Envoys of the Czech Catholic Church and of the Czech president, Miloš Zeman, handed a letter to Pope Francis in the Vatican on Wednesday, inviting him to July’s celebrations of the 1150th jubilee of Saints Cyril and Methodius. The main celebrations will be held at the pilgrimage site of Velehrad, in southern Moravia, marking the saints’ arrival in the Great Moravian Empire in 863. Pope Francis reportedly showed interest in the event although his office had earlier said the pontiff would this year only travel to Brazil.
Prague City Hall has failed to reach agreement on closing part of the Vltava embankment in the centre of the city to cars, postponing the plans for the summer. Earlier this month, City Council approved a plan to only allow pedestrians and cyclists on Smetanovo nábřeží, a section of the embankment between the National Theatre and Charles Bridge, a move welcomed by cycling advocacy groups. However, council members on Tuesday failed to agree on technical details. Deputy mayor Tomáš Hudeček however said the council would try to impose the ban on cars in the area in August or September.
A neo-Nazi march took place in Přerov, a town in eastern Czech Republic, on Wednesday. Around three hundred far-right extremists participated in the event which included a rally in the centre of the town followed by a march. The police reinforced their presence in the town; some seven hundred officers oversaw the rally in Přerov which was extremist groups’ main event held this year on May 1 in the country, according to the organizers.
Three people died in a road accident after their car plunged into a pond near Vestec outside the capital on Wednesday morning. Another three people travelling in the vehicle have been taken to hospital. The police said the crash occurred at 5:30 AM when the the car swerved off the road on a roundabout and landed in a retention cistern. The cause of the accident is being investigated.
New legislation comes into force on Wednesday which should improve the situation for those seeking asylum in the Czech Republic. The legislation allows asylum seekers to travel within the European Union; those who have spent five years or longer in the country are granted the rights of long-term residents. The new bill also introduces stricter penalties for asylum seekers convicted of crime; the authorities can now cancel their residence permits.
The Social Democrats and the Communists held rallies on Wednesday to mark Labour Day, a public holiday in the Czech Republic. The Communist rally took place in Prague’s expo grounds where several hundred of their supporters gathered, including the last chairman of the totalitarian-era Communist party, Milouš Jakeš, and other former officials of the group. The Social Democrat event was held at the same site in the afternoon.
Forty people died on Czech roads in April, the lowest number since 1990. Two people, including a 16-year-old girl, died when a bus carrying French secondary-school students crashed in western Bohemia on April 8; two men were killed when their car got off the road near Karviná, in the north-east of the country three days later. The highest number of traffic-related deaths in the month of April was recorded in 1997 when 115 died.
A former air force pilot and a key witness in the CASA planes scandal, Karel Daňhel, was acquitted of sexual harassment charges by the district court in Prague 9 on Tuesday. The alleged harassment victim told police already in March that she had invented her testimony. As an expert in military technology at the general staff of the armed forces Daňhel had prepared evaluation reports for the purchase of Spanish-made CASA airplanes. He reportedly told police that the then defense deputy Martin Barták exerted pressure on the government to purchase the overpriced aircrafts.
The building where the Monday blast took place was deemed unstable after one of the walls had moved. Throughout Tuesday, engineers and firefighters worked on securing the building to prevent it from collapsing. Estimates of the total damages to the building have not been determined, but may reach up to 20 or 30 million crowns. Other buildings in the surrounding area also suffered considerable damage. Prague city council agreed on Tuesday to offer financial help to people who were affected by the explosion, as well as to Charles University, whose building was badly damaged by the blast. Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda said that the total amount of aid has not been decided on yet.
An eighteenth century Torah case from Hradec Králové was auctioned off for 9,375 dollars on Monday at the Sotheby’s auction house in New York. The velvet and silk brocaded religious object was part of the Michael and Judy Steinhardt Judaica Collection, which includes hundreds of objects from around the world from antiquity through the 20th century. The auction of the remaining pieces in the collection will continue on Tuesday.
Archaeologists unearth seven graves dating back to Great Moravian Empire
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