Romanian Government seizes Catholic and evangelical church properties
What’s at Stake:
- The right to freedom of religion and church autonomy
- The right to maintain control over church property
- The right to a fair trial
Although the Greek-Catholic Church has been present in Romania since 1687, it has a history of being mistreated by national authorities. Other non-Orthodox churches have faced a similar fate. Over the years, many parishes have seen their properties confiscated and, in some cases, members of their church have not been allowed to visit local cemeteries. This mistreatment has hindered the members of these churches from worshipping freely, denying them the right to freedom of religion.
Between 1999 and 2012, the Romanian Government confiscated the church properties of a number of non-Orthodox church parishes, making their ability to worship freely almost impossible. The parish of Remeti pe Somes, a Greek-Catholic parish with 58 families, is just one example. The parish had held its services in a local church building for several years – a building that was paid for by its members’ donations. Local government authorities seized the building, telling members of the parish that they could no longer use their church building as it was being turned into state property. The authorities even took agricultural land connected to the parish. This put further strain on the congregation, because earnings from working this land were used to pay church staff.
Members of the parish struggled to find ways to meet together and were severely hindered in their ability to live out their faith as a church community. When they requested that the land be returned, they were told that this was impossible, since it had been given to the Romanian Orthodox church instead. The authorities didn’t even allow the church to properly challenge the seizure in court, denying it the right to a fair trial.
But the parish of Remeti pe Somes wasn’t the only church community to suffer from the government’s unfair and heavy-handed approach. A school building used by Petreşti, the evangelical parish of the Archdiocese of Sebeş, was confiscated and never returned. This made it impossible for the parish to continue its activities in the building. Yet again, the government failed to provide any legal option to address the matter. The Greek Catholic parish of Şura Micǎ also found itself in an ongoing struggle with the government after some of its property was seized. One of the local court’s rulings returned the property to them, only for it to be taken away again at a further court appeal.
This treatment denies these parishes and their members of fundamental rights, which is why Alliance Defending Freedom is standing with them as they take their grievances to the European Court of Human Rights. Alliance Defending Freedom is working with the parish of Remeti pe Somes in pursuing restoration of their properties and Senior Legal Counsel, Roger Kiska, is representing the churches before the European Court of Human Rights.
Our Role in the Case
Alliance Defending Freedom has taken these discriminatory cases before the European Court of Human Rights and is advocating that the church properties and congregations’ ability to worship freely be restored.