Pater Michal František Pometlo

* 1935  

  • “Do you think you Franciscans we followed?” — “All were followed.” — “How?” — “Not everything was kept secret and not everything was identified in time. In such places such as mountains it was difficult to follow somebody. In cities it was easier. Whenever they learned about someone who was visited by suspicious people, they started following this person. We had such meeting with one lady in Pilsen, this was at the time I went to prison for the second time. She found out that her phone did not work and called the repair service. The technician told her, ‘Someone meddled with it.’ We looked into the exchange box and found out that her phone was bugged. In this way they knew much more than we could have known.”

  • “The thing was that many people came to the mass and because the church was small, it happened, usually on Sundays, when there was the main mass, that about a hundred people stood in front of the church as they could not get in. The authorities saw this as a problem and they looked for a way to instil fear in those people. Once the priest returned from a visit to the Church Secretary and only later I realised this was a pretence, that he was in fact summoned by the Secret Police. He returned quite dejected and in two three days I was called to the military command, where they did not know what to do about me, as the person who had summoned me was not there, so they sent me home. I came out of the building and was stopped by four men with badges. ‘We have a car here for you,’ they said.”

  • “It was sedition, this was how they put it. But they needed the investigation to find out the substance of that accusation. Perhaps it was the fact that we used to meet after the mass in a little graveyard around the church, this much they could prove. The question was what we talked about. We talked about common things, but this they were not interested in, they looked for signs of riot that the parson might have been the organiser of, which he could not have been, as he listened to confession after the mass, came to greet us and then usually left to have his lunch. But this was what they were about, to reveal a subversive conspiracy, in reaction to which some people could be punished and thus an exemplary case established to deter other Christians. It didn’t have much of an impact but still those who came to the mass out of a habit stopped coming.”

  • “First I was in custody in Hradec Králové. I found this quite difficult as I had no experience with interrogations or prison so I was lost at times. Not always did I play things the way I would have wished. One of my colleagues who was more experienced just denied everything that was presented to him. I learned this only much later.”

  • “I was asked what I had been sentenced for twenty years ago. Before I was able to formulate an answer to that, the senate president suspended the session. When the judges came back, the president had two stacks of files lying in front of him on his desk. In one place, some papers stuck out of the stack. He asked me the same question again but didn’t even wait to let me answer. Instead he opened one of the files and cited a Lenin’s truism from it: ‘They would mutually reassert each other in their belief that socialism wasn’t here to stay for long’. He couldn’t have chosen a better section! By choosing to quote this he actually revealed what he thought about it and that he was actually with us on this. Since that moment the trial had taken an entirely different course.”

  • “Another experience I cherish and one that I don’t wish to leave out was when I once said in custody that I was hungry. There was a man there with me in custody, who had previously spent some time in a concentration camp. He told me: ‘Have you eaten something today?’ I said: ‘Yes, I have’. He said: ‘So don’t say you’re hungry, because you’re not. By the time you haven’t eaten for three days, you can say that you have a great appetite for food. But even then you really won’t be hungry. That’s still not real hunger’. So since then I haven’t been hungry for half a century.”

  • “When I was supposed to talk about my stay in the Bory prison, the professors came to me after the lecture and told me, that from my recollections one would almost be inclined to think that making time in prison was a lot of fun. In replying to this I put to good use the response of a man who had been through concentration camps himself. When asked why he wouldn’t talk about the drastic events he had witnessed there, he replied: ‘It’s pointless. You know, when I tell you that I was hit on the head with a rifle but, you won’t feel the pain I did. So why should I talk about it?’”

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They arrested me for the first time on Ash Wednesday and the trial was held on the feast of Corpus Christi

portrait
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zdroj: Helena Pěchoučková

The priest Michal František Pometlo was born in Přibyslavi in 1935 into the family of the carpenter František Pometlo and his wife Emílie Pometlová. František was the oldest of four children and he spent his childhood in the war years. After completing elementary school, he went for an apprenticeship in carpentry, while at the same time had a desire to study painting. For some time, he was trained by Václav Boštík. However, through a fateful intervention, he was confined to bed by illness. He changed his job but fell ill again, this time with tuberculosis, which necessitated a protracted treatment and subsequent recovery. He finally became a disability pensioner and worked as a parish clerk in a church in Přibyslav, where he also attended a course in scenography. However, in 1963, František was arrested and imprisoned in the Bory penitentiary in Plzeň. The priest František Král was branded as the leader of a conspiracy directed against the state. After returning from prison, František Pometlo moved to Prague, where he then studied at the school of civil engineering and at the same time worked for the Czechoslovak television as an assistant worker. After his graduation, he secretly joined the Franciscan Order and simultaneously a seminary in Litoměřice. He was ordained a priest in 1974, but was denied the approval by the state. He then worked in Sokolov, where he was stood surety for by the arch dean. In the course of the following years, he was entrusted with the administration of further parishes. In 1983, he was arrested and interrogated along with other Franciscans. Together with P. Jiří Mazanec, he was convicted for frustrating the state supervision of the church. However, the convicts were released after only four months due to mounting international pressure and they spent the remainder of the sentence on probation. Thereafter, he spent his time working in parishes close to the border. He contributed to the work and designing of the garden of meditation of Luboš Hruška in Plzeň. It was him who came up with the idea of a cross alley and who won the sculptor Roman Podrázský for the idea. Throughout his life, he was devoted to his parish work, body and soul. Not only would he care for his parishioners, but also for the churches they populated, the buildings and their roofs, etc. In this role, he would swap his clerical gown for a working overall. He thereby contributed to saving many a church from ruin. After the revolution of 1989 he settled in Plzeň and since 1994 has been living in Prague in the Franciscan Convent of the church of Our Lady of the Snows.