Government offers churches less money, more land in property restitution
The Czech government has come up with a new proposal for the restitution of church property confiscated after the communist coup of 1948. Under the new draft, Czech churches and religious groups would get back around 60 percent of the property seized by the state while the rest would be paid in cash. Representatives of Czech churches have welcomed the move but said a detailed analysis was needed before taking a definite stand on the issue.
Culture Minister Jiří Besser announced on Monday the government was ready to physically return 59 percent of church property confiscated by the communist regime worth around 75 billion crowns, or over 4.4 billion US dollars. The rest – another 59 billion crowns – would be paid in cash over a period of either 15, 20 or 30 years. Compared to the proposal from 2008, the churches would receive more in physical property – mostly fields, forests, ponds, and the like – and considerably less in cash. Mr Besser said the government would now wait for what the churches have to say about the new proposal.
Altogether, 16 of the country’s Christian churches as well as the Federation of Jewish Communities of the Czech Republic are set to receive their property back. The Roman Catholic Church is set to receive by far the largest, 85-percent share of the settlement although around 95 percent of the property seized by the communist regime was Catholic.
The churches have cautiously welcomed Monday’s proposal as the first step towards a final settlement. Joel Ruml is the head of the Ecumenical Council of Churches, a body representing most religious groups in the country.
“We are glad to have received the proposal because it ends a period of speculation. Now, our experts can sit down and analyze it, and they can also get together with the governmental commission to talk about it. It’s a good move and we can get down to specific work.”