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22 December 2020

A Festive Word From the Rector of Charles University

Dear members and friends of the academic community of Charles University,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I send my greetings from the Carolinum in Prague, the heart of Charles University. This festive period is a time when we think of our loved ones, our friends, and those who cannot, unfortu-nately, be with us. It is a time for us to share festive moments of joy, belonging and closeness.

All candles have been lit on the Advent wreath. The last one – the fourth – is known as the angel’s candle, and symbolises peace, rest and love. These values – which are essential for one’s spiritual and emotional state – are important to every single one of us. The unexpected challenges and tests that we have faced have made the last ten months a more than emphatic re-minder of this.

The Christmas story is the story of a family and message of hope, love, self-sacrifice, and the celebration of life as a fragile gift of God. The story of the family is a living one and heritage that belongs to all of us. And, at these moments and after all we have been through to-gether, more than ever before!

We have behind us a difficult year – one of the strangest we have experienced. A year during which, in addition to all of our normal worries, we have also had to face an infection which prevented us from living the normal lives that we have been used to. We have and are experiencing a time that has brought great uncertainty, fear and, frequently, sadness into our lives. But it has also brought hope, solidarity and faith in human knowledge. Hope in facts and common sense, which helps us to reject disinformation and manipulation, and which is our best guide in making decisions.

Since its foundation 672 (SIX HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-TWO) years ago, our al-ma mater has been a centre of not only education and knowledge, but also of a strong, living community, which has always contributed to its own country and its populace. Teachers and students do not live in isolation from, but form an active component of, public life, as was shown in the events of 2020 – and, above all, the necessity to respond rapidly to the spreading pandemic.

As the Rector of Charles University, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your commitment, proven erudition, responsibility and personal courage. I primarily want to thank our students – and not just the future doctors and healthcare workers, without whom the situation would be much worse. Their assistance, dedication and willingness have been invalua-ble. At the same time, it is my wish that they, and not only they, can return to their classrooms.

I also thank all members of the academic community, researchers, teachers and employ-ees for all the good things that they have done for Charles University and our society in the year now ending. All those who made an effort and selflessly offered their assistance are deserving of our gratitude.

I can assure Czech society that the University will be unstinting in its support of the fight against this insidious disease, be it through the continuation of its current activities, or in its ef-forts to provide its students with a proper, fully-fledged education.

This year, education has been faced with massive challenges. We were forced, almost overnight, to convert to home tuition and secure its operation. I am delighted that we succeeded in this – thanks to the work of thousands of teachers who tirelessly continued to educate their pupils and students via computer. However, the measures that the government adopted, and possibly will adopt, are having an adverse effect on the most vulnerable – on children and stu-dents.

The purpose of schools is to improve people – for them to think things over, for them to take decisions responsibly, for them to recognise the truth. Here, on university ground, we know how demanding and responsible the vocation of teachers is. Those who choose it spend years preparing for their work. And now, overnight, teachers had to become mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, brothers, and sisters. I appreciate the responsible way in which the majority of us dealt with this.

I want students to be able to return to their classrooms and for the buildings of the Uni-versity to be again full of people. That is the University. I want us all to manage the current situ-ation and for everyone in our society to thrive.

When thinking about the message of Bethlehem it is, I think, sufficient to look around oneself and realise that true beauty lies in community and simplicity – in a loving gesture, warm words, festive greetings to one’s loved ones, friends and neighbours… This year in particular, let us remember those who are ill and weak, and let us reassure them that we are thinking of them, that we are standing by them, that they aren’t being abandoned. And let us not miss out those who look after them and bring them joy and hope.

In Ancient Greek, the word scholē – school – signified a place intended for peace and contemplation. The Christmas period is ideally suited for these activities. So relax, disconnect yourself from the rush of everyday life and think about what is truly important for you and your loved ones.

I wish all people of good will a joyful Christmas and health, happiness, optimism, en-thusiasm, and the fulfilment of all your resolutions in – hopefully – a healthy 2021.

Let us all wish that the year 2021 is a good, successful and joyful year.

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