THE RECENT 85th birthday of Cardinal Frantisek Tomasek of Czechoslovakia passed quietly and with little comment.
But what an amazing man he is. He is a lone figurehead and bulwark in a country where more than half of the dioceses are bereft of bishops. In the absence of agreement with the government no new appointments can be made.
The government would like the Cardinal to "retire" to Rome but he cannot forget that that is what his predecessor Cardinal Beran was persuaded to do but afterwards regretted.
How ironical that most Cardinals retire at 75 and none over 80 can vote for a Pope. But Cardinal Tomasek carries on as a source of hope for Catholics in a country far worse off in terms of quiet but effective persecution than, say, Hungary.
We recently had a visit by a charming priest from the tatter who compared the church in his country favourably with that in Czechoslovakia.
More surprisingly he said that the Hungarian church of today was healthier than the pre-war church. It was now, he said, a caring, community church which excited the young rather than a formalised, institutional church which would be an empty shell.