Canonization proceedings

Curriculum Vitae

Childhood and the way towards priesthood

Jan Bula was born on 24th June 1920 to Mary and Anthony Bula in Lukov near Moravské Budějovice. Still the same day he was baptized in the parish church of St. John the Baptist where there was at that moment celebrated the dedication of this church to this martyr. John the Baptist became also the baptism patron saint of the little Jan. In spite of their humble origins Jan’s parents enabled him to commence his studies at a grammar school in Moravské Budějovice after he had finished his primary education. In June 1939 he successfully graduated and he entered divinity school (seminary) in Brno. Due to the war, many theologians had to terminate their studies and they were conscripted for forced labour. In the beginning of the year 1943 also Jan Bula was sent as a labourer to a ceramics factory in Vranovká Ves. He returned from there in May 1944 to continue in his theology studies, which he terminated a year after. The long awaited end of the war came and Jan Bula was ordained a priest on 29th July 1945 by the auxiliary bishop Stanislav Zela. He celebrated his first Mass in his home village Lukov.In August 1945 he was established a co-operator (chaplain) in Rokytnice nad Rokytnou. Together with fulfilling his priestly duties, he actively participated in public life. He taught in “Orel”, he helped with the projects organized by this catholic sport organization and he also helped during the shows of the community theatre. If the time enabled him, he made trips into the neighbourhood and he painted. He was very popular for his merry and kind-hearted nature. However, among the local youth and children, of whom he took the most intensive care, he gained perhaps the greatest favour. In July 1949 the parish priest Stanislav Lakomý died and Jan Bula was established an administrator of the vacant parish. Soon after this, he began with renovations of the Rokytnice’s church.

Priest after the February 1948

In the post-war era public experienced great changes. Political atmosphere went through the post-war radicalization; it turned to the Left and in the elections in 1946 the Communists won. Even if it was not clear at first sight, the Communists were preparing for the take over of all the political power in the state. In 1948 after a government crisis there was a coup the end of which was to establish communistic dictatorship. At that time the strict attitude of the Communist regime towards the Catholic Church became evident. The catholic press was restricted and later discontinued, church societies and church education were eliminated, Church’s property was confiscated and this was followed by the persecution of priests. The steps taken by the Communists headed towards establishing a kind of national church controlled by the state and towards disunion of the bishops, priests and believers. Besides other things, a so-called Catholic Action (CA) uniting “progressive” Catholics was to serve this purpose. A founding conference of the state-organized CA took place in June 1949 in Prague. There was a proclamation released with the aim to solve the relationship of the state with church in the spirit of coexistence and cooperation. However, the reality was different: The Holy Office condemned this so-called Catholic Action as a subversive movement. In spite of that, the Communistic officials tried to obtain signatures of the CA manifesto from as many priests as possible. Because of this they came also to the parish office in Rokytnice. The chaplain Bula and the parish priest Lakomý did not agree without reservation with the CA manifesto; however, they wished for an agreement between the state and church. Under this pretext their signatures were obtained. After having realized the real state of things they immediately cancelled their signatures and they confirmed their loyalty to their bishop Karel Skoupý. Bishops in Czechoslovakia tried to inform believers about the current situation of the church in the state by the help of pastoral letters. A Circular for the Catholic clergy and the believers was read from the pulpits on Sunday 19th June 1949, and a week later The Voice of the bishops and ordinaries for the faithful in the hour of a great testing. In the morning on 19th June Jan Bula was visited by Communistic officials and by a sergeant of the Czech police forces so-called National Security Corps (SNB). They asked him not to read the pastoral letter. Two thirds of all the priests feared then the potential sanctions from the state and they did not read the pastoral letter. Jan Bula did read it and; moreover, he added his own commentary in which he explained the circumstances concerning the acquisition of the signatures for CA. Finally, he asked the parishioners for faithfulness to Christ and Church. For these words and the reading of the Circular he was inflicted a fine and he was also sentenced to one month without probation. He appealed against the sentence; however, his prosecution ceased by the end of October 1949 because he was granted presidential pardon. The presidential pardon concerned all the priests penalized for the reading of the Circular; nevertheless, it was merely a demonstrative move that was supposed to convince the public of the willingness of the regime to help the church. Clearly, this was not the case as president Gottwald declared several months earlier: “It is necessary to neutralize the church and to get it in our hands so that it would serve the regime.” In the beginning of the 50s, the Communist party endeavoured to annihilate the church and to collectivize the agriculture. Both these endeavours; however, encountered resistance of those inhabitants from whom were taken not only the land and property but also their faith. Some people who have already taken part in the Anti-Nazi resistance movement during World War II started to defy the establishing regime at the southeast edge of the Bohemian-Moravian Highlands. Some resistance groups developed also in the districts of Třebíč and Moravské Budějovice. These; however, got under control of the Communist secret police – State Security (StB) already in the year 1950.

Old Classmate Arrives

In the beginning of the year 1951 Ladislav Malý, who in 1949 disappeared under unexplained circumstances from Czechoslovakia to Austria, appeared in the area of Třebíč. In Austria he applied to register with the American secret service Counterintelligence Corps (CIC) and he got a mission to be in touch with the ČSR (Czechoslovak Republic) refugees. However, he misappropriated the money he was entrusted with and he came back to Czechoslovakia. Until now there is no sound evidence about who Ladislav Malý really was; if we should speak of an adventurer or an instigator - an agent for the StB. It is clear; however, that he was not a captain of the CIC, as he claimed, and that this secret service did not commission him to do any tasks in the Třebíč area. Much of Ladislav Malý’s acting was at least indirectly manipulated by the StB. Malý visited his old classmate Bula at the parsonage in Rokytnice in the evening on 25th February 1951. He told Bula a few fables about his job and he asked for a logging. The next day he told Bula another lie by which he won for a certain time the priest’s confidence. He was telling a story about the kidnap of the Prague archbishop Josef Beran whom he claimed to have saved from internment together with his co-workers (the credibility of this information strengthened the radio informing about the transport of the interned archbishop). Archbishop Beran was claimed to wish for a confession by a reliable priest before further journey. Jan Bula could not refuse this kind of plea and he agreed with Ladislav Malý that he would visit the archbishop. During March and April “captain” Malý visited the parsonage in Rokytnice several more times. When the intended visit of the archbishop kept being postponed, Bula realized that it is Malý’s invention. Nevertheless, in the meantime Malý infiltrated among the local dissidents, compromised many people by visiting them and by sending them letters and he started to appeal for armed conflicts and sabotages. Jan Bula did not agree with this and he asked him to leave and not to bring misfortune upon more people.

Arrest and Imprisonment

Police trailed the Třebíč area for a long time. When there was a gunfight during an intimidation initiated by Ladislav Malý in Heraltice, they could immediately commence a vast arresting. Thus, Jan Bula was arrested on 30th April 1951 in Rokytnice. Investigation of the parsonage did not prove the presence of any suspicious material. However, a message for the investigation department speaks clearly: “Already the fact that he is a young priest ordained after the revolution in 1945 is a sufficient proof for us that he secretly is a convinced enemy of people’s democratic regime. In this case if there is any suspicion of anti-state actions of the stated, let us make use of this opportunity and deprive one parasite of his influence on the working class who has to feed him.” During the last two months Jan Bula recognized the character of Malý’s; in spite of that, in the beginning of the investigation he was determined not to give him in. He saw it clearly that the “captain” compromised too many people. Immediately, the interrogations began and by the use of today well-known methods of physical and psychical torture the members of StB achieved that the second record already contains the name of Jan Malý. Jan Bula testified not only about the activities of this man but also about how he tried to stop him from his doings. Nevertheless, the StB started to create a script of events that included facts, half-truths and even absolute lies. Thus, in the beginning of June there was conceived a report of Jan Bula that contained only very little from what really happened. It should have served for the accused to learn well his “role” for the prepared trial by the forced re-reading of the self-accusing sentences. The script changed on 2nd July 1951 due to the night events in Babice. Ladislav Malý shot then in the local school three Communistic officials. Although the StB functioned in the area of Třebíč already a long time before the “events in Babice” and it created a net of its co-workers, L. Malý was not captured. The other way round, they allowed him to do this action which was consequently appropriately used. A threefold murder made possible that the subsequent legal proceedings did not appear so fabricated as the other political trials of the 50s. It was necessary to determine quickly the perpetrators of the terrorist act and to punish in an exemplary way the individuals who knew something about their activities and were inconvenient for the regime. Ladislav Malý had been shot already on 3rd July 1951 during the arrest. From the arrested individuals there were put together the first sixteen accused “resistance fighters” including Jan Bula. The political secretariat of the ÚV KSČ (Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia) in Prague negotiated about the preparation of the first trial against the “resistance fighters” and it also decided who would be in a few days sentenced to death. The priest Bula, arrested at the end of April, was finally included to the second “Babice trial”. The criminal complaint states: “It is possible to include the priest Jan Bula as the main person because he, due to his priestly position, had a great influence on the majority of believers.” His anti-sate activities would start by spreading anti-communist leaflets, it would continue by the reading of the Circular and culminate by not turning in his old classmate Malý. He let him sleep at the parsonage several times, he arranged hiding places for him in the neighbouring gamekeeper’s lodges and he did not turn him in after the armed assault in Heraltice by which he would commit a high treason. On the contrary, the prosecution did not pay attention to the reputed kidnap of the archbishop Beran because this fable would be merely a provocation for drawing the priests into the game of the StB.

Trial and Execution

The trial against the group Bula and Comp. was prepared for 13th to 15th November 1951. On the last day of the proceedings a sentence, which was already decided before the initiation of the trial, was passed. According to it, Jan Bula was sentenced to death since “he abused the confidence that he as a clergyman enjoyed among the believers for criminal activities and he took advantage of the religious belief of the parishioners to support gangsters and murderers”. The appellate procedure passed off with a negative result as well as the voting on recommending J. Bula for presidential pardon. The legal machinery was ended. Jan Bula waited for carrying out of the death sentence. One day before the execution on 19th May 1952 he was allowed to write letters to say his last goodbye to his relatives and close friends. His letters from the death cell mirror his composure: “The Lord has given me a short life; however, I believe that it was not lived in vain. I am happy today that I served Him and that I remained His servant until the end. Reconciled with Him, I leave.” Jan Bula was hanged at the yard of the jail in Jihlava in the early hours on 20th May 1952. His body was cremated and the urn with the ashes was deposited at an unknown place, most probably at the Central cemetery in Brno.