Czech politicians challenge church´s claim to municipal property


17.02.2014 17:45

Prague - Czech politicians expressed surprise at the claim of the The Knights of the Cross with the Red Star order to real estate that is in municipal possession, within the state-churches property settlement, of which daily Pravo reported today.


Církev, kostel, chrám, kříž - ilustrační foto. ČN Vilém Kolomazník

Deputy Stanislav Polcak (TOP 09) said the restitution law on return of the churches' property confiscated by the communist regime did not enable it and a court should reject such a claim.

Social Democrat (CSSD) deputy chairwoman Alena Gajduskova noted that the case was a result of a badly drafted law.

The government coalition of the CSSD, ANO and Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) will push for the churches to give up such claims during its talks with them, she told CTK.

Culture Ministry spokeswoman Anna Jesatkova recalled that under the law only the property in state possession can be returned.

Churches will receive financial compensation for the property in the hands of private persons, municipalities and regions, she added.

However, only courts are authorised to assess the ownership of real estate, Jesatkova added.

Tomas Holub, general secretary of the Czech Bishops´ Conference, told CTK today that churches would claim only the land of the state that someone had acquired unlawfully after 1991. They would also like to ally with the state in these cases.

"We are not at the slightest interested in taking steps to harm the municipalities that gained a church plot in the past," Holub said, adding that the Catholic Church would assess each case individually.

However, Holub said he believed such cases were exceptional.

Under the law, which took effect in January 2013, churches are to be returned land and real estate, confiscated from them by the communist regime in 1948-89, worth 75 billion and given 59 billion crowns plus inflation in financial compensation for unreturned property during the following 30 years. The largest sum, 47 billion crowns, would go to the Roman Catholic Church.

Simultaneously, the state will gradually cease financing churches.

Gajduskova told CTK that the government had not reckoned with the churches' claims to municipal property.

Representatives of the coalition parties would like to discuss the issue at their meeting with churches. The government monitoring team to be set should deal with it as well.

Polcak said courts should turn down claims to municipal property as unsubstantiated.

"It is not possible to demand both money and plots, it is a dual property claim," Polcak pointed out.

As a defence lawyer he represented a town in a similar dispute.

KDU-CSL chairman and deputy prime minister Pavel Belobradek said courts should decide whether the churches' claims in their complaints against municipalities were substantiated.

Deputy Marek Benda (Civic Democrats,ODS), one of the authors of the church restitution law, told Pravo today they had not expected churches and religious organisations to sue municipalities and private persons over their property.

Pravo writes that churches can demand the property that was transferred at variance with the law that banned the Land Fund from handling the former property of churches.

The Knights of the Cross with the Red Star demand three blocks of flats in Prague-Karlin neighbourhood that were transferred to the capital city.

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