Prof. Tomáš Halík (born June 1st, 1948 in Prague) is a Czech leading public intellectual, philosopher, sociologist and priest.
Tomáš Halík studied sociology, philosophy, and psychology and graduated with a Ph.D. from the Faculty of Philosophy at Charles University in Prague. During the Communist period he was banned from university teaching and persecuted by the secret police as “an enemy of the regime.” At the time when the churches were severely persecuted, he studied theology secretly and was secretly ordained into the Catholic priesthood in Erfurt, in 1978; not even his mother was allowed to know he was a priest. He spent eleven years as a priest in the “underground church” and helped prepare others for clandestine ordination. Tomáš Halík was one of Cardinal Tomášek’s close associates, when, as Bishop of Prague, the cardinal became a symbol of moral opposition to oppressive Communist regime. Tomáš Halík assisted the 90- year-old cardinal in composing his famous and very influential pastoral letters, his open letters to the government and his historical speeches during the “Velvet Revolution” in November 1989. In the 1980s, Tomáš Halík initiated the ecumenical pastoral programme: “The Decade of National Spiritual Renewal”. Its intention was to prepare Czech society for peaceful transition from Communist dictatorship to democracy and to create a “moral and spiritual biosphere” for life in freedom. He also helped to organize the “underground university” and clandestine publication of religious and philosophical literature.
After the fall of Communism he served as General Secretary to the Czech Conference of Bishops (1990-93) and lectured in pastoral psychology and sociology at the Catholic Theological Faculty of Charles University. Since 1993 he has been associate professor and since 1997 professor of sociology of Charles University, Prague (Department of the Religious studies, Faculty of Arts). Focus of academic work: philosophy of religion, inter-religious relations; the sociology of religion; the relationship between religion, politics and culture.
Tomáš Halík has helped establish institutions for the promotion of education in the field of religion and spiritual culture. He co-founded the Czech Christian Academy, of which he has been president for the past 23 years. Tomáš Halík developed the Academic Parish in Prague. The parish is a place of permanent dialogue between faith and science, and religion and art, where lectures, exhibitions of modern art, concerts and literary evenings on spiritual themes take place. Mgre Halík has prepared for baptism and baptized over 1000 university students and young academics.
Since the mid-nineties he has been involved in inter-religious dialogue, taking part in inter-religious meetings in many countries around the world; with Jewish thinkers in Israel and the USA, with Hindus in India and Great Britain, with Buddhists in Nepal, Japan and Thailand, with Muslims in Egypt, Jordan and Great Britain. In his books, lectures and many media appearances, he has advocated tolerance and dialogue. For a number of years he assisted President Václav Havel in organizing meetings of leading representatives of world religions as part of the annual international conferences of Forum 2000, and he still continues that activity. Tomáš Halík’s theological endeavours have helped to develop the philosophical and theological groundwork for dialogue between believers of different religions, and particularly between believers and non-believers in today’s world. His regular media broadcasts have given secular society a better understanding of spiritual values. He also takes part in academic discussions between theologians, philosophers and scientists concerned with relations between science and religion at the Czech Academy of Science.
Since 1989 he has participated actively in public life, maintaining a high media profile and being involved in civic initiatives. He has taken public stands against racial, national, religious and political intolerance and violence. He has actively promoted Czech-German reconciliation and the ecumenical reconciliation of the different churches, and has spoken out on issues of political and economic ethics. In the 1990s he served as one of President Václav Havel’s external advisers. In 1998 Václav Havel indicated in the Czech media that Tomáš Halík was an eligible candidate for Havel's successor in the office of Czech President. However, Halík refused any active involvement in the politics and decided to continue his work as an academic, priest and writer.
Since the fall of the Communist regime, he has lectured not only at Charles University in Prague, but also at universities and scholarly conferences in a number of European countries, as well the USA (at 12 American universities and colleges), Latin America (Chile and Argentina), Canada, Asia (Japan, Taiwan and India), Australia and South Africa. He has been a visiting professor at such universities as Pittsburgh, Oxford and Cambridge Cambridge and gave annual lectures at Harvard University (The Inaugural Greeley Lecture 2009), Cambridge University (von Huegel lecture 2005), at Calvin College (January Series 2001), at Catholic University Leuven (St. Thomas Feast 2013), etc. He is a member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts and other scholarly societies at home and abroad.
Since 1999 he has been a frequent participant in international debates and panel discussions with European politicians regarding the widening of the European Union and the cultural and spiritual aspects of the process of European integration (Berlin, Hanover, Passau, Lausanne, Paris, etc.) He has acted on several occasions as an expert at the European Parliament in Brussels and the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. In 2006, he was appointed a member of the European board of experts (Comité des sages) of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE) in Brussels. He has been a member of the OSCE International Advisory Panel since 2002.
Tomáš Halík is the author of many books, in which he chiefly focuses on a spiritual diagnosis of our times and the dialogue between faith and atheism. His books are not only bestsellers in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland, but have also been published in many other countries, in English, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Hungarian, Ukrainian and Slovenian; Chinese, Turkish, French, Croatian, Dutch and other translations are in course of publication. His books have received a number of awards abroad. His book Patience with God received the prize for the best European Theological Book 2009/10 by the decision of European Society for Catholic Theology, and in the USA it was named book of the month in July 2010. His book Nachtsgedanken eines Beichvaters was selected to be the best theological book of July 2012 in Germany and his book “Berühre die Wunden” was selected to be the best theological book of May 2013.
His innovative contribution to contemporary theological thinking, particularly to the dialogue with atheists and agnostics, has already posed a theme for several doctoral and master’s theses at European universities including Louvain, Prague, Krakow and Warsaw.
Pope John Paul II appointed him advisor to the Pontifical Council for Dialogue with Non-Believers and in 2009, Pope Benedict XVI granted him the title of Monsignor – Honorary Prelate of His Holiness in recognition of his scholarly and pastoral merits.