Let us promote co-operation not confrontation between the lay State and the autonomous religious Cults


The Press Office of the Romanian Patriarchate informs:

We give the following explanations concerning the Answer of the Social – Humanist Association of Romania (ASUR in Romanian) to the remarks of the Press Office of the Romanian Patriarchate:

1. THE SECULARISATION OF THE MONASTIC ESTATES INCLUDED ALL THE CHURCH ESTATES, NOT ONLY THOSE OF THE MONASTERIES DEDICATED

We are surprised by the fact that the ASUR representatives do not know that through the Bill for the secularisation of the monastic estates adopted and published on 17/29 December 1863, the state confiscated, with no discrimination whatsoever, both the estates of the monasteries dedicated to the Holy Places and of those not dedicated.

So, article 1 of the Bill mentioned: “All the monastic estates of Romania are and remain state estates.” According to historian Constantin C. Giurescu (Life and Work of Cuza Vodă, Scientific Editorial Office, Bucharest, 1966, pp. 148 – 149) in Wallachia, the monasteries not dedicated held 16,55% of the agricultural and forest terrain of the country (the dedicated ones held 11,14%), while in Moldova the not dedicated monasteries held 12,16% of the agricultural and forest terrain of the country (the dedicated ones held 19,17%). For example, about 300,000 ha of agricultural and forest terrain was confiscated from the Metropolitan See of Moldova and Bucovina through the Secularisation Bill.

If the monasteries of the Holy Places were allotted a compensatory amount of money, as compensation and support, even though never granted in the end, no compensatory measures were provided in the Secularisation Bill for the monasteries not dedicated to the Holy Places.

In this context, we mention the fact that till Prince Alexandru Ioan Cuza, the church estates, autonomous and not dedicated, were administrated in the two Principalities, Wallakia and Moldova, by the Central House of the Church, with the incomes acquired used for maintaining and operating the units of cults, building and repairing churches, paying the clergy’s salaries, as well as for the social work or setting up schools and paying the teaching staff’s wages. The Church contributed with money to the development of the Romanian education, as well as with many intra-village plots of land, granted free of charge, on which schools have been built, a reality that can be seen today in many localities, where the schools are built close to the churches.

In 1860, the incomes of the Central House in the two Principalities have been included directly into the budgets of the two provinces, although the state should not have had any right over them. Consequently, the state assumed the responsibility to support the units of cult and the church staff. In 1863, the Bill for the married clergy and seminaries was adopted which provided the payment of the priests’ wages from the state budget, while the next year the Bill for regulating the rural properties provided the granting of an agricultural plot of land to the churches, the so called parochial rented plot of land. Yet, these agricultural plots provided modest income, as seen in the analysis of the state of the religious cults in Romania completed, the Ministry for Religious Affairs made during the two world wars, which mentioned that only 2% of the Transylvanian Orthodox parishes and 3% of those of the Kingdom could maintain themselves only by their own means.

These agricultural and forest plots of land as well as the other properties of the cults were confiscated by the communist regime after 1948.

After 1990, Bill 18/1991 of the territorial fund has limited to 5 ha the plots of land that could be retroceded to the parishes, so that most times the difference of property could never be acquired, not even today, after the legislative changes from 1997, 2000 and 2005. Before the communist regime, the Church had admirable institutions for administrating her estates (Church House, trusteeship councils, ephorates, foundations) that enabled her to support social centers, schools, hospitals, orphanages, and to help poor families. At present, a large part of her estates still belong to the state, a regrettable situation after 20 years since the fall of the communist regime in Romania.

2. THE SUPPORT FROM THE STATE BUDGET COVERS ONLY PART OF THE CULTS’ EXPENSES

The support granted from the state budget covers only a part of the expenses for the wages of the clergy and non-clergy staff of the religious cults. In the Romanian Orthodox Church there are lots of wages paid only from the eparchies funds. For example, in the Patriarchal Administration only a third of the employees benefit of support from the state budget to their wages, while two thirds are paid only from the Church funds.

Besides the wage system expenses of the church units, there are also the expenses for maintaining the buildings and covering the utilities (electricity, running water, heating, telephones etc.) provided, with great efforts, only from the church funds acquired by the production and trading of candles, calendars, religious books and objects, liturgical wine and some rents.

The maintenance and repairing of the places of worship, many of them historical monuments, also have an important place in the expenses of the cults units, most often with no support whatsoever from the state. The church patrimony is made up, in its majority, of old places of worship and buildings, which need important investments for a normal operation.

No other money allotted from the state budget in 2010 besides the financial support for the wages of the servant staff, especially for administrational, social and educational activity, create, in the case of the Romanian Orthodox Church, difficulties for sustaining the large social and educational work she unfolds at national level. The very few examples of funds provided through Government decrees to some Orthodox units of cult are isolated and irrelevant for the general aspect of the issue. In fact, all the funds from the public budget granted to the religious cults are periodically checked by the Court for Accounts and by some other public competent institutions to check the observation of their purpose and correct usage.

The objection of the ASUR to annex XII, article 8, paragraph 2 of the Bill for unitary wage system (330/2009), concerning the possibility to increase the number of posts for the clergy staff is not justified, because the increase of the number of posts is related to the extension of the pastoral-missionary, social-charitable and cultural-educational activities of the Church, for the benefit of a larger number of people in need. In this context, we inform the representatives of the ASUR that although during the last few years the Romanian Orthodox Church has increased the activity she unfolds in society, since 2008 no other extra post has been provided with state budget contribution.

3. THE FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTION FROM THE RELIGIOUS SERVICES SUSTAIN THE PARISHES ACTIVITY

As for the benevolent contributions for celebrating the religious services (baptisms, weddings, funerals), we inform the ASUR representatives that their value is established in every parish by the parochial assembly following the proposal of the parochial council, in accordance with the material possibilities of the community of faithful (the social cases enjoy gratuitousness and support on behalf of the parishes). The contributions registered in the bookkeeping of every parish (submitted to the internal financial control) are used for maintaining the place of worship and for completing the wages of the staff employed (the majority of them provided entirely from the parish incomes).

Moreover, social centers operate in co-operation with many parishes (canteens, medical consulting rooms, old people’s homes etc.) partially or entirely subsidized by their own incomes. The attempt of generalization, with no discernment whatsoever, by the ASUR, of a few isolated cases of financial indiscipline in such situations proves their not knowing the way of organization and operation of the Orthodox Church units (parish, monastery, deanery, eparchy and patriarchate) and the correct way of administrating the funds in relation with those who offer them. This accounts for building over 2000 places of worship and organizing almost 500 social centers – as well as medical consulting rooms – by the Romanian Orthodox Church during the last 20 years with funds coming in their majority from faithful.
As for the other comments of the ASUR representatives, these are only unsuccessful attempts of an organized hostile attitude towards the religious cults, because the antireligious secularism and self-sufficient humanism are the characteristic features of the respective association.

In conclusion, we think that especially in time of multiple crises cooperation should be promoted not confrontation between the lay state and the religious autonomous cults, for the common welfare of the society.

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