Thursday, 24 April 2014

Churches rejected plans to curb property restitution deal

29 November 2013

Prague, Nov 28 (CTK) - The churches associated in the Czech Ecumenical Council of Churches (ERC) reject any changes to the church restitution law that are sought by two parties of the potential new government, the Social Democrats (CSSD) and ANO, the ERC general assembly agreed yesterday.

The ERC nominated Petr Grulich, from the Church of Czech Brethren, as its representative in a commission that has been established on the CSSD's initiative to discuss a reduction of the financial compensation the churches are to receive for unreturned property, ERC head Daniel Fajfr, from the Church of Czech Brethren, told CTK.

"The churches associated in the Ecumenical Council share the opinion that any changes to the law and the related contracts are unacceptable," Fajfr said.

Under the law on state-church property settlement, which was pushed through by the previous right-wing government and took effect in January, 16 churches are to get back over the next 30 years some real estate confiscated from them by the Czechoslovak communist regime in 1948-1989, worth 75 billion crowns, plus 59 billion in compensation for unreturned property that is to be raised by inflation. Simultaneously, the state will gradually cease financing the churches in the next 17 years.

The CSSD pledged before the late October general election to change what it called unfounded and unacceptably generous restitution conditions. After its election victory, it came up with proposals in this respect, which are backed by its probable future coalition partner ANO.

The CSSD and ANO seek a reduction in the restitution compensation sum. They also mind the inflation clause that might make the paid-out sum even higher.

However, the third partner in the nascent coalition, the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), is strictly opposed to any changes to the restitution law and to the related contracts between the state and churches, as are the churches themselves.

In the commission that is to discuss the issue, churches are represented by Czech Bishops Conference General Secretary Tomas Holub, the Prague Diocese's economist Karel Sticha and the Czech Jewish Communities Federation secretary Tomas Kraus.

The CSSD will be represented by Senate deputy chairwoman Alena Gajduskova, economic expert Karel Machovec and legal expert Jan Kudrna.

ANO will be represented by MP and former Czech ambassador to the Vatican Martin Stropnicky and lawyer Robert Pelikan.

The general assembly elected Fajfr to the top ERC post yesterday. Fajfr, former ERC first deputy chairman, is replacing Joel Ruml at the ERC helm.

Ruml (Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren) was elected ERC first deputy chairman.

The Ecumenical Council of Churches comprises 11 Christian churches, the Roman Catholic Church as an associated member and the Seventh Day Adventist Church and the Czech Jewish Communities Federation as observers.

The Roman Catholic Church is the far biggest recipient of the property to be returned within the church restitution.

($1=20.107 crowns)

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