Czech government will turn over seized churches

August 26, 2011

A prominent Czech church leader has welcomed an agreement that would
allow churches to reclaim land and buildings seized under communist rule
but would require them to forfeit state subsidies in return.

A
draft settlement was finalized in Prague on August 25 that allows
religious groups to retrieve assets that were confiscated after the 1948
communist takeover, while obtaining financial compensation for others.

"The
ball is now in the government's court to prepare the necessary
legislation," said Joel Ruml, chairman of the Czech Ecumenical Council
and a member of the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren.

Ruml
said the restitutions—expected to begin in January 2013—would
particularly affect the Roman Catholic Church, the nation's largest
denomination, which lost the most under communist rule. However, he said
all denominations would have to prepare for the gradual end of state
support in a country where clergy salaries have been paid by the state
since the 18th century.

"Although we've dreamed for years of
becoming free from the state, this will pose a great challenge," said
Ruml, whose council represents 11 Christian denominations, including
Catholics as associate members. "Many church members are used to state
support, and will need to be shown how this new situation offers
opportunities for stabilizing our position and opening society to our
work." —ENInews

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