The Press Office of the Romanian Patriarchate informs us:
The Romanian Patriarchate learned with great surprise of the decision in the first analysis of the panel of judges of section III of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in the case of the self entitled “The Good Shepherd against Romania” trade union of the priests of the Metropolitanate of Oltenia concerning the clergy’s right to free associations in trade union type organisations. Having thoroughly studied this decision, the Romanian Patriarchate notices the following:
1. The insufficient knowledge of the European Court for Human Rights on the specific relations between the State and the religious cults in Romania and overlook of the stipulations of the Romanian Constitution (article 29) regarding the Bill no. 489/3006 on the religious freedom and the general regime of the religious cults in Romania (article 8) and of the Statutes for the Organisation and Functioning of the Romanian Orthodox Church confirmed by Governmental Decree no. 53/2008 – Statutes, which clearly declares the autonomy and freedom of the Church towards the State;
2. Confusion between the vocational specific character of priesthood which is a call to the holy mission through ordination or “free assumed service of the communities of faithful” (article 123 paragraph 7 of the Statutes), on one hand and the relations of work typical for the civil employees, on the other hand;
3. The completely wrong assertion of the ECHR that the statutes of the so called trade union would not contradict in any way the Statutes of the Romanian Orthodox Church, Bill of the Religious Cults and Canons. In reality, the trade union has purposes completely inconsistent with the sacramental and pastoral service of the priests, namely:
– “organisation of meetings, demonstrations and strikes” (point 3.2 letter j of the Trade Union Statute) contradicts the statutes of the religious cults acknowledged by the Romanian State of “factor of social peace” (article 7 paragraph 1 of the Bill no. 489/2006 concerning the religious freedom and the general regime of the religious cults);
– “observance of the legal stipulations concerning the vacation and legal holiday” (point 3.2 letter c of the Trade Union Statutes) in the clergy’s case, which means that on Saturdays and Sundays, the first and second days of the Holy Easter, Nativity of the Lord and Pentecost, as well as other legal holidays which coincide with the religious feasts would be free days for the clergy members of the trade union, just when a large number of faithful are present in the church;
– “the presence and representation of the trade union at all levels and in all the bodies of church decisions” (article 3, point 2, letter i of the Trade Union), as well as in the working session of the Holy Synod (article 3, point 2, letter ş), which would be a flagrant infringement of the Church autonomy and an attempt of the Trade Union to become a pressure group and evade the statutory ways of consulting the clergy in the eparchial assemblies, in the priests’ monthly administrative conferences, in the pastoral circles, in the priests’ semestral pastoral-missionary conferences or in the Standing meetings of the Eparchial Councils, as well as in the Church National Council and in the Church National Assembly of the Romanian Orthodox Church.
We remind you that, according to the Holy Universal Canons and to the Statutes for the Organization and Functioning of the Romanian Orthodox Church, the priests – just like the magistrates and militaries – have no right to engage in partisan politics, to unfold economical activity, direct or through intermediates, and participate in other forms of association, as well as of trade union type in order to be impartial and completely involved in the service of the common welfare of the people.
A possible final adoption of this decision by the ECHR would be a direct attack to the constitutional legal organization of the religious cults of Romania and of the states members of the Council of Europe, assimilating the missionary sacerdotal vocation with the protester trade union action.
In fact, this decision of the ECHR caused confusion to some of the representatives of other European Churches who expressed their intention to be solidary with the Romanian State and the Romanian Orthodox Church because they consider this decision as an unacceptable precedent that undermines the autonomy of all the religious cults of Europe.
Moreover, this decision contradicts the previous decisions, some of them recent (for example Muller, Reuter and Baudler causes against Germany of 6 December 2011) of the European Court of Human Rights, as well as of the opinion of two of the judges in this cause, who confirmed that the statutes, rights and obligations of the servants of a religious cult towards this cult are up to the exclusive competence of the respective cult.
We express our hope that the Romanian State will firmly contest this inadequate decision and we are confident that the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights will correct a hasty decision in the cause of the self entitled “The Good Shepherd against Romania” trade union of the priests of the Metropolitanate of Oltenia, which does not take into account the autonomy and the specific organization and operation of the activity of the religious cults acknowledged and guaranteed as such in all the democratic states.