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Church and State Relations under the Communist Regime.

The Case of Romania

Ioan-Marius Bucur
Universitatea Babe-Bolyai din Cluj-Napoca

Born on the 12 June 1963 in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, Ioan-Marius Bucur graduated the Faculty of History and Philosophy at Babe-Bolyai University in 1986. In 2003 he received his Ph.D. in History with a thesis on The History of Greek-Catholic Church in Romania between 1945 and 1953. His main areas of interest are church history in the 20th century and history of Romanian political parties in the interwar period. For the moment, he teaches courses on this two topics at Babe-Bolyai University for both undergraduate and graduate students.

The communist regimes imposed by the Soviets in several states in central eastern Europe after the Second World War put into practice religious policies which, according to some interpretations, were influenced both by the Marxist ideology and by the osmosis between religion and nationalism characteristic for the geographical area. Taking these countries as a starting point, Pedro Ramet identifies six factors which influenced religious policies: the size of the religious denominations in the confessional structure of the specific country; the extent to which a religious cult was willing to submit to the rules of the political power and its amenability to infiltration by secret police; the connections with a religious authority abroad; the attitude adopted during the Second World War; the populations ethnical configuration, and the dominant political culture, marked either by anticlericalism or by religious tolerance 1.

Church and State Relations under the Communist Regime

Religion, Politics and Gender


The pattern of analysis suggested by Ramet can be useful in evaluating the religious policy promoted after 6 March 1945 by the National Democratic Front, a left-wing coalition inspired by the Soviets and lead by Petru Groza. Confronted with a legitimacy crisis at home and acknowledged only by the Soviets abroad, this government strove to gain support from the cults in exchange for being acknowledged and exempted by the government from the nationalisation of their landed properties in the period preceding the agrarian reform. Likewise, the government allowed the cults charity institutions to continue their activity; it allowed religious instruction to continue in public schools, and it acknowledged certain religious denominations, which had previously been forbidden. At the same time, the Groza government took up a deferential attitude towards the Orthodox Church attended by most Romanians 2. Along with declarations favourable to the new regime, the government requested that the Romanian Orthodox Church hierarchs re-establish brotherly relationships with the Russian Orthodox Church as soon as possible. The latter, sustained by the Kremlin, tried to revive the myth of the third Rome, within the new post-war geopolitical framework 3. Hoping to exert some influence upon the Orthodox clergy and on the hierarchys behaviour, the government resorted to other mobilizing and propaganda-oriented organizations, such as the Association for strengthening the relationships with the Soviet Union(ARLUS), a vehicle for pro-Russian propaganda. Moreover, within this association a religious department was set up, having as its members Romanian Orthodox hierarchs and personalities belonging to other denominations. Another organization, the Union of Democratic Priests, was set up as a religious front organization and was meant to bring together all appointed members of the acknowledged denominations, with the aim ensuring their collaboration with the National Democratic Front government in the field of social achievements. However, the Union of Democrat Priests was not very successful among the clergy, although it enjoyed significant subventions and its leaders were appointed heads of the Ministry of Cults. In order to enhance its influence upon churches, the Groza government also tried to take advantage of the jurisdictional elements present, to a certain extent, in the religious legislation adopted during the inter-war period, especially Law of Cults of 1928. It altered the law, which established the functioning of the Ministry of Cults in order to increase the prerogatives of supervision, guidance, management and control over the activities of the churches, and it punished priests with ambiguous opinions and/or attitudes towards the new regime. In P. Grozas opinion, partnership between state and church was not possible until the latter emerged from its traditionalism 4. Following the same pattern of collaboration with all churches, the Groza government adopted a friendly attitude towards the Catholic Church too. Within the Ministry of Cults a Department for the Catholic cult was set up and the Concordats stipulations, signed in 1927 and ratified in 1929, were generally respected 5. The different ethnic affiliations of the Catholic faithful Romanian, Hungarian, German, Ruthenian, and Armenian pertaining to the three rites (Greek, Latin and Armenian) generated difficulties for the government as it had committed itself to promoting a new policy towards the ethnic minorities 6.
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The consolidation of the new regime after the electoral success in November 1946 gained through fraud and violence and after signing the Peace Treaty in February 1947 had major consequences as far as the relations between state and church were concerned. During the first month of the year 1947, the government decided to restrict the autonomy of the cults even more. In order to do so, the Ministry of Cults drew up two laws. The first one modified several articles of the law on the Orthodox Church organisation, allowing the government to monitor the diocesan assemblies, which elected the Orthodox Church bishops, metropolitan bishops and the Patriarch 7. The second one regulated retirement of all members of the religious hierarchies, providing the government the legal excuse for removing the bishops and metropolitan bishops reluctant to collaborate 8. The communist leaders were not shy to admit that the new judicial regulations were politically motivated 9. At the same time, the government increased its control over private education institutions and compelled them to use Communism-oriented textbooks while the passive opposition of the teaching staff with regard to these changes was severely criticised by the authorities 10. The complete take over of the political power, after King Mihais forced abdication and the proclamation of the Peoples Republic on 30 December 1947, allowed the Communist Party to undertake some action regarding Romanias transformation in compliance with the Soviet model, on the basis of Stalinist norms and practices. The objectives of the new religious policy were pointed out by the Communist leader Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej during the first congress of the Romanian Labour Party held in February 1948 11. In his speech, the communist leader stated that the Vatican had joined the pro-imperialist reactionary camp, and he also suggested that both the Orthodox Church clergy and the Catholic Church believers take a stand against the Catholic clergys hostility 12. Therefore, having applied the Soviet model to local conditions, the Communist regime in Bucharest focused its efforts on the following actions: speeding up the Orthodox Churchs integration into the new regime; suppressing the Romanian United Church by bringing back its clergy and believers to the Orthodox Church an action which enjoyed the support of several Orthodox high priests; identifying and encouraging the Roman-Catholic clergy and believers willing to set up a national Catholic Church apart from the Holy See. The strategy of the communist regime in Bucharest to suppress the Romanian United Church underwent several stages, to a great extent influenced by the Ukrainian experience 13. First of all, the communist regime proceeded at denouncing the Concordat 14. Some of the Concordats stipulations had become unsteady after the adoption of the new Constitution, which in art. 27 established the premises of nationalisation of private education, endorsing the state monopoly upon education, which allowed the religious cults to maintain schools exclusively for clerical staff training purposes. The next step involved adopting several resolutions, which attempted to diminish the presence of all religious cults in the public area 15. The endorsement of the new law of cults on 4 August 1948 was the final step in suppressing the cults freedom. As has been noticed in several studies, the law, far from implementing the separation between church and state, rather reflects the states concern to exert an excessive and severe control over the church. The law contained several articles, which directly aimed at the Catholic Church 16.
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At the beginning of September the process of integrating the Greek-Catholic communities into the Orthodox Church began, and it continued, as a result of the pressure exerted by the authorities, until the complete return of the Greek-Catholic brethren to the traditional church was celebrated on 21 October in Alba Iulia in the presence of Patriarch Justinian, other Orthodox high priests, a part of the former Greek-Catholic clergy, and a crowd brought there to complete the scenery 17. During the months of September and October of the same year, after intense discussions with Monsignor OHara, the Catholic bishops drew up the draft-statute of the Catholic cult (of Latin and Eastern rite) in Romania which on 28 October was submitted for approval to the Ministry of Cults. The authorities however turned down the draft as, on one hand, it disregarded the stipulations of the law of cults and, on the other hand, it made reference to the Catholic Church of Eastern rite (the United Church), which no longer existed as a result of the return of its clergy and believers to the Orthodox Church. Actually, on 27 and 28 October the Greek-Catholic bishops and approximately 600 canons, rectors and priests were arrested 18. Since in the following period none of the Greek-Catholic bishops abjured, they were transferred, together with other priests and several Roman-Catholic bishops and priests, to the prison of Sighet, a town in northern Romania situated near the border with the Soviet Union 19. The suppression of the Romanian Greek- Catholic Church was carried out in the context of Romanias sovietization. The communist regime, taking advantage of the division between the Catholic and Orthodox believers, carried out a strategy meant to incorporate the GreekCatholic believers into the Orthodox Church. But as Andrea Ricardi pertinently observed, the repression aimed at the Greek-Catholic believers in Western Ukraine, sub-Carpathian Russia, Romania and Slovakia was not just another incident in the Orthodox-Catholic conflict Greek-Catholicism was considered an instrument of Romes proselytising in the Orthodox sphere of influence but it merely meant a new chapter in a religious policy which aimed at all Catholic communities in Eastern-Central Europe 20. The existence after 1948 of a clandestine Greek-Catholic Church was a fact confirmed by reports of different state institutions. Patriarch Justinians efforts to establish a modus vivendi with the Communist regime were to some extent successful. In exchange for the concessions obtained, Patriarch Justinian supported the domestic and foreign policy of the communist regime. On 27 February 1949, he sent a pastoral letter The Orthodox Church on Religious Freedom, in which he praised the religious policy promoted by the authorities and advised the priests to be loyal citizens towards the regime 21. As far as the Bucharest Patriarchates activity abroad is concerned, at the end of the 1940s and in the 1950s, it conformed to the requirements of communist propaganda in the context of the Cold War 22. It must be added that some of the topics debated in the official discourse of the Orthodox Church, such as the loyalty to the regime and the struggle for peace, were considered touchstones for the discourse of all acknowledged cults on the virtue of the 1948 law. Despite Justinians attitude and the fact that it was the church of most Romanians, the Orthodox Church was not entirely protected against oppression, as a large number of priests were taken into custody and several thousands of monks and nuns were forced to leave the monastic establishments 23.
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In the first period of 1949, within the background of the deterioration of the East-West relationships, the communist regime in Romania adopted new measures in order to restrain the Roman Catholic Churchs public engagement and autonomy and to impose an ecclesiastic authority obedient to it. This entire action was supported by a violent press campaign against the Holy See. In June 1949 the last two Roman-Catholic bishops acknowledged by the authorities, Marton Aron and Anton Durcovici, were arrested. Simultaneously with their manoeuvre to annihilate the presence of the Roman-Catholic bishops, the authorities attempted to identify, at the lower levels, respectively among the vicars and the canons, people willing to collaborate with the regime. At the initiative and with the support of the authorities a conference of the RomanCatholic priests and laymen willing to collaborate with the government in view of an improvement of the relationships between the Roman-Catholic Church and the communist state, was held on 27 April 1950. The participants decided to set up a Catholic Action Committee and a commission meant to work out a draft-statute for RomanCatholic Church 24. In the same time, the government resorted to another co-optation strategy, by reviving, in an independent manner from the Catholic hierarchy, the so-called Transylvanian Catholic Status, an old institution that had emerged within the framework of the turmoil caused by the Reform in Transylvania. The Congress for setting up the Status was held on 15 March, and the attempt to organise the Status was indicated in the resolution adopted therewith as being in compliance with the laws of the Peoples Republic 25. Taking into consideration the role that the Bucharest Nunciature played in the discussions on the adoption of the Roman-Catholic Church statute as well as the support of the clandestine Greek-Catholic Church, the reports from the Securitate recommended, as early as April 1949, the closure of the Nunciature of Bucharest 26. Following a scenario also present in other communist states, the Bucharest regime organised a Nunciature trial, held between 28-30 June 1950 at the Martial Court in Bucharest. As a result of the so-called disclosures made during the trial, on July 4, 1950, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs requested the Nunciature members to leave Romania within the next three days 27. During the autumn of 1951, the communist regime in Bucharest revealed the discovery of a new espionage network working for the Vatican, and the United States. The charges brought proof that the regime possessed certain data with regard to the development of a clandestine Catholic hierarchy in Romania, to the financial support the Nunciature offered to the Greek-Catholic priests who did not return to the Orthodox Church, to the involvement of Western diplomats, mostly French and Italian, in gathering and transmitting information to the Vatican regarding the situation of the Catholic Church in Romania 28. The trials organised against the Catholic faithful in Romania, at the end of the 1940s and at the outset of the 1950s, were similar to actions undertaken in Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria. Following the Soviet pattern of show-trials, these were meant to account for, within the framework of the class struggle and the East-West conflict, the actions undertaken against the Catholic Church and especially for the necessity of setting up a national Catholic church completely separated from the Holy See. The trag-

Church and State Relations under the Communist Regime

Religion, Politics and Gender


ic situation of the Catholic communities in Romania brought Pius XII to send on 27 March 1952 an evangelical letter Ai venerabili Fratelli e diletti Figli dell Episcopato, del clero e del popolo della Romania [To the venerable brothers and beloved children of the episcopacy, clergy and people of Romania] 29. In this letter Pius XII evoked the persecutions whose victim was the Catholic Church, the bishops imprisonment, the suppression of the Catholic church of eastern rite, the abolition of confessional education, the suppression of religious canons and congregations, the prohibition of the Catholic press. The Pope advised the believers not to abandon the Catholic faith, promising them the spiritual solidarity of the entire Catholic world. After Stalins death, the ideological softening promoted by Moscow had different consequences within the communist bloc. In Romania, the communist government adopted several dtente measures with regard to religious policy, among which amnesty for certain members of the religious cults. The Catholic bishops of Latin and Eastern rite who survived the investigations and imprisonment were set free during the years 1954-1955, but they were forced to observe compulsory residence. The three Greek-Catholic bishops who survived Iuliu Hossu, Ioan Balan and Alexandru Rusu were taken to the Curtea de Arges

Fig. 1 Iuliu Hossu, Bishop of Cluj-Gherla, the first Romanian cardinal of the Greek-Catholic Church. 166 Ioan-Marius Bucur

Orthodox Monastery, where they were able to revive connections with priests and believers who remained Greek-Catholic, as they enjoyed limited freedoms. At the same time, the bishops sent up several petitions to the authorities requesting that their Church be acknowledged again. The Greek-Catholic bishops approach was supported by a vast petition movement, thousands of Greek-Catholic believers signing petitions in favour of the re-acknowledgement of their Church 30. The authorities responded by taking the bishops to different Orthodox monasteries. Regarded as the main instigator of the Greek-Catholic clergy, Bishop Alexandru Rusu was convicted to 25 years of prison. The authorities violent response to the request of the Greek-Catholics clergy and believers makes evident the fact that they did not intend to alter the confessional status quo established in 1948. With an eradicated and annihilated hierarchy, deprived of any official connection with the Holy See, lacking a judicial statute on which to base its relationships with the state, threatened by the collaboration of prelates, the Roman-Catholic church found itself in an extremely unfavourable situation. In the absence of a legitimate hierarchy, the authorities appointed Traian Iovanelli, Vicar general of the Bucharest Archiepiscopate, on 5 April 1951. Previously Iovinelli had been released from prison after signing a declaration of collaboration with the regime in view of granting legitimacy to the Roman-Catholic church. At the same time as Iovanelli, other prelates were promoted into the Catholic hierarchy, but the Holy See did not validate their appointment 31. After Iovanellis death, in 1961, the authorities appointed Franz Augustin head of the Bucharest archdiocese, however the Vatican did not recognise him 32. The only Roman-Catholic bishop acknowledged by the authorities and by the Holy See, Marton Aron, was released in January 1955. As a result of his intransigence, the bishop was eventually allowed to return to Alba Iulia. The very slight progress made by the Bucharest communist regime in improving the religious policy during the post-Stalinist period was due both to the events that occurred in the autumn of 1956 in Poland and Hungary, and to the persistence of an interpretative scheme according to which it was believed that the Holy See continued to have strong relations with the Western camp 33. The new wave of religious persecutions at the end of the 1950s was turned against the Orthodox Church too, this time being particularly aimed at the monasteries, which had become spiritual centres of the anticommunist resistance 34. Since the government was not at all pleased with the measures adopted by the Orthodox Church Synod in order to reduce the number of monasteries, in November 1959 a new resolution was passed which said that only the monks over 55 and the nuns over 50 could remain in the monasteries; the three monastic seminaries were also closed. Other restrictions on monasteries were introduced in 1966 35. The outlining of the principles of national communism in Romania at the beginning of the 1960s generated significant changes in the country. Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej managed to speculate on anti-Soviet feelings and thus he gained the peoples sympathy in the dispute with Moscow 36. This choice, made by Gheorghiu Dej and his collaborators within the framework of proclaiming a peaceful co-existence between the two systems, on one hand, and of the polycentrism within the communist world, on the other, was continued after
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1965 by Nicolae Ceauescu. Furthermore, out of the desire to remove Gheorghiu-Dejs barons a necessary step in order to consolidate his own control over the party Ceauescu favoured a certain internal liberalisation, which increased his popularity and created the image in the West that he was a reformer that made Moscow uncomfortable. The fact that Ceauescu receiving the representatives of all the cults in Romania on 29 February 1968 represented the climax of his strategy of revisionism with regard to religious policy and the Western diplomats took the new approach of the Romanian communists into consideration 37. The religious cults took advantage, to a certain extent, of the new domestic situation. In September 1961, the Romanian Orthodox Church resumed its direct contacts with the sister-churches outside the communist bloc, by participating in the pan-Orthodox Conference in Rhodes. The same year in December it joined the ecumenical movement by participating to the General Assembly of the Council of World Churches in New Delhi 38. Resuming dialogue with the Catholic Church proved however more difficult, due to theological, political and historical circumstances, as is shown by the refusal to send participants to the Vatican II Council 39. Only in 1967 did Cardinal Koenig, the archbishop of Vienna, one of the important actors of the Vatican Ostpolitik, visit Bucharest restoring the dialogue between the Holy See and the Romanian Orthodox Church. Nevertheless, in spite of the rather frequent encounters between the Romanian Orthodox Church and the Vatican delegations, ecumenical dialogue was hindered among other factors also because of the Greek-Catholic issue, as the Orthodox Church hierarchs were against the re-acknowledgement of the Greek-Catholic cult 40. As a matter of fact, the Orthodox hierarchs in declarations made at home reiterated this position taken abroad, testimony of an extremely biased interpretation of the events occurring in the autumn of the year 1948. As regards the dialogue with the Bucharest communist regime the papal diplomats were aware of the existence of numerous difficulties. The regimes attempt to set up a national Roman-Catholic Church, separated from the Holy See, was abandoned in the mid-50s, which allowed, after 1963, the promotion of a limited dtente towards the RomanCatholic Church 41. This relative tolerance encouraged the Holy See to insist on the approaches aiming at renegotiating the position of the Roman-Catholic church. In 1965, Petru Plea was the bishop acknowledged by the Church, but the government refused to acknowledge him, claiming that there were just two dioceses for the Latin rite, in Bucharest and Alba Iulia. The regimes attitude softened to a certain extent a few years later, more precisely in 1972, when the Department of Cults allowed the recognition of mons. Antal Jakob as auxiliary bishop of the Alba Iulia diocese, whose head was at the time mons. Marton Aron 42. This might have been one of the few positive consequences for the Catholic communities in Romania brought about by the audience which Paul VI granted, on 24 January 24, to Prime Minister Ion Gheorghe Maurer and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Corneliu Manescu. The UNESCO conference held in Bucharest in December 1973 provided the Holy See representative, mons. Luigi Poggi, the chance to discuss with Dumitru Dogaru, the head of
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the Department of Cults. Progress was insignificant due to the suspicion and mistrust between both sides 43. The first round of official discussions carried out by mons. Poggi took place in January 1975, followed by two others, in October 1976 and July 1977. If the Greek-Catholic issue continued to be a taboo topic for both the authorities and the Orthodox Church, the plan jointly to work out a statute for the Latin rite of the Catholic Church was not less hampered. In turn, the goal of reestablishing the hierarchy of the Roman-Catholic dioceses was reached 44. During the 1980s the Roman-Catholic Church had to deal with various problems, among which the reduced number of priests, as a result of the 1982 restriction of the number of students in the two seminaries in Alba Iulia and Iai and of the lack of religious books. The rural systematisation project started during the last period of the 1980s, which involved the re-settling of thousands of peasants, regardless of ethnic affiliation, contributed to the increase in the feelings of insecurity of the minorities whose cultural and spiritual identity was already menaced 45. The Greek-Catholic believers were also in a dramatic situation, as, since the end of the year 1948, they had been forced to preserve their faith illegally. Towards the end of the 1960s, within the framework of the reformism promoted by Ceauescu, the GreekCatholic-oriented repressive policy was abandoned. As a result, the priests and the believers were no longer imprisoned for their religious beliefs, which in any case could not be publicly proclaimed, but their activity was monitored by the Securitate and by the Department of Cults. The authorities refusal to allow Bishop Iuliu Hossu to return to Cluj, the residence of his diocese, shows the limited character of the concessions made to the Greek-Catholic believers. Nevertheless, the old bishop did not lose hope. Starting with the year 1965, he sent up several petitions to the party and state authorities in which he requested the re-establishment of the Greek-Catholic Church. The bishops appointed secretly also supported his approach but the appeal to the communist authorities did not achieve a favourable outcome for the Greek-Catholic church 46. Although Paul VI elevated Iuliu Hossu among the cardinals in his consistory of 28 April 1969, Hossus name was only made public in the Pope consistory of 5 March 1973, almost three years after his death. Only a few months after this announcement, Paul VI granted Ceauescu an audience. However, the Catholic believers expectations were once again disappointed. The Holy See communiqu made public after the audience had finished spoke little of the Roman-Catholic situation, and the Greek-Catholic issue was not even mentioned. The consolidation of Ceauescus power within the Communist Party at the beginning of the 1970s provided the possibility of abandoning liberalism in favour of the implementation of its own political agenda characterised by neo-Stalinism, ideological orthodoxy and chauvinistic nationalism.47 But Ceauescus attempt to justify the regime by placing the stress on national history, which avoided mentioning the role of religion of Orthodoxy and Greek-Catholicism in educating the nation as well as his ideological campaign for the creation of the new man, promoted by means of the educational system, youth organisations and mass-media, diminished the credibility of his action. On the other hand, the interdependence between religion and ethnicity among the minorities in Romania made the chauvinism of the Ceauescu regime unacceptable from both a religious and a national perspective 48. On the background of the declining performance of the economy at the
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end of the 1970s and in the 1980s, of political apathy, of the lack of political legitimacy disguised by a shameless personality cult, of the repressive character of the regime, a religious revival emerged in the1980s. Moreover, the regime had to deal with the actions of individuals or organisations pleading for the observance of human rights. It was forced to do so by the Helsinki Process, as the signatories to the Final Agreement committed themselves to observing human rights, including religious freedom 49. On 29 June 1977 The Committee for Rescuing the Greek-Catholic Church was set up; two months later, it sent two petitions, the first to N. Ceauescu, the second to the participant states at the Conference in Belgrade. Three years later, the clandestine GreekCatholic bishops Ioan Dragomir, Alexandru Todea and Ioan Ploscariu sent another petition to the participant states at the Conference in Madrid, in which their requests to the Romanian government were the following: legal acknowledgement of the GreekCatholic cult; the restitution of its churches or the right to build new ones; official acknowledgement of its bishops; the right to own education institutions for training future priests 50. Concomitant with the acknowledgement of mons. Traian Crian, Greek-Catholic priest, as archbishop and with his appointment as secretary of the Congregation for the Cause of the Saints, on January 6, 1982, pope John Paul II strongly supported the cause of the Catholic Church of eastern rite in Romania, suppressed in 1948 51. The Popes declaration stirred the reaction of the Romanian Orthodox Church, which considered the popes intervention as interference in the domestic affairs of the Romanian church and contrary to ecumenical spirit. In September 1988, one of the best-known Romanian dissidents, Doina Cornea, sent a letter to John Paul II, in which she requested intervention in favour of the re-acknowledgement of the Greek-Catholic church. At the same time, the letter was a reaction to the authorities suggestion that the former Greek-Catholic believers be reintegrated into the Roman-Catholic Church. It is known for a fact that, up to 1978 the authorities prohibited priests from reading the Mass in Romanian, except in the churches in Bucharest and Moldavia, in order to stop the Greek-Catholic believers whose church had been outlawed from attending Roman-Catholic churches. This restriction was abandoned for several reasons. It is not to be excluded that the decision might have been part of the Bucharest governments strategy to counteract the criticisms of the communist authorities in Budapest as well of the dignitaries of the Hungarian Catholic Church. They feared the unequal treatment of the Hungarian minority, since the increase of the number of Romanians attending the Roman Catholic Church in Transylvania would have altered its specifically Hungarian character, in a context in which Germans, including the Catholics, preferred to emigrate to the Federal German Republic. On the other hand, the measure was also an implicit acknowledgement that the regime had failed in its attempt to abolish the Greek-Catholic Church 52. At the beginning of the year 1977 a group of six neo-Protestant pastors and laymen drew up and broadcast a document in which they denounced the violation of freedom of conscience in Romania, for which they were arrested the same year in April 53. A year later at the initiative of several neo-Protestant believers mainly Baptists a Committee for defending freedom of and conscience (ALRC) was set up; it addressed the authorities several times, but also turned to some international institutions requesting the observance of
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Fig. 2 Iuliu Hossu, Bishop of Cluj-Gherla, while at Caldarusani.

religious freedom in Romania. The active Committee members were arrested and investigated by the authorities under the claim that they belonged to an illegal party, transmitting secret information abroad. Other neo-Protestant militants were taken into custody for printing and distributing religious literature. Some analysts connect the sharpening of the persecution against the neo-Protestant believers to the increase of their number in the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s, especially among the Romanian population in Transylvania, which was regarded by the authorities as a threat to the unitary and indivisible character of the Romanian national state 54. At the end of the 1970s and in the 1980s critical voices in the Orthodox Church were raised against the regime and also against the bishops conformist behaviour. The best-known Romanian Orthodox dissident was the priest Gheorghe Calciu-Dumitreasa. In the autumn of the year 1977 he publicly protested against the demolition of an Orthodox church situated in the centre of Bucharest. In the spring of the next year he was removed from the Orthodox seminary in Bucharest because of his conferences entitled Seven words for youth. Father Calciu was not sensitive to the spiritual problems of the Orthodox believers only. Proving genuine ecumenical spirit, he publicly expressed his solidarity towards members of other denominations who militated for the observance of human rights. Furthermore, he did not hesitate to join, as spiritual adviser, the Free Trade Union set up by a group of workers and intellectuals in Turnu Severin 55. Arrested in March 1979 Calciu was convicted to ten years prison for promoting the fascist ideology, but he was released in
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August 1984, as a result of several protests abroad. After his release and due to the fact that the authorities continued to harass him he immigrated to the United States in August 1985. Father Calciu was not the only critical voice in the Orthodox Church; other Orthodox priests also made themselves heard in favour of freedom of faith 56. In the 1980s when Ceauescus Promethean efforts to organise the new civic centre in Bucharest caused the demolition of 18 churches, the only protest came from some cultural personalities, historians such as Razvan Teodorescu, Dinu C. Giurescu, Dionisie Pippidi and others 57. The statement according to which the contradictions of the religious policies promoted by the communism regime are relevant for understanding the dilemmas the communist heads has to deal with, is certainly correct in the Romanian case. The church was the only inspiring institution bearer of values, messages, behaviours and attitudes totally different from those promoted by the official ideology. Any potential threat to the ideological and political monopoly was regarded as a challenge, which the Romanian communist leaders were willing to take up and fight.



Ioan-Marius Bucur

Church and State Relations under the Communist Regime

Religion, Politics and Gender




Ioan-Marius Bucur

Report on Persecution of the Greek Catholic Church in Romania.

From: Open Society Archives, Budapest, Romanian Unit, Religion, Romanian Exile, 300/60/1/525.

Church and State Relations under the Communist Regime

Religion, Politics and Gender


Church and State Relations under the Communist Regime

Religion, Politics and Gender