The Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Czech Republic will receive US$1.5 million annually for the next 30 years, a total of $45 million, under a pact signed by church leaders and Prime Minister Petr Necas on February 22, 2013, in Prague.
Seventh-day Adventist pastor Mikulás Pavlík, Czecho-Slovakian Union Conference president, was one of several officials of religious organizations that signed an individual agreement with Necas.
“Signing the Treaty Settlement means the legal process is complete, and we now have redressed the property damage committed by the Communist regime against the Seventh-day Adventist Church," Pavlík said.
The payments are meant to compensate the Church for property seized by the former Communist regime in 1948. That regime collapsed in the famous “Velvet Revolution” of 1989.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church is among 17 religious organizations – including Jewish, Protestant and Roman Catholic communities – that are sharing in a $3.1 billion settlement from the government.
Prime Minister Necas, according to media reports, called the settlement “an act of justice” following a restitution plan approved by the Czech parliament in 2012.
"By signing these agreements, we complete steps to remedy the property damage the Communists caused,” Necas said at the ceremony. “In the early nineties we as a state came to restitution as the most efficient and just means to achieve the transformation of our economy. The church had been excluded, but today we have completed this act of justice.”
Necas, who also leads the nation’s Civic Democratic Party, said the deal “laid new, modern ground” for relations between state and church. Under Communist rule, for example, Roman Catholic priests’ salaries were paid by the state, which maintained strict control over that church’s operations. The Seventh-day Adventist Church refused state payments until 2008, when accepting such money for overall purposes, but not salaries, became a prerequisite for receiving property settlements.
Adventist officials in Prague said the church lost property worth $52.1 million when the Communist regime seized its holdings in 1952. The Czech republic, church officials said, is the last formerly Communist nation to reach a settlement of this kind with religious organizations.
Opposition Social Democrats tried to block the arrangement, seeking a court injunction hours before the individual agreements were signed. Though not granting an injunction, the state constitutional court is expected to issue a ruling on the Social Democrats’ complaint, media reports indicate.
J. P. Lorenz, a pastor, organized the first Seventh-day Adventist congregation in Prague in 1902. A union conference was organized in the area in 1919, according to the Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia.
—with reporting from Tomás Kábrt of the Czech-Slovak Union in Prague