Heavy Protests against Re-nationalization of Church Property in Romania

2014. november 27., csütörtök

After the High Court of Ploiesti announced its ruling on 26 November 2014 about the legal status of the property of the Székely Mikó High School, and restored the building to the local government of the city, the Transylvanian Reformed Church District, lawful owner of the property, launched a wave of protest.

“From now on only the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg will remain as an opportunity, where the protest of the European Christianity, of the Reformed Church, cannot. remain unheard!”- said Béla Kató Bishop of the Church District expressing the only hope remained in the support and solidarity of the international community. 

The Presidium of the Transylvanian Reformed Church District has convened an extraordinary Assembly of the Church District with the issue of the re-nationalization of the Székely Mikó Reformed High School and its consequences on the agenda. The extraordinary assembly will take place on 29th of November, in Cluj/Kolozsvár.

Béla Kató, bishop of the Transylvanian Reformed Church District protested against the ruling in an official statement issued on 26th November. The Presidium of the Church District speaks about its broken loyalty and belief in the Rule-of-Law:

 “What hurts most that our whole community, approximately 700,000 members of the Reformed Church, was slapped in the face, was called deceitful, cheater, and demanding. This is first of all a moral issue for us, of much higher importance than the existence or non-existence of a mere building. This act of re-nationalization clearly sends the message worldwide, that in this country anything at any time can be accomplished.”

Leading Hungarian politicians in Romania and the deputy prime minister of Hungary protested against the decision as well. The court ruling is feared to serve as a precedent which opens the way for reviewing previous decisions of restitution of confiscated church property and thus it causes legal insecurity for the Reformed Church in Romania, a member church of World Communion of Reformed Churches and of the World Council of Churches. The ruling on suspended imprisonment of  the that time  legal representative of the Reformed Church can be assessed as an act of injustice and of intimidation against the Hungarian Reformed community in Romania.

The Hungarian government was shocked to learn that Attila Marko, a deputy of Romania’s ethnic Hungarian RMDSZ party, had been handed a suspended prison term in a case concerning the restitution of a property to the Reformed Church, Zsolt Semjen, Hungary’s deputy prime minister, told MTI on Wednesday.

 

Endeavours by the Romanian government to re-nationalise properties restituted to ecclesiastical organisations, including the Szekler Miko High School of Sfantu Gheorghe (Sepsiszentgyorgy) in Marko’s case, are unacceptable, Semjen said.

 

In its sentence, a court of appeals in Ploiesti upheld part of an earlier ruling under which the Reformed Church would be stripped of the ownership of the restituted property.

In 2012, a lower court ruled that the high school’s being restituted to the church by a three-strong body, including Marko, had been an “abuse (of authority) against public interest” and handed prison sentences to its members.

 

The first-instance ruling was met with an uproar by ethnic Hungarians in Romania, and has been seen as an attempt to strip churches of restituted properties.

The high school, similarly to a multitude of other church estates, was confiscated under Romania’s communist regime.

 

Taken from politics.hu (MTI) 

In a 2013 memorandum, the four traditional Hungarian Churches stated that they "consider that this current phenomenon in the Romanian administration of justice is a harsh assail against the Church, the Hungarian minority, the Rule of Law, and also an offense against the citizens of the European Union."

Following the re-nationalization of Székely Mikó Reformed High School in 2012, several church organizations, including the Church and Society Commission of the Conference of European Churches as well as the World Communion of Reformed Churches, expressed solidarity with the Transylvanian Reformed Church District and indeed all Hungarian churches in Romania facing the same discrimination. The letters also asserted outrage over the government's actions, most notably the three committee members' arrests.

 

Read the full statement of the Transylvanian Reformed Church District

The Székely-Mikó Reformed High School was founded in 1859, it is one of the seven traditional Hungarian Reformed school centers in Transylvania, Romania. Today it is attended by 1300 students, and employs approximately 100 teachers.

 

 In 1948 the school was confiscated from the Transylvanian Reformed Church District by the Communist State and it was nationalized. On 14 May 2002, the building of the High School was returned to the Reformed Church by a decree of the government of Romania.   This decision was sued and the Court declared it void on 29 July 2012, and, among others, sentenced Mr Tamás Marosán, lawyer and legal representative of the Reformed Church in 2002 for 3 years of incarceration for allegedly causing harm for the Romanian state. In 2012, widespread demonstrations took place against the decision in Transylvania.  

 

An appeal to higher court took place. The High Court of Ploiesti, Romania published its legally binding ruling on 26 November 2014. It rules that the legal status of the property is restored to the situation preceding 14 May 2002, thus the building of the High School is taken away from the Reformed Church and is returned to the Romanian state (local government of the city). The High Court also approved the ruling that among others Mr. Marosán committed legal offence and it approved also his sentence of incarceration, although it suspended it for a period of five years. 

Read more on the issue of Székely Mikó High School:

Updated: Battle Over Church-Owned Property Still Ongoing in Romania 

Nationwide Protest Against Buzau Court Decision Regarding Re-Nationalisation of Church Property

Find related documents and statements in download section (above to the right)

 

Ecumenical Office

Sources: László Gonda, reformatus.ro, politics.hu (MTI) 

 

 

 


 

 

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