In May this year, Jan Bosco Graubner was appointed the Archbishop of Prague, replacing Dominika Duka who had held the post since April 2010. How has this appointment changed Jan Graubner's life? And how does faith fare in today's society? That and more we discussed with Jan Graubner.
You took the office of Archbishop of Prague in early July. What does your daily routine look like now? Is it very different from that of an Archbishop of Olomouc?
I feel that it is a bit too early to make an honest comparison. It is vacation season and many people are not in the office. That is bound to change soon. Similar to Olomouc, I have a lot of meetings on my schedule but the ones in Prague are currently more focused on me getting to know the office and the people as well as how the structure works. I spend a lot of time visiting different work sites and studying documents. On top of that, plenty of invitations from different embassies have been coming in but I have asked the cardinal to step in for me in this capacity for now.
In recent interviews, you have mentioned that you plan to focus on church life from the bottom up. What exactly does that mean?
The Church is not just the bishops and priests, but every baptized person first and foremost. The calling of the clergy is to serve the church community. The calling of everybody, though, is to live according to the gospel, which is a beautiful – albeit sometimes difficult – thing. That is why we must strive to learn how to live that way and help one another achieve it. For instance, I know of a community of families who are all friends and help each other out by exchanging the spiritual experience they have gained. That is something the Church has been doing since the time of the apostles. It is increasingly difficult in this time of individualism but that much more needed. Christ said that where two or three are gathered in his name, there He is with them. It is not the only way to have a true spiritual experience with God but it is an important one. I sometimes think of this old lady – saddened because religion was not taught as a subject at a school where she wanted to enroll her grandchild. When she found out that at least seven children are needed to open an extracurricular group, she talked to her circle of friends and got it up and running. That is what I call a healthy effort from the bottom up.
Speaking of religion and education, do you think that religion should be a part of the general education curriculum, similar to social science for instance?
Most certainly. European culture and values are terms often mentioned. If we are not aware of what they were built on, we face the danger of destroying them ourselves by removing their roots through our ignorance. Without them, we may have trouble maintaining such fundamental things as respect for other human beings or the truth.
"Quod dixerit vobis facite" is your episcopal motto, which translates to "Whatever He tells you, that you shall do". To me, it evokes listening to God. How does one become receptive to God?
The key thing is listening to your conscience, which is often said to be God's voice within your heart, and not mixing it up with temptation, which often lures one into laziness and the abuse of freedom. The conscience, however, needs to be properly molded to make sure it does not become too jaded or oversensitive. That is why the Christian listens to the word of God from the Bible.
Does your motto also explain your decision to accept the office of Archbishop of Prague and in so doing accommodate the wishes of Pope Francis?
You are right. Not even 32 years after having chosen this motto can I say that I always know how to act accordingly. On the other hand, when I have been striving for such a long time to do so, I cannot simply take the opposite stance in difficult times. I can only confirm that getting into the habit of saying yes to God is a great help.
The Church's calling is to celebrate God, spread the gospel, and serve in love, while faith represents spirited relationships. What is the reason for families falling apart or people's inability to create and maintain relationships? Can the Church be of help?
I feel the main reason is that people concentrate too much on themselves. Even many believers see God as simply a servant to their own happiness. While the person who truly accepts Jesus as his savior transfers the emphasis from their "I" to the heavenly "You". They will open up and leave their prison. On a human level, being raised in a big family can help as children often have to share with others not just material things but also the favor and attention of their parents. Being raised to serve and volunteer is important. Those who live for others will never leave their spouse with the degrading question of "What's in it for me?" Living by the gospel can be helpful even here. If a person truly means the prayer "Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us", then they will be able to forgive their spouse every day, too. That makes relationships much easier.
It is up to each of us whether we find our way to God or not. I might be getting ahead of myself, but how do you view those who only head to church once a year for Midnight Mass in this context?
I would not put everyone in the same basket. Faith is a very internal thing and, thank God, there is no such thing as a "faithometer". On one hand, we cannot lower the bar with an excuse that some simply do less, just as those who truly love do not look for reasons to love less, but on the other hand, we are delighted with every person who feels they have been spoken to and wants to answer back. For some, visiting the traditional Midnight Mass is a seed that will eventually grow into a tree of faith. I remember speaking to this lady, a doctor, once who told me that she doesn't attend mass because nobody taught her to, but that she often goes to church for an hour to just sit when it is quiet. Apparently, there was no place quite like a church where she could find so much inner peace and strength while working the demanding job she had. There had to be an inkling that it was due to the proximity to God.
Jan Bosco Graubner (born August 29, 1948, in Brno) is the 37th Archbishop of Prague, 25th Primate of Bohemia, and chairman of the Czech Bishops' Conference.
He graduated from a general education secondary school and later earned a degree in theology from Olomouc University. He was ordained as a priest in June 1973, serving as a chaplain in Zlín and Valašské Klobouky until 1982, later becoming a pastor in Vizovice and remote administrator in Horní Lhota and Provodov.
In 1990, Graubner was appointed titular bishop of Tagaria and auxiliary bishop of Olomouc, being ordained by Archbishop Vaňák and bishops Otčenášek and Cikrle.
From 1992 to 2022, he was the 14th Archbishop of Olomouc and the Metropolitan Bishop of Moravia, also serving as chairman of the Czech Bishop's Conference for ten years from the year 2000, which is a position he took on again in 2020. He is also a board member of the Palacký University in Olomouc.
In 2002, he was awarded the Alois Mock Europa Ring. In 2008, he received the Anděl Award for most charitable act for establishing the Three Kings charitable collection.
Then-president, Václav Klaus, presented him with the Order of T.G. Masaryk, Class II in 2008.