.- This Saturday, Pope Benedict XVI will visit the Czech Republic, home of the martyr St. Wenceslas. In preparation, and to better acquaint the rest of the world with the Church in the Czech Republic, the Vatican has released statistics about the Church in the country.
The Czech Republic, whose capital city is Prague, has a population of 10,380,000, 31.7 percent of which are Catholic (3,290,000 people). Within the country are nine ecclesiastical circumscriptions, 2,576 parishes and 70 pastoral centers of other kinds.
Currently there are 20 bishops, 1,956 priests, 1,725 religious, 160 lay members of secular institutes and 1,109 catechists. Minor seminarians number seven and major seminarians total 184.
A total of 15,977 children and young people attend 79 Catholic education centers, ranging from the kindergarten to the university level. Other institutions belonging to the Church, or run by priests or religious in the Czech Republic include 50 hospitals, 98 clinics, 134 homes for the elderly or disabled, 59 orphanages and nurseries, 58 family counseling and other pro-life centers, 170 centers for education and social rehabilitation, and 28 other institutions.
Pope Benedict told the crowds gathered for the Angelus last Sunday that he hopes to bring a message regarding the importance of faith and hope to the Czech Republic, a country in the heart of Europe that has experienced firsthand the great tumult of the past century. The Holy Father also plans on honoring the memory of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, who visited the country three times, by paying "homage to the heroic witnesses to the Gospel, old and new, and encourage everyone to live in charity and truth."