Two historic Prague buildings confiscated during communist rule are to be returned to the Catholic Church, after years of negotiations.
However the deal, to be signed on Thursday by President Miloš Zeman and the Cardinal-archbishop of Prague, Dominik Duka, will stipulate that the Church must drop any claims on St Vitus’ Cathedral.
The accord states that the former Benedictine St George's Convent and the Mocker Houses, which form part of the Prague Castle complex, will be handed over at the end of next January, the Czech News Agency reported.
In return the Church must restore the buildings and make them available for public use. It must also drop any further restitution claims on other properties in the Prague Castle complex, which includes the cathedral, which the Church jointly administers with the State but does not own.
Under a law approved in 2012, a total of CZK75 billion (£1.9bn) in assets seized by the communist regime, which was in power from 1948 to 1989, are being to handed back to the country’s Churches, which are also receiving CZK60 billion (£1.5bn) in lieu of properties not being returned. The Catholic Church will receive the majority of the total sum.
The convent, which was founded in 973 and dissolved by Emperor Joseph II in 1782, currently houses sixteenth- and seventeenth-century artwork from the Czech national collection. The Mocker houses are former canons' residences designed by architect Josef Mocker (1835-99), who also oversaw the completion of the cathedral.