Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Greek-Catholics Ask U.S. Secretary of State Clinton and European Union to Help End Religious Cleansing in Romania

Greek-Catholics continue to suffer severe discrimination, and cultural and religious cleansing in Romania, despite the fall of communism 20 years ago. 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.

Laguna Hills, CA (PRWEB) June 15, 2009 -- Father Mihai Grigor, the Greek-Catholic priest of Sapanta, Romania, sent a letter on June 3 to all embassies in Bucharestwhose countries are members of the European Union, requesting international support to save the Greek-Catholic church in Sapanta, which is currently being destroyed despite a court order.

The U.S. Department of State recognized persecution of the Greek-Catholic Church in Romania in two reports. Its Human Rights Report says, "Restrictions on freedom of religion continued to be a great concern due to the restrictive, discriminatory religion law. Property restitution remained slow, and the government failed to take action to return the Greek Catholic churches confiscated by the communist government in 1948. … There were numerous disputes over churches that the Orthodox Church did not return to the Greek Catholic Church despite court orders to do so." Thus, on May 13, 2009, Father Chris Terhes, president of the Romanian Greek-Catholic Association, released a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton requesting intervention with the Romanian government to end the persecution of Greek-Catholics, and restore human rights and religious liberties. In the letter, Fr. Terhes also addressed the ongoing destruction of the Greek-Catholic church in Sapanta.

In 1886, the Greek-Catholic church in Sapanta, Maramures County in Romania, was built in the neo-Gothic architectural style. As the U.S. government reports, in 1948 all churches and properties of the Greek-Catholic Church in Romania were confiscated by the Communist regime and given to the Romanian Orthodox Church. After the fall of Communism in 1989, the Romanian government refused to return these properties, so the Greek-Catholic Church had to file lawsuits to regain its consecrated land and church buildings. As the Netherlands Institute of Human Rights reports, many of the lawsuits are delayed unreasonably (Greek-Catholic Parish Sfântul Vasile Polona v. Romania).

Even when the Romanian Orthodox Church built a new church in Sapanta, it refused to return the Greek-Catholic church to its rightful owner. To this day, Fr. Grigor must celebrate Holy Mass for his parishioners in a storage shed, and it is painfully similar to religious persecution conducted by the former Communist regime against the Greek-Catholic community.

Furthermore, the Romanian Orthodox Church started destroying the Greek-Catholic church in Sapanta. Therefore, on April 23, 2009, the Sighetu Marmatiei Court of Justice, Maramures County, issued an order stating "…cease the demolition and construction works performed by the defendant (Sapanta Orthodox parish) for the Greek Catholic Church, owned by the plaintiff" (case no. 1132/307/2009). Yet Romanian Orthodox Church officials in Sapanta continue demolition of the Greek-Catholic church. The U.S. Human Rights Reportconfirms that "the demolition of the Greek-Catholic churches is taking place under various pretexts to shield them from restitution".

Thus, all relevant Romanian authorities, from the president to the prime minister to the chief of police and others, were notified many times in writing by the Greek-Catholic Parish in Sapanta about the violation of the court order, but no one is enforcing the law so the Greek-Catholic church in Sapanta continues to be destroyed.

Fr. Grigor said, "How can there be an independent justice system that works in Romania when government authorities are not applying the law for all citizens? This is not the first Greek-Catholic church to be demolished in Romania after the fall of the Communism."

Instead, greater threats are added to injury. Fr. Grigor said, "Representatives of the Romanian Orthodox Church threaten us even through the media. They say that nobody can stop them and they will take this situation into their own hands. In fact, one of our believers was threatened with death by an Orthodox representative. So, what should we believe? In what country and what union do we live?"

Just as he appealed to members of the European Union, Fr. Grigor explained, "We have reasons to believe that the destruction of the Greek-Catholic church in Sapanta, adjacent to the Merry Cemetery - a national landmark - is part of the cultural and religious cleansing that the Romanian government is perpetuating against the Greek-Catholic community and Greek-Catholic heritage."

Fr. Grigor's letter was sent along with documents proving that the church is a Greek-Catholic property, plus the court order translated into English, in addition to pictures showing the destructive cultural cleansing that the Greek-Catholics of Sapanta are suffering. For pictures and other details, please visit www.rogca.org.

The Romanian Greek-Catholic Association Inc. is a non-profit organization that supports the Greek-Catholic Church in Romania, assists the needy in Romania, and provides public awareness about the discrimination and persecution of the Greek-Catholic Church and Greek-Catholic believers in Romania.

Contact: Fr. Chris Terhes
Romanian Greek-Catholic Association

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