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MADRID (AP) — The body representing Spain’s Catholic bishops has acknowledged that nearly 1,000 real estate properties across the country are registered as Church possessions despite no proof of ownership or clear ownership of others.

The Catholic Church will now begin a process of “regularizing” these properties, according to a joint statement issued Monday by the Spanish Episcopal Conference and the Ministry of the Spanish Presidency, which manages religious affairs in the southern European country. .

Dioceses and individual parishes have for years used their influence in local registers and a legal reform undertaken by a conservative administration to list in official registers as their property churches and adjoining premises, educational institutions, monasteries , residential buildings, as well as empty lots.

Using a new law passed in 2017, the left-center coalition government led by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has listed nearly 35,000 properties registered by the Catholic Church between 1998 and 2015, including some 20,000 places of worship and nearly 15,000 non-religious installations.

Negotiations between the two parties led to the creation of a joint commission to process the list, which resulted in 965 buildings which, according to the episcopal conference, were registered “in error”.

Monday’s announcement follows a meeting between Sánchez and the head of the Spanish bishops, Cardinal Juan José Omella.

Relations between the two sides became strained under Sánchez’s government over taxation, public funding of the church, and the Catholic hierarchy’s handling of sexual abuse by clerics.

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