Religious Committee Official Speaks About Restitution Of Religious Property
Mykola Novychenko, first deputy head of Ukraine’s National Committee on Religious Matters, on 25 September 2002 commented on a plan worked out by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine to combat the negative consequences of the totalitarian policies of the former Soviet Union regarding religion and the restoration of the violated rights of churches and religious organizations. Novychenko stressed that the inter-departmental commission, which was established at the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, will prepare proposals to restore the rights of churches and religious organizations.
“The return of property to religious organizations is the central issue. It is a controversial and complicated problem,” said Novychenko. According to him, the working committees will identify concrete objects that have to be returned, as well as the deadline for their transfer. Novychenko assured that the interests and proposals of churches will be of primary importance. In addition, the state administration in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv and Crimean Sevastopol will analyze the situation in every region and compile lists of objects that were once confiscated from churches. The lists will include not only religious buildings and places of worship, but also other buildings that belonged to churches in the past, such as priests’ houses, monastery premises, church schools and former religious educational institutions. “After the initial stage, the state program on the return of property to religious organizations will be worked out. However, there is a problem here. The data supplied by the local authorities differ drastically from the information submitted by religious organizations. Besides, there are also objects, for instance, rebuilt church buildings, which do not resemble the ones that used to belong to churches in the past. Therefore, it might take about 5 years to resolve the problem entirely,” said Novychenko. “The return of property to churches is a matter of state image, because the restoration of justice is not possible without the return of property,” Novychenko added.