Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Catholic Church to launch investment fund

The Czech Roman Catholic Church plans to deposit a part of the money that it will get as financial compensation for its unreturned property in an investment fund, Czech Bishops' Conference general secretary Tomas Holub told yesterday's issue of daily Hospodarske noviny (HN).

Under the property settlement between the churches and the state that took effect in January, nationalised property worth 75 billion crowns will be returned to the churches along with financial compensation of 59 billion crowns plus inflation in the next 30 years.

The Catholic Church is to receive the biggest part of the money, 47.2 billion crowns.

Holub said the church is negotiating with three banks about the creation of the investment fund that would probably be launched in mid-2014.

There would be hundreds of millions of crowns in the fund and individual dioceses would decide themselves how much they would deposit, he said.

Holub told the paper that dioceses or religious orders would use the profits from the fund for investments for schools, hospices, cultural heritage reconstruction - or salaries, as the state contributions from which priests are paid would gradually be decreasing.

In connection with the planned revenues in form of the compensation, Czech bishops have approved stricter rules for dealing with property, Holub said.

All transactions over 50,000 crowns now must be approved by the given diocese and transactions over 40 million crowns must be approved by the bishops.

Holub said dioceses would have to submit their business plans to make it clear how they were going to administer their property. An independent analytical group comprising external experts would assess the business plans every year, he added.

Holub told HN the churches might receive a part of the financial compensation in the form of state bonds. Negotiations with the Finance Ministry are underway, he said.

The Social Democrats (CSSD) who won the recent general election would like to reduce the compensation paid by the state to the churches and to exempt Prague Castle from the restitution. Representatives of the CSSD and the churches are to meet on Thursday.

However, church representatives indicated that they would not accept any reduction of the compensation.

"I don't expect the Catholic or any other church to accept the lowering of the compensation. However, the use of these finances may be agreed on," daily Pravo quotes Tomas Kraus, secretary to the Czech Federation of Jewish Communities, as saying.

"The law has taken effect, the agreements, too, and so it would not be good to revise them for various reasons," Kraus said, referring to the agreement between the state and the churches and the church restitution law.

Milan Badal, secretary to Prague Archbishop Dominik Duka, told Pravo that the Catholic Church has offered several concessions, for example to receive state bonds rather than cash.

Badal, too, said the purposes for which the financial compensation would be used may be clearly defined.

"We are willing to use nearly all the money for charity projects and this should be the real subject of the discussion and of the cooperation," Badal told Pravo.

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