If his followers were a country, it would be the 80th largest in the world, ranking between Greece and Portugal. They’d fill Vatican City about 13,500 times…

Pope-Francis-Twitter

Of course, the Pope does not send his tweets as directly as we do. They are his own words, but the buttons are pushed by employees of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. Msgr. Paul Tighe, secretary of that Council, recently explained how they had to find the best way of working with Twitter on behalf of the Pope. When Benedict XVI launched the accounts, a certain level of interactivity was proposed and experimented with, with followers asking questions using a specific hashtag, and the Holy Father answering a selection of those questions. Considering the huge amount of followers and the workload of sifting the honest and good questions from the jokes, ad hominems and attacks, this proved unworkable.

Today, the papal Twitter account functions mainly as a source of inspiration based on recent homilies and publications and, especially under Pope Francis, a constant string of commentary from the Holy Father on certain current affairs. A year from now, who knows what the numbers and nature of the Pope’s Twitter activity will be…

Msgr. Tighe opens the CNMC – an inside look at the Holy See’s social media efforts

Listen to Msgr. Paul Tighe’s excellent and entertaining keynote address at the Catholic New Media Conference taking place in Boston this weekend.

paul tighe cnmc

It offers an interesting glimpse behind the scenes of the Holy See’s new media endeavours, as well as the way in how they want to relate to and work with us Catholic bloggers and other users of social media (from the Pope down to the average joe sharing his thoughts with the wider world via the Internet).

Msgr. Paul Tighe is the secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications and as such he has been involved with the creation of the papal Twitter account, the News.va website, the Pope app, and other social media efforts.

Find more reports, blogs, podcasts and other information about the CNMC at SQPN.com.

Photo credit: George Martell – Pilot New Media Office, © Archdiocese of Boston 2013

eBook Benedict

pope benedict ebookThe Pontifical Council for Social Communications today launched the collected Messages for World Communications Day that Pope Benedict XVI wrote during his pontificate. And the interesting thing is that the Council does so in the form of a free eBook. Via this link you can download the book for both Apple/Android and Kindle.

Pope Benedict’s World Communications Day messages, which may also be read for free via the Vatican website, are essential reading for all Catholics who are involved in some way in communications and media. And that includes all of us who even have just a Twitter or Facebook account.

In his messages, Pope Benedict covered numerous topics, revealed in the titles of the eight documents:

  • The Media: A Network for Communication, Communion and Cooperation
  • Children and the Media: A Challenge for Education
  • The Media: At the Crossroads between Self-Promotion and Service. Searching for the Truth in order to Share it with Others
  • New Technologies, New Relationships. Promoting a Culture of Respect, Dialogue and Friendship
  • The Priest and Pastoral Ministry in a Digital World: New Media at the Service of the Word
  • Truth, Proclamation and Authenticity of Life in the Digital Age
  • Silence and Word: Path of  Evangelization
  • Social Networks: portals of truth and faith; new spaces for evangelization

As such, the new eBook is an anthology of sorts, a collection of the emeritus Pope’s thoughts on modern communications for Catholics. As I said, required reading.

Photo credit: AP Photo/L’Osservatore Romano, HO

Cardinal watch: Cardinal Scheid turns 80

scheidFor the last time in this year of two consistories, a cardinal leaves the group of cardinal electors, by reaching the venerable age of 80. He is Eusébio Oscar Cardinal Scheid of Brazil, and with his birthday last Saturday, he leaves 119 cardinals who can vote in a conclave.

Born in the south of Brazil, Eusébio studied for the priesthood at the seminary of the Congregation of the Priests of the Sacred Heart, an order which he joined as a priest upon his ordination in 1960. His ordination took place in Rome, as he was studying Christology there. He eventually earned a decree in Sacred Theology.

Returning to Brazil, Father Scheid taught dogmatic theology and liturgy for some twenty years. In 1981, he was appointed as bishop of São José dos Campos, northwest of Rio de Janeiro. Bishop Scheid ministered to the faithful there for ten years, after which he was appointed as archbishop of Florianópolis, in his native state of Santa Catarina. He led that archdiocese for another decade, until 2001.

In that year, Archbishop Scheid was called to become the archbishop of São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro. Shortly thereafter, he was also appointed as the ordinary for the Eastern Rite Catholics in Brazil. He also served as president of Region IV of the Brazilian Bishops’ Conference.

With the archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro also came a cardinal’s hat, and Archbishop Scheid became Cardinal Scheid in 2003, in Blessed Pope John Paul II”s last consistory. He was granted the title church of Santi Bonifacio ed Alessio. Cardinal Scheid retired as Rio’s archbishop in 2009, and as the Eastern Rite ordinary in 2010.

Cardinal Scheid was at the centre of a small media scandal in 2005, when he publically criticised the faith of Brazil’s president. Prior to the conclave which elected Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Scheid spoke in favour of an African pope, understood by many as support for the election of Cardinal Arinze.

Cardinal Scheid was a member of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, the Pontifical Commission for Latin America and the Council of Cardinals for the Study of Organisational and Economic Affairs of the Holy See.

Synod of Bishops – Day Two

Yesterday saw the third and fourth general congregation of the Synod, presided over by Cardinal Francisco Robles Ortega. The morning session was devoted to interventions from the Synod fathers, and 25 prelates made use of the option to make a five-minute presentation  on some point the wanted to highlight. And that time limit is rather strict, as Bishop Kicanas points out: “[I]t must be five minutes, since one’s mic is turned off exactly when five minutes have passed. Those getting close to being turned off rush to get in as much of their text as possible.”

There were several general trends in the interventions: penance, education and a focus on the personal relation with Jesus Christ. As Archbishop Rogelio Cabrera López, appointed to  Monterrey in Mexico one week ago, pointed out: “We cannot evangelise properly if we do not educate properly. And we do not educate properly if we do not evangelise.” Several prelates emphasised the need for humility, most notably  the Philippine Archbishops Luis Tagle of Manila and Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan. The latter said:

“The new evangelization calls for new humility. The Gospel cannot thrive in pride. When pride seeps into the heart of the Church, the Gospel proclamation is harmed […] The hierarchy must shun arrogance, hypocrisy and bigotry. We must punish the errant among us instead of covering up our own mistakes. We are humans among our human flock. All our beauty and holiness we owe to God. This humility will make us more credible new evangelizers. Our mission is to propose humbly not to impose proudly.”

There were also an intervention from one of the fraternal delegates, non-Catholics invited to attend and share their thoughts and experience. The Lutheran Bishop of Lapua in Finland, Simo Peura (pictured), summarised some of the points in the Instrumentum laboris and wished to all attendants and the “Synod of Bishops the Blessing of the Triune God.”

Special guest Dr. Lamar Vest of the American Bible Society, in the morning’s final intervention, emphasised the role of the Bible and harkened back to the previous Synod of Bishops, which was devoted to the Bible.

The fourth general congregation began in the late afternoon with prayer, followed by voting for the members of the Commission for the Message. This commission will compose a nuntius or pastoral Message to the People of God, especially those involved with the Synod. The message will be presented at the end of the Synod. Cardinal Giuseppe Betori and Archbishop Luis Tagle presided over the election, which will select eight members in addition to the aforementioned clerics and two members appointed directly by the pope.

After this election, the interventions continued. Nine Synod fathers intervened, among them Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard, who spoke first about the reality of evil and then about the important role of women in the Church. He said:

“It is time to clarify that, if the Church does not ordain female priests, this is not because they are less capable or less worthy! On the contrary! It is solely because the priest is not only a “minister of the rite”, but a representative of Christ the Groom Who came to wed humanity. Let us give thanks for the quality and the specificity of the massive contribution of women to evangelization. Some strong gestures should underline this clearly. Without joyous women, recognized in their own being and proud of belonging to the Church, there would be no new evangelization.”

Especially some of the South-American Synod fathers, but also Cardinal André Vingt-Trois of Paris, emphasised the importance of countering secularism in the parishes and society.

Following the interventions, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the prefect of the Congregation of Bishops, presented a report on the implementation of the Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, published after the previous Synod of Bishop which, as mentioned before, was devoted to the Word of God.

The second full day of the Synod was closed with a viewing of an edited version of a documentary produced by the  Pontifical Council for Social Communications on the Second Vatican Council.

Summaries of the interventions and Cardinal Ouellet’s report may be found in the two bulletins devoted to yesterday’s proceedings.

 Photo credit: [1] Pope Benedict XVI speaking with Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, CNS Photot/Paul Haring, [2] KT/Markku Pihlaja

Cardinal watch: Cardinal Shan Kuo-Hsi passes away

After six years battling cancer, Paul Cardinal Shan Kuo-Hsi passed away yesterday. The former archbishop of Kaohsiung’s death leaves 207 members of the College of Cardinals, of whom 119 are electors.

Born in China in December of 1932, Paul Shan Kuo-Hsi entered the Jesuit order, but fled the country when the Communists took over. In 1955 he was ordained to the priesthood in the Philippines, where he worked as director of the Chinese Section of Sacred Heart School in Cebu City. Studying for a doctorate in spiritual theology at Rome’s Gregorian University, Father Shan too a position at the Jesuit novitiate in Thuduc, Vietnam from 1961 to 1963. He went to Taiwan after taking his final vows in 1963, where he was appointment as master of novices and later as rector of a high school. In 1980, he was consecrated and installed as the third bishop of Hwalien, also in Taiwan. During that time, in 1987, he was chosen to chair the Chinese Regional Bishops’ Conference, a position he would until 2006. In th meantime, in 1991, he was elected as bishop of Kaohsiung. He would remain there until his retirement in 2006. In 1998, he became for a while the only Chinese cardinal when Blessed Pope John Paul II appointed him as cardinal-priest of San Crisogono. The cardinal revealed his having lung cancer shortly after his 2006 retirement.

Cardinal Shan was especially committed to interreligious dialogue, perhaps not surprising in a country where less than 5% of the population is Christian. As bishop of Kaohsiung he worked towards formation of the laity and local priests. In the Curia, Cardinal Shan was a member of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Special Council for Asia of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops

Cardinal Shan Kuo-Hsi was 88.

Photo credit: ChenHao Yang/Flickr

Cardinal watch: Cardinal Rosales turns 80

In the Philippines yesterday, the erstwhile archbishop of one of Catholicism’s global hot spots turned 80. Gaudencio Borbon Cardinal Rosales thus lays down all his duties in the College of Cardinals, and the number of cardinal electors drops to 119.

Born into a physician’s family with political ties in Batangas City in 1932, Gaudencio Rosales expressed his desire to become a priest from a young age. Studying theology at the San José seminary, his ordination to the priesthood came in 1958. He was a priest of the Diocese of Lipa and was assigned to teach at that diocese’s seminary. Later he also became that institution’s rector.

In 1970, there followed Fr. Rosales’ first assignment to a backwater parish. Other priests advised him to leave soon, but Fr. Rosales replied that he would find things to do there. He made contacts with all the faithful of his parish and seemingly made an impression. The bishop, Msgr. Ricardo Vidal, also noticed, and had Fr. Rosales assigned to Batangas City, to the largest parish in the diocese.

In 1974, Fr. Rosales left Lipa, which by then was made an archdiocese, to take up his assignment, as auxiliary bishop of the nation’s capital, Manila. Principal consecrator was the Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines, Archbishop Bruno Torpigliani, and Archbishop Vidal was one of the co-consecrators. Bishop Rosales was given the titular see of Oescus in modern Bulgaria. As bishop, he was assigned to oversee several major districts of the archdiocese, and in 1980, he was tasked with the job of rector of the ancient San Carlos Seminary.

Two years, later Bishop Rosales appointed as coadjutor bishop of Malaybalay, on the major southern island of Mindanao. In 1984 he succeeded retiring Bishop Francisco Claver.

After eight years, Bishop Rosales had to leave Malaybalay behind him again, no doubt with pain in his heart, although he did return home as archbishop of his native Lipa. Eleven years later, in 2003, he was reassigned for a final time, again to a diocese familiar to him. Archbishop Rosales became the Primate of the Philippines as he took the see of Manila.

In Pope Benedict XVI’s first consistory, Archbishop Rosales was created a cardinal, with Santissimo Nome di Maria in Via Latina as his title church.

In 2007, upon reaching the age of 75, Cardinal Rosales tendered his resignation as archbishop of Manila, but it would take until 2011 before Rome accepted it. Yesterday he turned 80, leaving the Philippines with no cardinal electors. Until the next conclave, that is.

Cardinal Rosales was not silent. He was critical of the government when needed and defended the teachings of the Church, which lead to clashes, especially concerning the participation of drag queens in the national Flores De Mayo festival, and reminding the faithful about the risk of excommunication for anyone participating in or allowing an abortion. On the other side of the spectrum, he also got into a conflict with traditionalist groups when he heavily curtailed the celebration of Mass in the Extraordinary Form. This led to an order from Rome to reconsider his opposition.

Cardinal Rosales was a member of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, and the Council of Cardinals for the Study of Organisational and Economic Affairs of the Holy See.

Cardinal Watch: Cardinal Vlk turns 80

With today’s 80th birthday of Czech Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, by chance on Ascension Day, the number of cardinal electors drops to 122, returning it almost back to the legal maximum.

With the fighting spirit of his namesake (‘Vlk’ means ‘wolf’ in Czech), Cardinal Vlk has left his mark as the Church and nation of the Czechs found their place in Europe after the yoke of Communism.

Only ordained a priest at 36, Miloslav Vlk is not so much a product of academia, although he is no slouch there, but worked his way through life in Communist Czechoslovakia – even as a priest he had to work as a window cleaner for eight years in order to stay out of the government’s sights. A worker-cardinal turns 80.

Born in 1932, Miloslav Vlk grew up under the threat and occupation of Nazi Germany. During the height of the war – as entire villages were massacred in retaliation for resistance activities – 11-year-old Miloslav first started thinking about the priesthood. However, considering this a dream unattainable for a farm boy, he instead wanted to become an aircraft pilot. As the war ended, and a new Communist Czechoslovakia was created, Miloslav worked in an automobile factory and did his military service in the first half of the 1950s. He was then able to study archival science in Prague and worked in various archives until the mid-1960s. In 1964, he could finally follow his desire of studying theology in Litomerice. In the summer of 1968, during the Prague Spring of political liberalisation (which would soon be crushed by the Soviet Union), Miloslav Vlk was ordained to the priesthood, 36 years old.

He started his ministry working as secretary to Bishop Joseph Hlouch of Ceské Budejovice. This was apparently reason for state authorities to consider him suspicious, and in 1971, Father Vlk was forced to relocate to various parishes throughout southern Bohemia, and in 1978, he lost his state authorisation to exercise his priestly ministry. From 1978 until the end of 1988, Fr. Vlk lived in hiding, earning an income, first as a window cleaner and, from 1986, as an archivist in the archives of Prague’s State Bank.

In 1989 the tides turned. As the end of Communism in Czechoslovakia loomed, Fr. Vlk was again authorised to exercise his priestly ministry for a ‘trial year’. He worked as a curate near the Bavarian border. And then, in 1990, the country ceased to be Communist…

On 14 February 1990, Blessed Pope John Paul II pulled Father Vlk out of obscurity and appointed him as bishop of his native Ceské Budejovice. He would not be holding that position for very long, because a mere year later, he was called to Prague, to succeed 91-year-old Cardinal Tomášek as archbishop of Prague. As archbishop, and since 1994 as cardinal, Msgr. Vlk concerned himself not only with the local Church, but also with the Church in Europe, mirroring the new Czech Republic’s international outlook. From 1993 to 2001 he was President of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences, He was also the special secretary of the first Special Assembly for Europe of the Synod of Bishops in 1991 and also took part in the ninth General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (1994) and the second Special Assembly for Europe (1999).

Cardinal Vlk resigned as archbishop of Prague in February of 2010 and was succeeded by Dominik Duka. He is cardinal-priest of the Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. He was, until his 80th birthday, a member of the Congregation for Oriental Churches, the Pontifical Council for Social Communications and the Special Council for Europe of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops.