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Romania Table of Contents



Church-State Relations

Although officially atheistic, the state in 1989 recognized and financially supported sixteen different religious groups. These groups and the scope of their activity were controlled by the Department of Cults and were subject to strict regulations. Churches could not engage in any religious activity outside officially designated religious buildings. This restriction prohibited open-air services, community work, pilgrimages, and evangelization. Religious education for young people was expressly forbidden, and religious classes in general were prohibited. Severe restrictions limited the printing and import of bibles and other religious books and materials, and their distribution was treated as a criminal offense. The state recognized no religious holidays and often asked for "voluntary labor" on important holidays in an apparent effort to reduce church attendance and erode religious influence.

After 1984, under the guise of urban renewal, many churches of all denominations in and around Bucharest, including churches with unique spiritual and historical importance, were demolished by government orders. By 1988 approximately twenty-five had been razed, and sixty or seventy more were scheduled for destruction. Some of the buildings leveled were more than 300 years old, and many were classified as architectural monuments. Along with them, valuable icons and works of art were destroyed. Protests by congregation members, leading intellectuals, and Western governments failed to halt the demolition.

Data as of July 1989