How is your role as a goodwill ambassador a natural fit with your leadership roles within the WCC?
Kopecka: My role as a goodwill ambassador—which is not connected with a salary—is one in which I will share stories from the Czech Republic with the world, and promote the good name of my country. It is connected with international relationships, very much the same kind of relationships in which we engage within our ecumenical circles.
Part of your role centers on acknowledging the ongoing healing as the 400-year anniversary of the Battle of White Mountain was recently observed. For those of us eager to learn more about this point in history in the Czech Republic, can you tell us briefly what happened?
Kopecka: The Battle of White Mountain during the Thirty Years' War, occurred in Prague on 8 November 1620. During a two-hour battle, the Catholic army of the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II defeated rebelling Protestant Czech troops led by Frederick, King of Bohemia. Afterwards, a process of re-Catholicisation began in the Kingdom of Bohemia, which had previously been predominantly Protestant. In June 1621, 27 Bohemian leaders were executed in Old Town Square in Prague.
Are there wounds you still see, 400 years later?
Kopecka: There are many spiritual aspects stemming from this painful part of our history. It is very important to commemorate these events because there is still a lot of hidden trauma among people, still a gap for many between the Catholic church and other churches. This surprises some people because it has been 400 years!
Do you see healing and reconciliation as well?
Kopecka: In November 2020, there was an ecumenical service of reconciliation. And a cross of reconciliation has been shaped with three levels by the same artist who designed a similar cross to mark the anniversary of Martin Luther. The cross has two steel arms and one titanium arm; the two rusty arms symbolize hostile sides—the past, pain and no settlement—while the third, clean and blue arm stands for reconciliation. This is a very important symbol because, in Czech society, when we talk about faith and spiritual life, it’s quite sensitive.
And you are planning an even larger event that will draw people together in a spirit of reconciliation?
Kopecka: Yes! As part of what actually is a whole “Year of Reconciliation,” I would like to organize a symposium during which we share our personal experiences, as well as those from people in other countries. This would take place likely in September or October, partially on the grounds of White Mountain Benedictine Cloister but online as well.
I would like to ask the German churches who were able to commemorate the Reformation and I would like to invite representatives of pontifical councils to deliver a significant message, because the encyclical Fratelli tutti by Pope Francis, which has been a big inspiration for me, speaks about connections between all religions. We are all humans, not strangers.
I would like to invite others in the Vatican, of course the WCC, the Conference of European Churches, and many others. I would also invite ministers of foreign affairs from other countries, because if the Czech Republic is able to overcome this difficult moment in history when divisions were very deep, I think all nations or countries are able to do the same.
For me, this is connected to the WCC’s Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace. I would like to express this event as a way of visiting the wounds, a way of visiting a deep wound that belongs to a 400-year-old history but is still quite acute today. This will be a rich source for interreligious dialogue. It’s about the present, not just discussing the past. It’s not just about historic trauma but about a future vision.