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CZECHOSLOVAKIA, VATICAN RE-ESTABLISH DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS

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Czechoslovakia and the Vatican restored full diplomatic relations Thursday at the ambassadorial level, just two days before a visit by Pope John Paul II, the news agency CTK said.

Relations were broken off - but not officially severed - in 1950, the year after the Communist government expelled Monsignor Gennario Verolino, secretary of the apostolic nunciature, or embassy, in Prague.The Communist leadership that ruled Czechoslovakia for more than four decades, until the peaceful "Velvet Revolution" of November 1989, was one of the most repressive in the East Bloc against religion.

Scores of priests were jailed, religious orders were banned and the government recognized only the pro-communist "Pacem in Terris" clerical group, which the Vatican refused to accept.

The pope is due to arrive in Czechoslovakia Saturday. The visit will last only 33 1/2 hours, but it is of particular important to John Paul because it represents another step forward in his decadelong campaign to re-establish full religious freedom in Eastern Europe.

The Polish pope was the spiritual force behind the success of the Solidarity union in Poland, an effort that climaxed with the re-establishment of full diplomatic relations between the Vatican and Poland in1985.