Fr Thomas Halik, the Catholic priest named by President Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic as a possible candidate to succeed him, does not think his priesthood would be an obstacle, according to a report in this week's issue of The Tablet.
    Under normal circumstances, priests are barred from holding political office. But canon law provides for temporary suspension from the priesthood, Fr Halik has told a correspondent of the Austrian daily Die Presse.
    He added that he had often discussed the matter with Cardinal Vlk, the present Archbishop of Prague. It would not be an easy step, Fr Halik stressed, as he loved being a priest and, moreover, rejected all forms of political clericalism.
    But it was a tradition in the Czech Republic for the President to be not only a political figure but also an intellectual who "kept an eye on the spiritual dimension". If no one else were found, he would consider standing for the presidency under certain circumstances.
    Halik, 51, who is now chairman of the Czech Christian Academy in Prague, was clandestinely ordained in 1978 under the Communist regime. For 11 years he worked as an underground priest and specialised in helping drug addicts. Since the fall of Communism, Halik has always spoken out on political issues, even the most delicate ones.
    The presidential elections are not due until 2002, but President Havel's health is not good and he might be obliged to resign before then.
7 Aug 00

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