PRAGUE (AP) — The Czech Republic's coalition government approved a multibillion dollar plan Wednesday to compensate Christian organizations for property seized by the former Communist regime.
Under the plan, which is expected to be approved by Parliament, Czech churches would get 56 percent of their former property now held by the state — estimated at 75 billion koruna ($3.7 billion) — and 59 billion koruna ($2.9 billion) in financial compensation paid to them over the next 30 years.
As part of the deal with the country's 17 churches, including Catholic and Protestant ones, the state will gradually end covering their expenses, such is priests' salaries, in 17 years.
The Communist regime, which seized power in 1948 in what was then Czechoslovakia, confiscated all the property owned by churches and persecuted many priests. Churches were then allowed to function only under the state's strict control and supervision.
After the 1989 Velvet Revolution led by Vaclav Havel, some churches and monasteries were returned, but the churches sought to get back other assets such is farm land, woods and various buildings.
Wednesday's decision by the Czech government came after its junior coalition party withdrew its objection to the plan. The Public Affairs party had previously said the state cannot afford to pay the money now because of Europe's economic crisis.
Without Public Affairs, the two other coalition members, who have long supported the property claims of religious groups, would not have enough votes in Parliament, to push the compensation through.
Prime Minister Petr Necas had threatened to dismiss the party's ministers if they blocked the proposal, which would have ended his three-party coalition that came to power after the 2010 election.