Czech Government to Compensate Churches for Confiscated Property

Posted January 11th, 2012 at 6:25 pm (UTC-5)
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The Czech Cabinet has approved a bill that will compensate churches for assets seized by the communist regime that ran the former Czechoslovakia for about 40 years after World War II.

Prime Minister Petr Necas said the restitution measure was approved unanimously Wednesday.

“It was approved unanimously by all present ministers. I consider the result, the outcome, important, not the way to it. That's common in politics that sometimes it is complicated. Nevertheless, it was crucial that the government managed to agree to it, that the government managed to agree on the draft law, which is an important law, that deals with the problem that has been waiting for a solution for 20 years.”

The centrist Public Affairs party had threatened to vote against the bill, citing its high price, but in the end relented under the prime minister's pressure.

Under the bill, churches will get back 56 percent of property seized by the communist regime, which was toppled in 1989 in a bloodless revolution, four years before Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

The government also committed to pay about $3 billion in compensation to 17 denominations, including the Catholic Church. The restitution will be paid in 30 annual installments, which will take into account inflation.

Many Czechs have welcomed the decision, but others, including Prague resident Jan Novotny, are fiercely opposed to it.

“No, I don't agree with the return. It is as if my grandfather had asked the state to return his cabinet-maker shop that was confiscated.''

The bill still has to be approved by parliament, where Necas's coalition has a comfortable majority.