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Czech Saints Eagerly Await a New Stake Center

Ceremonial groundbreaking marks good relationship between the Church and its neighbors in Prague

Shovels turn dirt in a ceremonial groundbreaking for the new Prague Czech Republic Stake Center in Prague 4, Prague, Czech Republic, on April 12, 2024. From left: Elder Martin Pilka, Area Seventy; Petr Šimůnek; Prague Czech Republic Stake President Jan Pohorelický; Prague 4 Mayor Ondřej Kubín; Hana Šnajdarová; Robert Řehák; Lenka Kubištová; Petra Huťková; Praha Ward Bishop Jiří Ambrož; and Czech/Slovak Mission President Darrin M. Skousen.2024 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
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By Mary Richards, Church News

Construction is expected to begin soon on the first stake center for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Prague, Czech Republic.

This milestone is happening almost 95 years after the official beginning of the Church in the country, on July 24, 1929.

Stake meetings are currently held in an historic building the Church purchased in the 1990s, which is also used as a mission home and mission offices for the Czech/Slovak Mission.

The first meetinghouse built by the Church in the Czech Republic was finished in 2001 in Brno and hosts the Brno Ward. Other congregations meet in rented properties.

The latest statistics from ChurchofJesusChrist.org list 2,679 Church members in the Czech Republic. Seven wards and five branches make up the Prague Czech Republic Stake, which was created in 2016 and was the first in the country.

Guests sit under a tent while the choir prepares to sing on the left at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Prague Czech Republic Stake Center in Prague 4, Czech Republic, on April 12, 2024.2024 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
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The ceremonial groundbreaking for the new stake center was held on April 12, reported the Church’s Europe Newsroom. Local Church leaders, government officials, and interfaith and other representatives attended. The building will be built in Prague 4, a district in Prague.

Elder Martin Pilka, an Area Seventy in the Europe Central Area — who was the first Czech missionary in 1991 — told the Church News that the construction was expected to begin in June but has now been pushed to July.

He explained that the April event was not only a groundbreaking for the construction, but it was also a symbolic breaking of ground in relationship to the public, the municipality of Prague, the government, and other religious, humanitarian and social organizations.

“Members of the Church in the Czech Republic have strived to live the gospel, be open and be a light for others for many years,” Elder Pilka said. “At the groundbreaking it was officially manifested that the Church is welcomed by government, local politicians and even the public for they see what good the Church and its members do.”

A Stake Center and Community Center in Prague

At the ceremony, Church leaders emphasized how the stake center will also be a resource for the community.

After the building is finished, it will be used for Sunday church meetings, as well as cultural and social events — such as weddings, funerals, concerts, balls, children’s activities, holiday gatherings and sporting events. The stake center will hold free EnglishConnect classes and have free family history resources through FamilySearch, one of the largest genealogy organizations in the world.

Free classes and group meetings offered by the Church cover topics such as self-reliance, emotional resilience, marriage and parenting, seminary and institute. Like other stake centers around the world, the building could also serve as a central gathering place for crisis situations, various humanitarian efforts or other uses.

Guests sit under a tent at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Prague Czech Republic Stake Center on April 12, 2024.2024 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
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“The reason for this construction here is that this place can serve the public,” Elder Pilka said, “so that it is used for something good and that people from near and far neighborhoods can come to this place in Prague where they can find spiritual and Christian values and a refuge from the world.”

He said at the ceremony: “We try to do good things in the world through the Church. So that people have the opportunity to know the effect of faith in Jesus Christ.”

Stake President Jan Pohořelický expressed his belief in greater openness between the Church and the community and mutual cooperation.

“I think that this building will really open the door for mutual interreligious communication and that we will be happy about it,” he said.

Members of the Church from around the country came to the groundbreaking ceremony, as did friends of the Church and residents of Prague 4 — who were interested in what the building will look like and asked about the history of the Church and the lives of its members.

At the groundbreaking ceremony, the mayor of Prague 4, Ondřej Kubín, said, ”Today, a new stage begins, and this place will get a new life.”

Housing developments, hotels, business centers, shops and a metro stop are all being built in the area, making it a place of “hustle and bustle,” the mayor said.

“I think that a community center with a spiritual dimension will be the building that will perfectly fit into this place and bring relaxation,” he said. “And I also think it will be a beautiful addition and synergistic effect in this beautiful location.”

Full-time missionaries from the Czech/Slovak Mission sing during the groundbreaking ceremony of the new Prague Czech Republic Stake Center in Prague 4, Czech Republic, on April 12, 2024.2024 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
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The stake center project has been years in the making. At the ceremony, Elder Pilka thanked all who played a role in the planning and approval process and those who will continue to be a part of the construction.

The Church in the Czech Republic

Thomas Biesinger arrived in Prague in 1884 as the first missionary in what is now the Czech Republic. Arrested for unauthorized preaching, he spent nearly 70 days in prison, but baptized Anthon Just, his only convert, just before leaving the city. He returned in 1928 at age 82, helping the Church gain legal recognition, with the organization of the Czechoslovak Mission soon to follow.

Then-Czechoslovakia was opened for missionary work after a dedicatory prayer on July 24, 1929, by Elder John A. Widstoe on Priest Hill.

After World War II, the ensuing rise of the Communist Party and the government ban on the Church in 1950, Czech Latter-day Saints remained faithful for five decades, despite not openly practicing their faith but trying to be as creative and frequent as possible in their meetings and associations. That included some members teaching “Christian yoga” classes as a way to share gospel principles — with some 130 people being converted to the Church.

In February 1989, the communist government fell and religious freedom was established. On Feb. 6, 1990, then-Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles climbed Priest Hill and offered a new prayer of dedication and gratitude, reconfirming the prayer Elder Widtsoe had offered six decades earlier.

The Church was granted official recognition on March 1, 1990.

Local Church leaders, community leaders and interfaith representatives prepare to break ground for the new Prague Czech Republic Stake Center on April 12, 2024.2024 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
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