Smashing pumpkins: Czech priest claims to have acted out of 'faith and duty'

A village priest in Kurdějov, in Czechia's South Moravian Region, is reportedly remorseful after stomping through jack-o-lanterns carved by local children. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 21.10.2023 09:57:00 (updated on 21.10.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

Residents of the village of Kurdějov, in the Břeclav District of the Czech Republic's South Moravian Region, awoke to an unpleasant surprise earlier this week to find the pumpkins carved by local children during a weekend Halloween event had been vandalized and thoroughly smashed.

"Yesterday's Pumpkin and Lantern Parade had great atmosphere and was full of happy children, and we think the adults also had a great time seeing the enthusiasm in the eyes of their children and grandchildren," the village wrote on Facebook on Monday.

"How much worse is this morning. We probably won't find the vandal in question who ruined the children's happiness, but we believe that he is reading this post and is disgusted with himself."

Just a day later, about 20 replacement jack-o-lanterns were discovered to have also been vandalized. While the unknown vandal faced continued criticism on social media, the village of about 500 gave up on recreating the festive seasonal decor.

"The entire village was very outraged, and passionate discussion broke out on social networks about who could have done this to small children," Kurdějov resident Marek Kortiš told Břeclavský deník.

“The worst part of the whole situation was that the little kids were asking where their pumpkins were, and they didn't quite understand why they couldn't go and change the candle. Some children even cried."

But the case took an even stranger turn when the vandal revealed himself in a letter sent to Kurdějov's mayor. Parish priest Jaromír Smejkal claimed to have smashed the pumpkins out of Catholic duty.

“On leaving the parsonage on Sunday evening, I saw numerous symbols of the satanic holiday [Halloween], which was born in today's paganized world as a counterweight to our approaching All Saints' and All Souls' Day, placed in front of our sacred grounds," Smejkal wrote.

"I acted according to my faith and duty to be a father and protector of entrusted children and removed the symbols."

Only later did the priest discover the pumpkins had been placed by local children during a festive event, and expressed remorse for his actions.

"Had I known this, despite my duty to act decisively and radically against evil, I would have considered the fact that I am also touching the feelings of my fellow men, especially children."

Locals weren't satisfied with the priest's apology, and neither was Pavel Kafka, the vicar general of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brno.

"His behavior is inadequate from my point of view," Kafka told Břeclavský deník."Of course, I am sorry for the unfortunate situation in Kurdějov, which I also expressed in a written apology addressed to the mayor and representatives of the village."

"As for carving pumpkins during the month of October, I see it as a foreign folk tradition that is part of various workshops and art workshops for parents with children here [in the Czech Republic] as well."

While Halloween traditions like carving pumpkins are not widely observed in the Czech Republic, they are not uncommon. The unusual case of the pumpkin-smashing priest in Kurdějov has gone on to receive international attention, even being reported by the BBC.

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