According to the law which took effect in January 2013 (two thousands thirteen), seventeen churches and religious groupings are to be returned land and real estate property worth seventy-five billion of Czech Crowns, stolen from them by the communist regime in 1948 (nineteen forty eight) , and given 59 (fifty nine) billion crowns in financial compensation for unreturned property during the following 30 (thirty) years. This amount represents not more than two per thousands of annual state budget. Simultaneously, the state will gradually cease financing all churches. The core frame for above mentioned mechanism of so called church restitution in 2008 approved a parliamentary commission, compounded from all that-time parliament parties, Social Democrats and Communist Party included.
The issue of church restitution started to be discussed in 1991 (nineteen ninety one) when the state decided to block the relevant property in its possession so that it can be returned based on the planned law. However, some state institutions breached the blockade and transferred or sold real estate. Breaking of the blockade rule brought some court disputes. The ongoing return of property to churches, which started in the Czech Republic three years ago, has triggered a total of several hundred court disputes out of more than thirty thousand of requested items – mostly over real estate and land; in minority over pieces of movable property, artworks etc. Mentioned court disputes represent only a small part of so called church restitutions and they are often caused as a consequence of delays in passing the property into church hands, as well as a consequence of obstruction from the part of some authorities. Not less importantly, we should also mention not very highly-minded interests of some lawyers poking church institutions to trigger as much court disputes as possible.
As the autumn region election are coming, the politicians brings the card of so called church restitution again, knowing well that churches – according to public pools – do not enjoy a lot of popularity in the Czech Republic. This point also mentioned on Sunday TV discussion the Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, saying that he considers the South Bohemia Region's proposal to tax the financial compensation churches get from the state for the property stolen by communist regime and not returned to them within restitution as an effort to score political points. As in 2013 (two thousand thirteen) the Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic stated the church restitution complies the Czech Constitution, we do not expect the current initiative for church restitution taxation will succeed.
To us – The Roman Catholic Church – the church restitutions has been definitely solved. In spite of turning back into “politicking” and “political campaign” against church property that we experienced during and after passing the Church Property Restitution Law (428/2012), we are looking forward establishing a new chapter in church and government relations, enabling us to pursue our true task of developing the spiritual dimension of society, caring for the elderly and the dying, building schools and to operate freely within the society.
+Dominik Cardenal Duka