Today in Catholic History – The Execution of Jan Hus

On 6 June 1415, Jan Hus was burned at the stake after being condemned for heresy by the Council of Constance.

The attendees at the Council of Constance had asked Hus to travel to the Council to explain his beliefs and promised him safe conduct. However, after he arrived the Council imprisoned him – defending their actions by claiming that one was not obligated to keep promises to heretics. For seventy three days, Hus was imprisoned in poor conditions before being tried for heresy on 5 June 1415.

For his part, Hus promised to recant any of his beliefs if it could be shown from the Bible that they were erroneous. However, the Council would condemn him for heresy for his sympathy to the ideas of John Wycliffe, his opposition to the selling of indulgences, and his opposition to the power of the papacy. Hus refused to recant his beliefs on the grounds that to do so would be in violation of his conscience and so he was sentenced to death. His last words before his death were said to be, “God is my witness that the things charged against me I never preached. In the same truth of the Gospel which I have written, taught, and preached, drawing upon the sayings and positions of the holy doctors, I am ready to die today.”

In 1999, Pope John Paul II expressed “deep regret for the cruel death inflicted” on Hus. Indeed Pope John Paul II said, “Hus is a memorable figure for many reasons. But it is particularly his moral courage in the face of adversity and death that has made him a figure of special significance to the Czech people, who have themselves suffered much through the centuries.”

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