Political Crisis in Romania Threatens the Catholic Minority 

by Martin Barillas Thursday, October 08, 2009

Contact: Father Chris Terhes
President, Romanian Greek-Catholic Association
cterhes@gmail.com • +1-714-746-0623

Political Crisis in Romania Threatens the Catholic Minority

The current political crisis in Romania is amplified by the Orthodox Church, the majority religious group in the country, which lobbies for a law to keep properties taken from Eastern Rite Catholics, who are a religious minority.

Los Angeles, CA/ImpactWire/October 9, 2009 – Religious tensions have amplified the current national political crisis in Romania. With the collapse of the country’s governing coalition last week and the presidential election less than two months away, the Orthodox Church is pushing for members of the Romanian Parliament to pass a law that would grant the Orthodox Church permanent ownership of churches and other properties that were seized from the Greek-Catholic Church by the communist regime in 1948.

The Romanian Orthodox Church released a political statement on September 29 proposing that the Greek-Catholic properties should be split between the two Churches “based on the current number of believers that each Church has within the local community.”

In response, the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church says that the Orthodox Patriarchy’s statement “incites religious hatred and supports the process of cultural and religious cleansing that the Greek-Catholic minority is facing in Romania.”

“The current number of believers, to which the Orthodox Patriarchy is referring in the statement, is the result of 40 years of communist persecution against the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church, followed by 20 years in which the Greek-Catholic community is faced with a process of cultural and religious cleansing in Romania,” the Greek-Catholic Church explains.

In 1948, the communist regime in Romania abolished the Greek-Catholic Church and confiscated all of its properties, handing most of them over to the Orthodox Church. The communist regime also forced 1.5 million Greek-Catholics to join the Orthodox Church, and Greek-Catholics who refused were arrested and persecuted.

Since the 1989 fall of communism in Romania, the Greek-Catholic Church has tried to regain its properties, but the Orthodox Church refuses to return them to the rightful owners. In many cases, the Orthodox Patriarchy would rather destroy the Greek-Catholic churches, than returning them to the Greek-Catholics. Also, over the last 20 years, the Orthodox Church has harassed and intimidated Greek-Catholics with defamatory speeches, death threats, and physical abuse in an attempt to eradicate this religious minority from Romania.

Even though the Greek-Catholic Church wants its properties back, since 1989 it has been open to a practical solution which would allow the Orthodox communities use of its restituted churches if the Orthodox have no place to worship. However, the Orthodox Patriarchy rejects this peaceful proposal.

As a result, many Greek-Catholic communities must conduct their religious services either outdoors in the streets or in garages, private homes and other improper places. Worse yet, many Greek-Catholics are afraid to claim their religious affiliation openly.

“We ask the Romanian politicians not to make the violation of the right of property and the violation of religious freedom a platform during the presidential election,” the Greek-Catholic Church pleads in its release.

The Orthodox Church has very close connections with Romanian politicians and in many cases Orthodox priests give sermons “advising” their congregations which way to vote.

Father Chris Terhes, president of the U.S.-based Romanian Greek-Catholic Association, said, “Already hundreds of thousands of Greek-Catholics in Romania are deprived of their human right to worship freely and fearlessly.”

“If Romanian politicians pass the bill to let the Romanian Orthodox Church keep Greek-Catholic properties, it will threaten the entire concept of democracy in Romania. If a majority, any majority, in exchange for votes, can lobby for laws that violate the rights or take properties from a minority, then the rights and liberties of every person are in jeopardy,” concludes Fr. Terhes.

The translation in english of the official statement made by the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church can be accessed here: Romanian Greek-Catholic Church responds to the intention of the Orthodox Church to lobby for legalization of the cultural and religious cleansing in Romania.

The Greek-Catholics are a religious minority in Romania, and the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church is one of the Eastern Rite Churches in communion with the Pope. The Greek-Catholic Church was the only Church abolished by the communist regime in Romania.

0    submitted by Martin Barillas
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