Churches accept government’s restitution proposal
More than twenty years after the fall of communism the Czech Republic stands another chance to establish a new relationship between the state and the country’s churches and redress the wrongs of the past. Church representatives on Thursday accepted the government’s proposal for property restitution and a gradual phasing out of financial contributions from state coffers.
“I think it is important for this process to take place primarily so that people do not feel that they are being forced to contribute to something that means nothing to them. And I think it is good for churches to regain their independence and with it a sense of responsibility for their own affairs.”
Although the state currently gives churches 1,5 billion crowns annually, the property to be restituted generates a much higher sum of 4.5 billion crowns a year. Three fifth of that with go to the Catholic Church which will also get the lion’s share of the compensation money with over 11 billion going to Evangelical, Orthodox and Jewish churches. Although the smaller churches feel somewhat disadvantaged by the settlement, they badly want the issue resolved and are ready to accept the deal.
Its fate will depend on support for it in Parliament where opposition parties have criticized it for being too generous at a time of need. However Culture Minister Jiří Besser says this is an opportunity not to be lost.
Assuming the final details are settled and the bill passes through Parliament it could come into effect in 2013. Among those pushing for it to happen are dozens of towns and villages whose assets have long been blocked by unresolved church restitution claims.