Monsignor Karel Herbst

* 1943  

  • “Firstly, the way it is, is that they say: some chaps didn’t go to any cottage stays, but if they would want to go, take them with you. Secondly, you’ve got the sons, boys, they’re twenty years old, you’re fifty, and they’re twenty-five. You take them with you as well. Because otherwise the Old Hands get old, they won’t be here in thirty years’ time. And it’ll be all over. But when you take your boys into the group, suddenly the other chap’s sons go as well. People’ll say, that seems rather odd, but what’s odd about it? Younger faces and a merrier mood. It is good.”

  • “‘...so you should have told the faithful: I don’t want to read this sentence here, and I would’ve come there and said, the chaplain doesn’t want to read the sentence, so I’ll read it instead of him...’ Because I did what I did, I received a letter, which said: ‘Report to the Regional National Committee in Prague on 6 January 1975.’ The regional church secretary Semínko was there, the district church secretary Mr Pospíšil, and also the dean of Holy Mountain... I was solemnly informed: ‘Say what you want, I regard you as an enemy of the Soviet Union, an enemy of our working people...’”

  • “...State Security was fed up with me, and come the year 86, that was a year when things started thawing a bit, at least in the sense that, say, the stetsecs [State Security officers - trans.] in Prague said to themselves, we’ll be better off sending him off somewhere, let’s give him his approval, and send him packing somewhere - they sent me to Tachov District - let him go gallivanting off, as long as he doesn’t do his fiddlesticks here...”

  • “... the result was that, after we limited the number of participants to a maximum of twelve for one cottage stay, the next year instead of eight stays there were fifteen, the year after there were twenty of them, and during my tenure the number grew all the way to seventy cottage stays over the summer holidays!”

  • “... if someone told me that I made a difference or that something was all my merit, I’d wave my hand and say: ‘Forget it. Everyone who wanted to, did something. And those who got scared and decided not to, well, they didn’t of course.’ It happened to us plenty of times in the sense that we offered someone that their boy could participate in a cottage stay, and there were people who said: ‘Hooray, hooray, that’s great, that’s a heaven-sent opportunity,’ but then there were also people who said: ‘You know, we’d better not...,’ and they kept their boy at home.”

  • “It’s good because it’s two weeks, and you can do a lot of things in two weeks, you can convey a lot as well, and thus support each other - I mean the boys now because they were young, twelve, thirteen, fourteen years perhaps, it was useful for them to give them some sturdy foundations, so they might do well in life, so they wouldn’t lose their faith.”

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    Pražské arcibiskupství, 09.03.2015

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I desire Mercy!

Karel Herbst 1975
Karel Herbst 1975
photo: Mr. Vracovský

Mons. Karel Herbst was born on 6 November 1943 in Prague. In 1960 he trained as an electric-locomotive technician, and he was employed as such for eight years. At the same time he completed grammar school in Prague. In 1968-1973 he studied at the Sts Cyril and Methodius Faculty of Divinity in Litoměřice. He was ordained into priesthood on 23 June 1973. In 1973-1974 he functioned as a chaplain in Mariánské Lázně, in 1974-1975 he was stationed at the Holy Mountain pilgrimage site near Příbram. On 6 January 1975 he was stripped of his state approval to perform religious services for omitting to read one sentence from a Christmas pastoral letter. The sentence mentioned the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Soviet liberation of Czechoslovakia. From February 1975 to August 1986 he worked at Cleaners (Úklid) as a cleaner of shop windows. In the mid-1970s he acquainted himself with the Salesian community, and on 11 September 1976 he took solemn vows in the congregation of the Salesians of Don Bosco. In 1974-1986 he actively organised Salesian “cottage stays” - holiday events for children within the framework of underground Salesian activities. From September 1986, when he was given back his state approval, to 1989, Karel Herbst served in Staré Sedliště in Tachov District. In 1990 he was the parish administrator in Všetaty. From 1990 to 1997 he was the director of the Salesian community in Prague-Kobylisy and administrator of the local parish. In 1997-2000 he held the post of spiritual director of the Archiepiscopal Priestly Seminary in Prague-Dejvice. From September 200 to March 2002 he was the parish administrator in Fryšták near Holešov. On 6 April 2002 he was appointed auxiliary bishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Prague and titular bishop of Siccesi.