.- Pope Benedict XVI "opens new and unexpected channels of communication and makes believers more aware of their mission," according to Czech Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, the Archbishop emeritus of Prague.
Cardinal Vlk told L'Osservatore Romano that the Pope’s 2009 visit to his country had made the Church stronger and more courageous. He made his remarks in Rome after attending the Pope’s Nov. 10 general audience.
The Holy Father visited the largely atheist Eastern European nation on a three-day trip last September. The Czech Republic ranked second after Estonia in a 2005 Eurobarometer study of Europe's least religious countries. Just 19 percent of Czech’s polled said they believe in God. Half of those polled, however, expressed belief in a "spirit or life force."
As he did on his recent pastoral visit to Spain, the Pope encouraged Czech’s to return to their Christian roots during his 2009 trip.
"The presence and words of Benedict XVI in the Czech Republic have made our Church, which is a minority, psychologically stronger, giving us the opportunity and the courage to sit down at the dialogue table with secularized society," Cardinal Vlk said.
Around 1,500 pilgrims from the Czech Republic accompanied the cardinal to Rome for the audience. The former Vatican ambassador to the country, Cardinal Giovanni Coppa, and government representatives, including the wife of president Vaclav Havel, were among the group.