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Romania Table of Contents


The Roman Catholic Church

The next largest denomination, the Catholic Church in the late 1980s had about 3 million members, who belonged to two groups--the Eastern Rite Church, or Uniates, and the Latin Rite Church, or Roman Catholics. After 1948 the Department of Cults took the official position that "no religious community and none of its officials may have relations with religious communities abroad" and that "foreign religious cults may not exercise jurisdiction on Romanian territory." These regulations were designed to abolish papal authority over Catholics in Romania, and the Roman Catholic Church, although it was one of the sixteen recognized religions, lacked legal standing, as its organizational charter was never approved by the Department of Cults. The fact that most members of the Roman Catholic community were ethnic Hungarians probably contributed to the church's tenuous position. In 1948 Roman Catholics were deprived of three of five sees, leaving only two bishops to attend to the spiritual needs of the large membership. Subsequently all Catholic seminaries and charitable institutions were closed and newspapers and other publications affiliated with the church were suppressed. A few seminaries were reopened in 1952, but they were generally provided little support by the state. Although the priest-to-members ratio remained quite high in the 1980s, more than 60 percent of the active clergy were over 60 years of age, and owing to restrictions on enrollment in seminaries and theological colleges, their numbers were likely to decline.

After 1982 the church was allowed only fifteen junior and thirty senior seminarians per year. Moreover priests received minimal salaries and had no pension plans nor retirement homes. The state controlled all clerical appointments, which meant that many vacancies went unfilled, and effective priests were transferred from parish to parish, whereas those who proved most loyal to the regime received the highest salaries and key appointments. Seminaries, priests, and congregations were closely watched and infiltrated by the Securitate. Even in the 1980s, the danger of being interrogated, beaten, imprisoned, or even murdered was apparently very real, as most foreign visitors found priests and lay people alike too frightened to communicate with them. The government also restricted the amount of work that could be done to repair or enlarge church buildings.

In the early 1980s, there were indications that tensions between the Vatican and the regime over bishopric appointments were easing. Pope John Paul II successfully appointed an apostolic administrator for the Bucharest archbishopric. As of 1989, however, the Romanian government had not officially recognized the appointment, and the issues of inadequate church facilities, restrictions on the training of priests, and insufficient printing of religious materials remained unresolved.

Data as of July 1989