Who Owns St. Vitus?

Recently, an ownership dispute has been the talk of the town in Prague, though it's been going on for the last fourteen years. The object in question is Prague's historic St. Vitus Cathedral, located in the middle of the Prague Castle grounds. Historically, the cathedral used to belong to the Catholic Church, until the Communist government assumed ownership of the cathedral in 1950. And since the fall of communism, the Catholic Church has been trying to reclaim the building, now in the hands of the current government and protected as a cultural and tourist landmark of great importance to the city.

The debate has raged on, despite the Czech supreme court awarding ownership of the cathedral to the government in January. Should the Church have the right to reclaim its illegally-taken property, or should the city have the right to protect this important cultural site and leave it open to visitors (for a price, of course)? A possible solution has been proposed by former Czech President Vaclev Havel. Havel has suggested a type of joint custody, in which a group composed of government and Christian representatives would gain ownership of the cathedral. The government representatives would include the president, prime minister, and major of Prague, and the church would be represented by the Archbishop of Prague and two other bishops.

We will have to wait and see if the government and the Church agree to this solution, though at the moment the most important objective - keeping the cathedral preserved and open to visitors - has still been met.


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