100 Years of Cooperation between Czech and Slovak Protestant Theologians

10. Bratislava1This year two Protestant theological faculties on the territory of former Czechoslovakia will celebrate the first hundred years of their existence: the Evangelical Lutheran Theological Faculty of Comenius University in Bratislava and the Protestant Theological Faculty of Charles University in Prague.

Both faculties were founded shortly after the establishment of the new state of Czechoslovakia and began their teaching activities in the autumn of 1919. The roots of both institutions are to be found in the theological faculty in Vienna. The main characteristic they had in common from the beginning was teaching in the local language, Czech or Slovak, rather than German. Nevertheless, there were always differences evident between them, due mainly to the different historical development of the Protestant churches in the former kingdoms of Bohemia and Hungary. The faculty in Bratislava represented and served primarily the Slovak-speaking Lutheran churches not only in Slovakia, but also, for example, in Czech Silesia. The faculty in Prague, by contrast, soon assumed the identity of a mainly Reformed (Calvinist) place of learning, as a result of which Hungarian Reformed students came to study there from Slovakia.

In spite of this basic dogmatic difference, however, we can find many common features in the history of the two theological schools, and also examples of fraternal cooperation. Perhaps the most obvious case of this was the founding of a joint specialist periodical in 1948, the new Czech-Slovak journal Theologia evangelica, published by both faculties, which was forcibly closed down by the communist regime in 1951.

10. Bratislava5A new stage of intensive mutual contacts between the two faculties can also be seen in recent decades, effectively since the incorporation of both institutions into their local universities, the division of Czechoslovakia into two independent countries, and a certain generational change among the teaching staff at the two faculties. Today we frequently come across Slovak students in Prague or Czech teachers in Bratislava. Regular meetings between the teaching staff at the two institutions also take place, with a scholarly and social programme. And finally, this year both faculties will be celebrating together the 100 years of their existence, a major anniversary in the history of Czech and Slovak Protestant theology.

Ota Halama