Ján Chryzostom Korec

Ján Chryzostom Korec, SJ (22 January 1924 – 24 October 2015)[1] was a Slovak Jesuit priest and a Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He was ordained a priest in 1950 and consecrated bishop in 1951. Because of government suppression of the Catholic Church, he spent 39 years working as a priest without government authorization, either in prison or supporting himself as a laborer.[2]

His Eminence

Ján Chryzostom Korec

Cardinal, Bishop Emeritus of Nitra
ChurchRoman Catholic
Term ended9 June 2005
PredecessorJán Pásztor
SuccessorViliam Judák
Other postsCardinal-Priest of Santi Fabiano e Venanzio a Villa Fiorelli
Ordination1 October 1950
Consecration24 August 1951
Created cardinal28 June 1991
by John Paul II
Personal details
Born(1924-01-22)22 January 1924
Bošany, Czechoslovakia (Present day Slovakia)
Died24 October 2015(2015-10-24) (aged 91)
Nitra, Slovakia
MottoUt Omnes Unum Sint
Coat of armsJán Chryzostom Korec's coat of arms

In 1990 Pope John Paul II named him Bishop of Nitra and in 1991 named him a cardinal. Korec retired in 2005 and died in 2015.

Life under CommunismEdit

Jan Korec was born to a working-class family. His father Ján Korec and his mother Mária Drábiková were laborers at a local leather factory in Bošany. he had two older siblings: brother Anton, who was imprisoned during the first wave of communist persecution in 1951, and sister Štefánia. Korec's family lived a humble life with limited resources.

Korec entered the Society of Jesus in 1939 and studied Catholic theology and philosophy. During the order's suppression by the Communists, he was forced to discontinue his philosophical studies. He entered the priesthood in 1950. One year later, at the age of twenty-seven, he was secretly consecrated a bishop by Bishop Pavol Hnilica on 24 August 1951, becoming the youngest Catholic bishop in the world.[3] The following three years he worked at the Tatrachema company and then at the Institute of Work Hygiene and Work-Related Diseases. On 30 June 1958, he was forced to leave the Institute, and on 10 September he began working as a night watchman for the Prefa company. He next worked as a maintenance worker at the Juraj Dimitrov Chemical Company, one of the largest companies in Bratislava.

He was imprisoned from 1960 to 1968. While he was in prison, Korec cared for the spiritual welfare of his fellow prisoners. Korec spent most of this period in Valdice, a prison in the Czech Republic. There were at least 250 priests and several bishops being held: Vojtašák, Zela, Otčenášek, Hlad, and Hopko. These clergymen were forced to share prison cells with some of the country's worst criminals. He described his experiences in Night of the Barbarians. After many petitions, he was released during a general amnesty in 1968.

Despite bad health, Korec continued to work as a street cleaner and as a factory worker. During this time, he also continued his active life as a leader of the underground Church. He led spiritual retreats for students; he counseled young people, seminarians, and priests. His private apartment in Petržalka on Vilova Street 7 became a highly sought-out center of his underground ministry. Many people, lay persons, and priests went to him for spiritual advice. Because the publication of Christian literature was proscribed, Korec wrote "samizdat" books that were secretly printed and distributed. He also secretly ordained priests because the law allowed for the ordination by government-approved clerics and limited ordinations to restrict church activity.

The Secret Police (Štátna Tajná Bezpečnost) watched Korec's apartment closely, and two attempts were made to assassinate him.

After the fall of CommunismEdit

In 1990, after the fall of the Iron Curtain, Pope John Paul II appointed him Bishop of Nitra.

Arms of Cardinal Korec

On 29 May 1991, John Paul named Korec a cardinal.[4] He was invested as a cardinal in a consistory on 28 June and named Cardinal-Priest of Santi Fabiano e Venanzio a Villa Fiorelli.

On 13 June 2012, Cardinal Korec was admitted to the hospital due to a ruptured appendix. He suffered a perforated appendicitis, severe peritonitis, and his vital signs were beginning to fail. The doctors operated on him, but even afterwards, his condition remained critical. By 18 June, it was announced that his condition had not improved and that he was breathing only through a respirator. On 20 June, it was announced that the condition of Cardinal Korec had significantly improved. It was a great surprise for all of Slovakia.

Korec remained active in the Church and in his social life. He received three honorary degrees from universities in the United States. He published regularly, especially in the Slovak magazine, "Kultúrny Život."

After the fall of the Iron Curtain and the revival of democracy in Czechoslovakia, Ján Cardinal Korec became an influential leader in all aspects of social-economic and political developments in Slovakia. He supported Slovak independence. He opposed the Christian Democrats, who implemented stringent free-market policies, which caused a rapid rise in unemployment and economic hardship, and allied himself more closely with the left-oriented parties and the Slovak Prime Minister Mečiar, who played a significant role in the "velvet divorce" between the Czechs and Slovaks, while trying maintain a certain political neutrality.

Forty years of communist domination left the Slovak Catholic Church in ruins. There was a shortage of priests, and church buildings needed to be renovated. In addition, Catholic education had suffered severe drawbacks and new schools needed to be built. There was also a shortage of teachers and Catholic media was non-existent. Besides restoring the Church and Catholic education. He restored a good relationship with the Jewish minority.

In 1987, Cardinal Korec was one of the 24 Slovak activists who signed the "Declaration of Apology," an official apology to all Jews in Slovakia who suffered deportation during WWII. The Cardinal condemned the deportations and called it "an inhumane act."

In retirement, Korec lived in Nitra and remained active as a writer and adviser.

In February 2014 Liverpool Hope University in Great Britain awarded him an honorary doctorate for his lifelong achievements on behalf of freedom, democracy and world peace.


For proper footing and steadfast faith, it has been granted several awards and honorary doctorates. His life's work was also appreciated at foreign universities, including the University of Notre Dame South Bend (1986), University of Sacred Heart in Bridgeport (1992) and the Catholic University in Washington (1993). Other honorary doctorates were awarded to him by the Polish Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski (2003) and Liverpool Hope University, UK (2014).[5]

In 1993 he won the state prize of the French Republic, in 1995 state award Rad Stur Class and in 1999 state award Order of Andrej Hlinka.


He was high criticised by some segments of the community due to a perceived perception of him having a positive attitude towards Jozef Tiso and the first Slovak Republic. Critics cite for example the 1990 unveiling of a commemorative plaque for Jozef Tiso in Banovce nad Bebravou or the memorial service he held for Tiso and the 50th anniversary of Tiso's execution. In August 1997 he publicly defended the exiled historian Stanislav Durica Milan in connection with his controversial book "History of Slovakia and Slovaks" which advocated several policies from the period of the first Slovak Republic.


His book production accounts for more than 80 titles each with several editions and is a prominent part of the Slovak Christian literature of the 20th century. His writing is also included in numerous and various Samizdat magazines.[6] These publications include:

  • Philosophical questions of dialectical materialism, 1947.
  • The drama of atheistic humanism. Reflections on Christian spirituality.
  • The origin of man, (Samizdat, 1949)
  • The responsibility of Sciences, (Samizdat, 1971)
  • Over the origin and development of life, (Samizdat, 1971)
  • Salvation in Christ, (Samizdat, 1972)
  • In the light of the Good News. (Samizdat, 1985)
  • Christ the priest, (Samizdat, 1987)
  • The mission of the priest, (Samizdat, 1987)
  • Church amid challenges, (Samizdat, 1987)
  • Church of development, (Samizdat, 1987)
  • Reflections on man, Bratislava, I-II, 1992/1993 3rd ed. 1992 (formerly CA, 1986).
  • Who is the man. In: (Slovak views, 1993), no. 1
  • Cyril and Methodius tradition today. In: (Slovak views, 1993, no. 7)
  • Philosopher of common sense. In: (Verbum, 2000, no. 4), p. 65-88.


  1. ^ Vo veku 91 rokov zomrel kardinál Ján Chryzostom Korec (in Slovak)
  2. ^ Haberman, Clyde (21 April 1990). "John Paul Visits a New Prague Today". New York Times. Retrieved 24 October 2015.
  3. ^ "Dècès de Cardinal Korec, figure de "l'Église du silence"". Vatican Radio. 24 October 2015. Retrieved 24 October 2015.
  4. ^ Haberman, Clyde (30 May 1991). "Pope Names 22 Cardinals; Chinese Prelate is Identified". New York Times. Retrieved 24 October 2015.
  5. ^ Kardinál Ján Chryzostom Korec sa dožíva v stredu 90 rokov života.
  6. ^ Samizdat (self-published, Russian самиздат) is the way civic activists circumvent censorship in countries of the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War. Communist governments severely suppressed samizdat dissidents who issued it including imprisonment. Samizdat publications issued only a small number of prints, usually carbon paper on a typewriter. Each reader was encouraged to describe printed matter. So successful was Samizdat publishing that in Czechoslovakia and Romania the simple possession of a typewriter required a permit and in all communist countries access to cyclostyles, copiers and other similar techniques was strictly controlled.


  • Korec, Ján (1996). Die Nacht der Barbaren-Als Geheimbischof in der Kirche des Schweigens 1950–1970 (in German). Graz-Vienna-Cologne: Verlag Styria. pp. 111–113.
  • Spolok Slovenských Spisovateľov (1999). Život a dielo Jána Chryzostoma Korca (in Slovak). Nitra, Slovakia: Filozofická Fakulta UKF.

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