August 06, 2003

Religious persecution, Romanian style

This is a rough translation of the vital parts of a press release from a national Romanian Byzantine Catholic organization.

They can be reached here

Asociatia Generala a Romanilor Uniti
Greco-Catolici AGRU Bucuresti
Str. Bogdan Voda Nr.6 S1. Bucuresti
Tel/fax.(021) 224 82 73

Certez, Romania - Byzantine Catholics, who prior to the communist regime's illegalization of the Church used to comprise the entire population of the town, have become victims of a campaign of local government harassment and terror by masked hoodlums as they try to recover from decades of persecution.

Rather than go through a long court battle to recover their own confiscated church, the local byzantine catholics decided to just build a new one in order not to cause controversy. This idealistic attempt to keep the peace has turned out to be quite naive. After an involved court battle the appeals court finally decided (1347/R/2002) in favor of the local byzantine catholics. This decision should have closed the matter as it is irrevocable and final but that was only the start of the story.

Decision in hand, the local byzantine catholics applied to have the county emit a land title. The county prefect (the highest executive official in the county) refuses to permit it in blatant disregard of the law and the courts.

The byzantine catholics, having already purchased construction materials, decided to push forward. The next response was more sinister. Masked men kidnapped Fr. Romulus Pop and two of his curators, Vasile Ciorba and Vasile Fedorca, drove them more than 60km away to a meeting with the county police commandant who berated and threatened them (including death threats) if they went forward with church construction.

---end translation---

Romania's the land of my birth. It's one that I love very much. It is trying to become a modern, free society but obviously not everybody's with the program. In a free society that has a rule of law, officials that refuse to carry out judicial decisions end up with troops at their door and in jail themselves if they don't give it up.

For foreigners looking to invest in Romania, byzantine catholics are the proverbial canary in the coal mine. If they can't get fair treatment in a jurisdiction, it is unlikely that foreigners will either. It's a sad commentary on Ion Illiescu's 3rd term as head of the country that local officials are still able to violate the law with impunity.

Posted by TMLutas at August 6, 2003 04:32 PM