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Czechoslovak Hussite Church
|Církev ?eskoslovenská husitská|
mixed Protestant, Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and national elements
|Polity||Mixture of Presbyterian and Episcopal|
|Associations||World Council of Churches|
Conference of European Churches
|Origin||8 January 1920 |
|Separated from||Roman Catholic Church|
It traces its tradition back to the Hussite reformers and acknowledges Jan Hus (John Huss) as its predecessor. It was well-supported by Czechoslovakia's first president, Tomá? Garrigue Masaryk, who himself belonged to the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren--the main Protestant denomination in what is now the Czech Republic.
It contains mixed Protestant, Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and national elements. Classifying it as any single one is disputable. The church describes itself as neo-Hussite.
The forerunner of the C?SH was the Jednota (Union of the Catholic Clergy), which was founded in 1890 to promote modernist reforms in the Roman Catholic Church, such as use of the vernacular in the liturgy and the adoption of voluntary rather than compulsory clerical celibacy. The radical movement that resulted in the foundation of a new Church began in the Christmas season of 1919, when Christmas masses were celebrated in the Czech language in many Czechoslovak churches. The CCH was established on January 8, 1920 by Dr. Karel Farský, who became its first Patriarch and author of its liturgy. It was known until 1971 as the Czechoslovak Church. The head of the church continues to bear the title of Patriarch.
Membership is estimated at between 100,000 and 180,000 adherents, mostly in the Czech Republic and some in Slovakia. There are 304 congregations divided into five dioceses situated in Prague, Plze?, Hradec Králové, Brno, and Olomouc in the Czech Republic and three congregations in the Bratislava Diocese in Slovakia. There are approximately 266 priests in active ministry, of whom 130 are women. Candidates of ministry are prepared at the Hussite Faculty of Theology at Charles University in Prague.
It draws its teachings from the traditional Christianity presented by the Church Fathers (Patristics), with the first Seven Ecumenical Councils, the work of Saints Cyril and Methodius, and the Protestant Reformation tradition, especially Utraquist and Hussite thought.
Like Orthodox Christians, Roman Catholics, and Anglo-Catholics, the Czechoslovak Hussite Church recognizes seven sacraments. Like some of the Lutheran and Presbyterian churches, it emphasizes the freedom of conscience of individual believers, practices the ordination of women, and emphasizes the equal participation of the laity in church leadership.
The celebration of the liturgy is the center of worship practice. It used to be two forms, which have much in common with the texts of the Catholic Mass, but there are also elements of Luther's German Mass and the tradition of the Utraquist mass.
There is no veneration of saints as practiced in the Apostolic Churches, but images of saints are employed in the church decoration. In the post-1920 period new churches were built, but only a few portraits were considered appropriate to place in them, particularly representations of Christ, and occasionally pictures of Jan Hus.
In the iconography of the church the chalice plays a major role, usually depicted in red, as it was used in the 15th century as a battle standard on the flags of the Hussites. It is found in the church, to the sacerdotal, the bindings of liturgical books, church steeples and church banners.
After a split from the Catholic Church, amidst the post-war atmosphere of anti-Catholic agitation and euphoria about the Czech independence, the Czechoslovak Church's membership increased rapidly. In the 1921 Czechoslovak census, the first post-war census, 523,232 people claimed to be adherents of this church in what is today the Czech Republic. In 1930, the membership further grew to 779,672. With 7.3% of total population, it became the prevailing religion in several regions of Bohemia and to a lesser degree in Moravia. At the beginning of Communist rule, the 1950 census recorded 946,497 adherents of the Czechoslovak Hussite Church. In the following decades there was no official census of religious affiliation in what is today the Czech Republic, although it is apparent that under Communist rule, membership started to collapse: the 1991 census found 178,036 members of this church in the Czech Republic, which fell to 99,103 in 2001 and 39,276 in 2011.
At its beginning, the Hussite Church sought relations with the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Old Catholic Church, and also espoused a tendency to a rationalist and Unitarian Christian theology, but when adopted its creed in 1958 it was founded on the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed.
Relations between the church and other members of the ecumenical movement are cordial, but remained strained with the country's Roman Catholic leadership. The first woman to become a bishop of the Czechoslovak Hussite church, Jana ?ilerová, was elected to a seven-year term of office in April 1999. In January 1999, Catholic Archbishop Miloslav Vlk made a public statement of disapproval, warning against election of a woman to this position and saying that it would cause deterioration of ecumenical relations. Following criticism by the Czechoslovak Hussite Church for interfering in its affairs, the Roman Catholic Church distanced itself from the archbishop's remarks and stated that it would exert no pressure against her election. In 2000, Catholic representatives attended the consecration of Jana ?ilerová as the Hussite Church's first woman to become a bishop.