Church in Czech Republic Welcomes Return of Property

Half of What Communists Took to Be Given Back

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PRAGUE, Czech Republic, JAN. 16, 2012 ( The bishops of the Czech Republic have publicly thanked the Council of Ministers for a law that provides for the devolution of the properties of the Catholic Church and of other religious bodies.

On Wednesday the Web page of the Episcopal Conference of the Czech Republic reported that the bishops issued a public statement on the recently approved law of the liquidation of assets, which provides for the devolution of Christian churches and properties, and those of other religious bodies, confiscated by the state during the Communist period.

After the Communist Party took power in 1948 it confiscated all the properties owned by the various churches. Churches had to submit to state control and the government paid priests’ salaries.

The Czech episcopal conference (CEC) thanked the Council of Ministers’ support of the law that normalizes relations between the state and churches, and for the fact that there was no opposition to it by the parties that make up the governing coalition.

The CEC hopes that other measures will be taken in the same line, and that the law will be approved by the Czech Republic’s parliament.

Prime Minister Petr Necas threatened to expel the ministers of the Public Affairs party — who are in the government’s coalition — and eventually dissolve the government if the that party decided to impede the approval of the plan, which includes indemnity payments.

The party did not consider it timely to approve the plan, given the 0.1% shrinkage of the Czech economy in the last quarter of 2011, and the predicted lack of growth in 2012.

Vice Premier Peake, who is also vice president of the party opposed to the measure, said in a communiqué that her party would no longer oppose the plan and the executive finally approved it. She explained that, given the prime minister’s ultimatum, the party sought the most responsible way to resolve a situation it considered absurd.

The plan, agreed by the government and 17 religious bodies headed by the Catholic Church, provides both for the return of just over half the property and for monetary compensation. The estimated value of the property is 75 billion koruna, ($3.7 billion), and the compensation, to be payed over a 30 year period is 59 billion koruna, ($2.9 billion).

The plan also provides for the end of the arrangement by which the government paid priests’ salaries.

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