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On July 6, 1415, Jan Hus, a Czech theologian and philosopher, was burned at the stake after being declared a heretic at the Council of Constance (1414-1418). This year marks 600 years since those events and in the Czech Republic, July 6 is a national holiday in honor of this religious. On a day like today, we are going to meet the figure of Jan Hus.
Hus was born in 1370 in Hussenitz, a region of Bohemia that today is part of the Czech Republic, in a peasant family. He was orphaned as a child and was raised thanks to the efforts of his mother. From childhood he showed religious fervor, participated as an altar boy and sang in the church choir.
In 1389 he obtained a Bachelor of Theology degree from a private school in Bohemia and decided to go to Prague to continue studying. Theology at Carolina University. He had no money to pay for his studies, but in the entrance exam he obtained such good marks that the university professors looked for ways for him to study through charity. In 1396 he was already a teacher and he continued his studies in Theology while teaching Philosophy.
Hus wrote a work known as 'Eclessia', in which he expressed criticism of the Roman Catholic system of the time. For him, Christ was the head of the Church and not the Popes and Cardinals, writings that would be the seed of the Protestantism.
In 1400, Hus was ordained a priest and the following year he became the dean of the Faculty of Art and Philosophy. The king of Bohemia, Wenceslas of Luxembourg, appointed him a preacher in the Church of San Miguel and in 1902, of the Bethlehem Chapel in Prague, where only Czech was used to preach.
In 1408 Hus heads a movement that has been called by historians as ‘Husism’, based on the ideas of John Wyclif, English translator, theologian and reformer. The Hussites, followers of Hussism, multiplied because at that time Christendom was undergoing a great crisis: the Western schism (1378-1417), which caused that there were two ‘leaders’ of Christendom, one in Rome and the other in Avignon.
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Hus criticized this ecclesiastical division, the moral corruption of the Church, the abuses of power and the amount of wealth it was accumulating. In 1409, Hus was appointed rector of Carolina University and began to express his ideas publicly. He wanted the Catholic Church to be poor and for its actions to be based on the Gospel, and he also did not agree with the idea that indulgences could be granted. For these reasons, he encouraged people to disobey the Church because the priests lived in sin.
Regarding the Papacy, Hus argued that the true Church was invisible and all those who belong to it are its members, and although the Roman Church has a predominant role, it is not the true Church since only Christ can be its head. He preached that the Pope, with his corruption, his sins and mistakes, was the incarnation of the antichrist.
The Council of Constance.
The Emperor Sigismund summoned the Council of Constance to put an end to the division of western Christendom and Hus wanted to present himself to the assembly to defend his positions and be able to be declared innocent, since he had been excommunicated.
The emperor, who believed in the innocence of Hus, offered him a pass to go there and explain his reasons. Due to the excommunication he was forbidden to celebrate mass and preach, but Hus continued with his work, so he was imprisoned despite the fact that he was in possession of the safe conduct and also refused to retract from being a follower of the doctrines of Wyclif, so he was convicted of heresy and demoted from his priestly rank. He was accused of treason and was sentenced to die at the stake, a sentence that was carried out on July 6, 1415.
Acknowledgments to Jan Hus.
The execution of Hus had a great impact on Bohemia and was received as an offense to the nation. The followers of the religious, the Hussites, started revolts, the priests who did not share Hus's adventures were expelled and the Archbishop of Prague was threatened. Even some Bohemian nobles sent a letter to the Council of Constance claiming Hus' innocence and recognizing him as a national hero.
The Catholic Church after the Vatican Council (1962-1965), was shown willing to rehabilitate the figure of Hus and they recognized that the Czech reformer's death sentence had clearly been a mistake.
In 1999, John Paul II declared that the death of Jan Hus had been cruel and unjust and that opened and gave way to numerous conflicts between the people.
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On June 15, 2015, Pope Francis I celebrated a liturgy on the occasion of the 600th anniversary of the death of Jan Hus with representatives of the Hussite Church and the Evangelical Church of the Czech Brethren. Further, the Pope claimed that Hus's death was not positive for the Catholic Church and that one should apologize for her.