Czech parliament votes to return church property confiscated by communists

November 8, 2012

(Church of Mother of God before Týn in Prague, 2007/Zairon)

The Czech parliament on Thursday approved an ambitious plan to return billions of dollars worth of church property that was confiscated by the communists in a vote that represented a victory for Prime Minister Petr Necas.

The law envisages handing churches land, property, and financial compensation worth about $7 billion over a period of 30 years. Under the plan, the churches would become independent from the state and gradually stop getting government financing.

The agreement should unlock about 6 percent of the country’s forests and fields that once belonged to mostly Christian churches but which have been tied up pending a resolution of the restitution question.

That land, which was confiscated by the communists after 1948, could in future be developed, rented or sold.

The 200-seat lower house of parliament approved the necessary legislation with 102 MPs voting in favor, overturning a veto by the Senate, the upper house, which opposed the move.

After two decades of negotiations among politicians led by the Roman Catholic Church, the churches are delighted with the agreement, hoping it will restore their fortunes and reverse their declining role in Czech society.
Read the full story by Jan Lopatka here.
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