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Prague Castle, church sign property settlement after long dispute

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Prague, March 4 (CTK) – The Czech Presidential Office (KPR) and the Catholic Church reached mutual property settlement after a long dispute Friday, when a set of agreements was signed by their representatives in the presence of President Milos Zeman and Catholic Primate Cardinal Dominik Duka.
The Metropolitan Chapter will be returned the Provost’s Residence building, the All Saints’ Church and one of the neo-Gothic buildings known as Mocker houses.
The Religious Foundation will gain the St George’s Convent.
The church has given up any further claims for property within the Prague Castle complex, where the KPR is seated.
The property to be returned makes up 20 percent of what the church originally claimed.
Friday’s agreement was envisaged in a memorandum that Zeman and Duka, the archbishop of Prague, signed last summer.
However, the following preparation of the deal was accompanied by twists and turns. Finally, the signing of the package was delayed by more than a month against the original schedule.
KPR representatives blamed the delay on legal complications and Zeman said it was also due to the Religious Foundation’s decision at the last moment not to claim the return of the St George’s Convent.
The foundation’s representatives resolutely dismissed the information.
Zeman said the last dispute, concerning the seat of the Metropolitan Chapter’s Archive, was settled during a joint luncheon Friday. The Church will give up this claim, he said.
Duka said he considers the package signing an important part of the implementation of the church restitution law.
The Roman Catholic Church applied for the return of real estate at Prague Castle in mid-2013 based on the law on property settlement between the state and churches, which was passed in late 2012 and took effect as from 2013.
Based on it, churches will be returned their former property confiscated by the communist regime, and given financial compensation for the property that cannot be returned.
The compensation will total 59 billion crowns plus inflation during 30 years. Most of the sum, 47.2 billion crowns, is to go to the Roman Catholic Church.
Apart from the St George’s Convent and the Provost’s Residence, the church originally claimed the St George Basilica, the Mladota House, the Old Provost’s Residence, six houses in the Vikarska Lane and a house near the Golden Lane.
It also applied for some movable assets.
The KPR rejected the claim citing security reasons.
Within the following talks, the church gave up a part of its claims and the preliminary settlement memorandum was signed in August 2015.
The Metropolitan Chapter and the Religious Foundation pledged to reconstruct the returned estate for their own money within five years. The reconstruction costs are expected to be particularly high in the case of the historical St George’s Convent, whose inner premises, Zeman said, are in a poor technical condition.
The two sides have agreed that the Church will use the Romanesque St George’s Basilica adjacent to the convent.
The church has also claimed movable assets but it will not gain any, based on the final deal signed Friday.
The church restitution law was pushed through by the previous right-wing government. Current Social Democrat (CSSD) Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka originally demanded that the Prague Castle complex be exempted from restitution.
When talking to journalists Friday, Sobotka called the final agreement useful and a reasonable compromise.
Zeman said Sobotka’s cabinet had two years to prepare a special law to deal with the return of Prague Castle properties to the church, but it did not do it.
That is why Zeman had to take up the initiative himself, along with Duka, he said.
The KPR and the church discussed the return of selected real estate from the 1990s. Their disputes mainly focused on St Vitus Cathedral before reaching agreement on its joint management.
($1=24.819 crowns)

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