|THE NATIONALITIES PROBLEM IN TRANSYLVANIA 1867-1940|
The Religious Situation of the Hungarians
in Greater Romania
Thus more than half of the Hungarian population of Transylvania belonged to the Reformed Church. This church was undoubtedly the most significant, given the number of its faithful and the role it played in Hungarian society. Each of the Hungarian churches in Greater Romania, however, experienced the same difficulties.
Among the above churches only the Unitarian came completely under Romanian domination as a result of the Peace Treaty of Trianon. The new borders cut across the administrative units of the Roman Catholic and Reformed Churches. Only parts of the Roman Catholic bishopric of Oradea and Satu Mare, and of the Reformed District of the Bucea [Kiralyhago] area fell under Romanian rule. These rump church districts had to reorganize within Romania, as did the two churches in general. Thus, the first issue confronting these churches in the Romanian state a reorganization and the definition of their legal status.
first to undergo this process was the reformed district of the Bucea and vicinity which was formerly part of the Reformed District east of the Tisza River. This fragment intended to form a new district, following the procedures of the church. Since the Governing Council of Sibiu, by the decree already mentioned, maintained in effect, the Hungarian canon laws, the Reformed Church availed itself of these laws. Its administration summoned an assembly of district representatives, proclaimed the formation of the Reformed District of Kiralyhago [Bucea] and vicinity, elected the bishops and other officials of the district and then, still in accordance with the procedures, requested the approval of the Romanian government. The approval, however, was not forthcoming. At first the leaders of the District assumed this was because the newly-elected bishop, Istvan Sulyok, was not to the government's liking. Then Sulyok resigned, yet the reorganization was still not sanctioned. It was only years later, in 1926, that the government ratified the election of Sulyok and accepted his oath of loyalty. Yet the diocese itself was still not recognized. They sent request upon request, delegation after delegation, to the Romanian Ministry of Religious Affairs, ecclesiastic and secular personalities acted as intermediaries with the Government, all to no avail. The official recognition of the new diocese was delayed year after year. The Hungarian Reformed clergy eventually found out that the reasons for the delay were financial; as long as the diocese was not officially recognized, it was in vain that they requested the subsidies the government awarded to other dioceses and their leaders. Indeed, this was the reason why the Reformed District of Kiralyhago and vicinity received the sanction prescribed by law only in the late thirties. A royal decree of November 20, 1939 took cognizance of the requests made by the Reformed Church over the previous twenty years and officially recognized the diocese. Chapter 4 of the decree provided for state subsidies to the officials of the diocese as of April 1, 1940. Thus the long delayed issue of reorganization was finally solved and the leaders of the new unit received the state subsidies prescribed by law twenty years after the signing of the Treaty of Trianon. 2
The Roman Catholic Church confronted more serious problems. As mentioned, the two bishoprics of the Church, that of Satu-Mare and of Oradea, fell under Romanian rule only in part. The problem of reorganization of these bishoprics took eight years to resolve. Here again the Romanian government adopted dilatory tactics. All the more so, since greater circumspection was warranted, on account of the enormous worldwide moral prestige enjoyed by the Roman Catholic church. The ecclesiastic issues confronting the Hungarian Catholics
under Romanian rule could be peacefully resolved only in agreement with the Holy See, otherwise the government would expose itself to the very unpleasant charge, given the prestige of the Holy See, of being anticlerical and anti-religious. The Romanian government and the Holy See embarked upon lengthy negotiations. Rome entertained certain unrealistic hopes in the course of these negotiations. Indeed, as Netzhammer, the Romanian Catholic archbishop and former head of the Church in Transylvania observed, the Romanian members of the Uniate church elicited hopes in Rome to the effect that after the war the Orthodox Romanians would convert to Catholicism. Under the impact of such expectations:
the first proposals for a Concordat between the Holy See and Romania were written in the euphoria of victory, the edge of which was turned against the Hungarian Catholics now under Romanian rule and aimed at the elimination of the two Hungarian bishoprics of Oradea and Satu-Mare.
According to Netzhammer, all those who entertained any doubts regarding the realization of the beautiful hopes for the conversion of the Orthodox Romanians were viewed with suspicion and antagonism in Rome. 3 Consequently the Holy See was inclined to give serious consideration to the wishes of the Romanian government and these wishes were granted, for the most part, in the Concordat signed in 1927. By this Concordat the Catholic bishoprics of Transylvania and the border regions, a thousand years old and numbering a million and a half faithful, were now subordinated to the Roman Catholic bishopric of Bucharest, consisting of merely 26 dioceses (mostly Romanianized Hungarians). The government promoted this bishop to rank of archbishop and, by the terms of the Concordat, this archbishop became a member of the Senate. Thus the over half a million Hungarian faithful backed a Hungarian representative in the Senate, the Roman Catholic church being represented by the Romanian Archbishop, Cisar. Moreover, the concordat fused the Roman Catholic bishopric of Oradea with that of Satu-Mare, and eliminated the rights and obligations of patronage. In addition, the Holy See authorized the establishment of a fifth Romanian Uniate bishopric. The Uniate and Catholic bishops formed a single Episcopal council in which, in accordance with the wishes of the Romanian government the Romanian bishops were in a majority. Of course, this Romanian majority had a baneful effect on the Hungarian population. The predicament of the Hungarian Catholics became tenuous especially from a financial point of view, for the bonds
in possession of the Hungarian Catholics were now declared "Patrimonium Sacrum", to be handled jointly by Roman Catholics and Uniates. Consequently ecclesiastic leadership with a Romanian majority was now in control of this purely Hungarian property, and of course it had Romanian national interests first and foremost in mind in all regards. Thus, the Romanian government, by means of the Concordat, denied the Hungarian character or a Hungarian leadership to the ecclesiastic organization of the Hungarian Catholics, in contrast with the measures taken in former times by the Hungarian government with regard to the Uniate Church of the Romanians.
Most Hungarian Catholics were dissatisfied with the Concordat. Their dissatisfaction was not without reason, since the Hungarian Catholics were subjected to serious disadvantages. Yet Romanian public opinion was still not satisfied with the results obtained through the Concordat. Onisifor Ghibu, a Romanian professor at the University of Cluj, launched a vigorous movement because of some provisions of the Concordat. The objective of the movement was the abrogation of the ancient Roman Catholic Status and the confiscation of its goods. This struggle sheds a sharp light, in its details, on the ecclesiastic predicament of the Hungarian Catholics.
Ghibu launched his attacks against the Hungarian Roman Catholic Church as early as 1923. He began to write articles in the Romanian daily Patria, published in Cluj, which were later to appear in book form. 4 Referring to historical analogies, he demanded in these articles that some Roman Catholic churches in Cluj be turned over to the Romanians. But the main objective of his writings was the abrogation of the Roman Catholic Status. This Status was on ancient autonomous setup of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Transylvania, with Alba Iulia as its center, the roots of which went back to the 16th century. The Status - the joint jurisdiction of secular leaders and the clergy formed in the 17th century eventually became a completely autonomous legal entity recognized in all the ancient laws. According to Ghibu, however, this Status was not an ecclesiastic but a Hungarian political setup, an illegal and un-canonic institution; in other words, a state within the state. Therefore it was the duty of the Romanian state to dissolve it immediately and confiscate its goods.
Ghibu's articles elicited wide echoes. On February 24, 1924, Ioan Bianu, an Orthodox senator, queried the Minister of Religious Affairs and demanded that a thorough investigation of the Status be conducted since, according to him, the Status was an illegal organization based on fraud, and its operations should be considered by the Romanian state as a provocation. Indeed, the Minister of Religious Affairs did request a
copy of the rules of the Status and the roster of the members of its governing council.
Under the impact of Ghibu's attack the Romanian public and the authorities soon began to harass the Status. Certain Romanian courts would not even accept the Status as a party to suits.
Nor did the provisions of the Concordat and of the Law on Religion bring a relief to the issue of the Status, for both provided opportunities for verging interpretations which the enemies of the Status were eager to use to their own advantage. 5 The Status was not mentioned separately among the ecclesiastic organizations listed in section 9 of the Concordat. According to this text:
The state recognizes the Catholic church represented by its
hierarchical authorities as a legal person, in accordance with its constitution. Consequently parishes, chief deaconries, cloisters, chaplaincies, preposts, monasteries, bishoprics, archbishoprics and other units formed in accordance with canon law are considered legal persons and the right of ownership to any kind of goods is guaranteed by the state in accordance with the constitution of the monarchy, for the benefit of the Catholic Church as represented by its legal hierarchical authorities.
Thus the text of the concordat mentioned the Status only indirectly, in the guise of "other organizations formed in accordance with canon law." Ghibu and his companions claimed that the Status had not been recognized and demanded, that their earlier wishes be met. Influenced by this demand the Romanian Minister of Foreign Affairs requested and received from Dolci, the Papal Legate in Bucharest, a declaration which restricted the interpretation of the Concordat to the effect that "the Catholic Church may not exercise legal personality through any organization other than those listed under section 9." 6
Thus the Status as a legal person naturally became the subject of further debates, and provided Ghibu with the occasion for further attacks. On April 30, 1931, the Minister of Religious Affairs "appointed a committee on historical rights', to be presided by Ghibu to examine the Status affair. The members of the committee were intent not so much on collecting fresh historical and juridical evidence as on disseminating anti-Status propaganda. The council of the Romanian university of Cluj, its president, its faculties of philosophy and natural science, and three Roman Catholic professors, including the Italian Serra Baroni, all appeared in front of the committee, one by one, and
demanded through various memoranda the immediate dissolution of the Status.
The three Roman Catholic university professors turned to Pope Pius XI in a separate memorandum, asserting that the Status was an excessively Hungarian body which did not invite them to their meetings because they were not Hungarians, etc. They requested its immediate dissolution. Along with the professors, the Romanian university students also went into action against the Status. Even before these events, from 1924 on, the entire Romanian Orthodox church had thrown its political prestige in the balance against the Status.
The movement was coordinated by Ghibu. He published his works almost yearly under the imprint of the Ministry of Religious Affairs. In one of his proposals addressed to the Prime Minister he honestly pointed out the true motives behind the struggle against the Status.
Since the Status does not have a legal and canonical form and because it has proven to be an organization extremely dangerous to the Romanian state, it must be dissolved at once and the state should take over the goods it handles illegally; the state should then turn over these goods to those entities entitled to it, primarily to the University of Cluj. Moreover, since the Status has no legal existence, the state may do so without any formality, by simple order. 7
Ghibu's argument had a profound impact on the Romanian registry offices. In many places the goods of the Status were transferred by them to the state. 8 Naturally, the representatives of the Status objected and requested that the government defend their rights. The sent memoranda to Valeriu Pop, the Minister of Justice, and to other Romanian authorities. Their primary objective in defending themselves was to avoid a takeover by force on the part of the government. Although parts of the goods of the Status had already been transferred to the state, the Government itself was wary of embarking on further aggressive moves. The legal committee of the Romanian parliament was investigating Ghibu's proposal and it was able to demonstrate that the provisions of the Minorities Treaty provided the Hungarian Catholics with an opportunity to defend themselves and, should the Holy See support their demand, the enormous moral prestige of the Church would cast up unilateral action taken by the Romanian government in a most unfavorable light. Therefore the legal committee recommended that the issue of the Status be discussed first of all with Rome; then the Hungarian Catholics of Romania would not endeavor to
challenge the Holy See, and the stand taken by the Romanian government would acquire legitimacy abroad and be relatively immune to attacks.
Indeed the government decided, on the basis of this legal opinion, not to resort to an aggressive solution. Nicolae Iorga, the Prime Minister, declared in February 1932 that he would seek a solution with the Holy See, and a Catholic politician, rather than Ghibu, would be in charge of the negotiations. Negotiations got under way that year, the preliminary discussions taking place in Bucharest. The stand adopted by the government was that it would delete the name of the Status, would not guarantee its legal person, and would transform it into an advisory body for the bishop, while the supervision and control over its goods would be exercised by the Archbishop in consultation with the bishops of both Catholic rites. The representatives of the Status objected mainly to the conditions regarding property rights, and sent a memorandum to the Nuntio Dolci to that effect. Valer Pop, however, was adamant as regards the properties of the Status. His objective was to have the properties declared "general Catholic properties" in which the Uniates could also benefit. Thereupon Suciu, the Uniate archbishop, and another bishop of the Uniate church issued a written declaration to the effect that they did not wish to partake of the properties of the Status. Finally, a proposed agreement was drafted on the basis of this declaration, which was to be accepted at the negotiations in Rome. 9
Before the representatives of the Status had left for Rome Bishop Gusztav Majlath received the official notification of the Ministry of Religious Affairs regarding its legal interpretation. In this document, signed by under-secretary Craciunescu and by the section chief of the legal branch, Demetrescu, the Ministry informed Majlath that whatever the outcome of the negotiations in Rome, it would not alter the description of the goods of the Status in the registries, for that issue was a legal matter which fell under the jurisdiction of the Romanian courts.
The negotiations took place in Rome amidst dramatic scenes. The government was represented, in addition to Valer Pop, by Romanian's ambassador at the Vatican, Comnen Petrescu. The Status was represented by Elemer Gyarfas and Andras Balazs. Petrescu did everything in his power to weaken the Hungarian stand. He prevented Gyarfas and Balazs from attending, took up Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli's entire time so that on most occasions the two Hungarian representatives were unable to wait for an audience. Thus occasionally they had to present their observations to the Papal Secretary of State in writing. Secretary Pacelli also communicated with the Hungarian representatives in writing, and sometimes orally. His position was that
he would not depart from the points agreed upon at Bucharest without their knowledge and consent.
The final text of the agreement was gradually elaborated in the course of the negotiations. In this text the Romanian representatives included a new demand in addition to the points raised in Bucharest. This demand pertained to ceding the Hungarian Catholic Church building adjoining the University to the Romanian Uniates. The representatives of the Status would not agree to this demand. Finally they accepted a solution by which the Status would allow the Romanian Uniate clergy to hold Mass in the church of the Status on Sundays and holidays at 11. a.m. The agreement was prepared on May 30, 1932 but the representatives of the Status signed it only with serious misgivings According to the book written by the Minister of Justice Valer Pop, Andras Balazs broke out in tears in desperation, and it was only upon hearing the forceful words of command of the Papal Secretary that he agreed to accept the text. 10
According to this Roman Accords as it was called, the Roman Catholic Status of Transylvania would cease to exist, to be replaced by the "Council of the Diocese of the Roman Catholic bishopric of Alba Iulia." The properties and financial foundation of the Status would become the property of the diocese of Alba Iulia. The income was to be dedicated to religious and educational purposes, in accordance with its charter, under the supervision of the archbishop of Bucharest and the Romanian state's right to oversee. The properties had to be registered as a matter of office and free of franking, as per original descriptions.
Some of the members of the Status received the agreement with resignation, others bitterly. Many resigned from the assembly of the Status, but the majority accepted the decision of the Holy See.
As for Ghibu, he angrily attacked Iorga and Valer Pop on account of the agreement, and appealed to all Romanian leaders in turn to denounce it. He declared that the agreement remained invalid because parliament had not ratified it and the ruler had not signed it; therefore, it could not be carried out. He developed his arguments first in articles, then in further voluminous books. His hefty volume in 1934 was published thanks to financial support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Agriculture. At the same time he continued to launch passionate attacks in the press against the text of the Roman Accord and those in charge of executing it.
The renewed attacks achieved two results: One was the book Valer Pop wrote to defend himself, the other was the stand taken by the Romanian courts. In his book Pop pointed not only to the great achievements of the Roman Accord from a Romanian point of view, but
provided a detailed sketch of Ghibu's peculiar procedures which, according to him, were filled with hatred and lacked any sense of objectivity. In fact, the commission granted Ghibu in connection with the Status was now withdrawn.
Under the impact of the attacks by Ghibu, the Romanian courts refused to recognize the validity of the Roman Accord. In its ruling 51, dated July 4, 1932, the Romanian court of Cluj rejected the agreement because, it argued, it could not be valid without ratification by the Romanian parliament. The registry authorities also rejected the request of the legal representatives of the Status to modify the registration of the goods in favor of the Status. The issue of the properties continued to play the main role in the affair. The government constantly pressed for the sharing of the wealth with the Uniate Church. Further appeals to the government, and memoranda to the Holy See followed. A plan was prepared in 1937 according to which the Holy See would once again act as arbiter, on the basis of a proposal submitted by a committee of three members. The representatives of the Status sent a separate memorandum to Secretary Pacelli, pointing out that the properties were of exclusively Roman Catholic origin and that the Romanian Uniates did not even need it that much since the latter were able to retain most of their possessions at the time of the land reform, and the Romanian state even repurchased their expropriated holdings. Moreover, the Roman Catholics had to surrender many valuables to the Uniates over the past few years, including the Minorite Church and the church of Monostir. They appealed to the Holy See for support of the ancestral rights of the Hungarian Catholics of Romania.
From 1938 the situation of the Status improved somewhat. At the prompting of the Holy See the Romanian government sent a mixed committee of four members to examine the pending issues. The church was represented at the negotiations by Durcovici, the president of the archbishopric of Bucharest, and Elemer Gyarfas. After the conclusion of negotiations which lasted for months, the government finally recognized the validity of the Roman Accord, and the recognition was printed in the March 2, 1941 issue of the Monitorul Oficial. The Ministry of Justice also instructed the pertinent registry offices to transfer the properties of the former Status to the name of the new organization.
Thus, much as in the case of the Reformed diocese of Bucea and vicinity, the issue of the Roman Catholic Status was finally resolved only 20 years after the signing of the Peace Treaty of Trianon.
As a result of that Treaty 32 dioceses of the Evangelical Church of Hungary came under Romanian rule. These dioceses also wanted to
regroup under a separate Evangelical ecclesiastic organization, as did the Reformed Dioceses of Bucea. With this objective in mind, on April 11, 1920, a conference was held at Arad where is was decided to set up an independent diocese. They elected Baron Arthur Feilitzsch as supervisor of the diocese and Dr. Gusztav Kirschknopf, the Augustinian Evangelic minister of Cluj, as deputy bishop. The see of the diocese was to be Cluj and would consist of five parishes, each with a parish overseer and a deacon.
The new formation held its first meeting on July 6, 1921, at Cluj, where they elaborated a constitution along traditional Hungarian Protestant lines. They elected an executive committee with Feilitzsch and Kirschknopf in the lead. The Averescu regime took cognizance of the formation of the church diocese and recognized the executive committee.
The following year, however, the Liberal Party government of Ion Bratianu retracted the approval of the previous year and banned the meeting at which elections for the parish leadership were to take place. It also rejected the ecclesiastic constitution and crossed out the names of those members of the executive committee who belonged to the Evangelical Church of Cluj. The executive committee was reorganized in mid-1922 and, already at the beginning of the year, sent it for approval to the Minister of Religious Affairs of the Liberal Government.
But the Minister of Religious Affairs of the Liberal Party was still not inclined to grant recognition to the new Hungarian church unit. In 1929 the Minister of Religious Affairs (belonging to Averescu Party) declared that, in principle, he would agree to the establishment of an evangelical superintendency for the synod on the basis of a presbiter; but the superintendency was not to be considered an authority, and was only entitled to exercise the rights of ecclesiastic leadership over the faithful. Lajos Frint, the elected superintendent, was inaugurated at Arad in 1927. While the government accepted his loyalty oath to the state, it still would not recognize the superintendency from the point of view of public law. It was only at the beginning of 1940, on March 3, that the government finally granted official recognition to this Hungarian ecclesiastic organization.
We may conclude, therefore, that in the matter of the organization of Hungarian churches under Romanian rule, the government adopted a dilatory and essentially negative attitude throughout, and a satisfactory solution was reached only twenty years after the Peace Treaty of Trianon.
The situation of the Hungarian churches as regards public law was decided on the basis of principles that were completely different from
the ones that obtained regarding the Romanian churches under Hungarian rule. As noted, juridically the Romanian and Hungarian churches enjoyed equal rights. In 1919 the Governing Council of Sibiu sustained the validity of the former Hungarian laws, since most of the leaders of the Council embodied the spirit of the decisions taken at Alba Iulia. One of these decisions was that "the state grants equal rights and complete denominational autonomy to all the denominations.'' 11 The so-called Minority Treaty of 1919 granted far lesser rights. Article 9 of the treaty granted freedom of worship and the establishment of religious organizations, whereas Article 11 granted local autonomy to the Szekely communities in religious and educational matters. But these guarantees soon went into oblivion as regards practice. A sharp differentiation prevailed between Romanian and non-Romanian churches; while the former were granted all kinds of advantages, the latter were relegated to the background in most places and in most cases.
The constitution of 1939 simply sanctioned existing practices. In Section 22 of this constitution we find the following prescriptions:
Freedom of worship is unlimited. The state grants equal rights and equal protection to all religious denominations as long as their exercise does not conflict with public order, good morals and the administrative laws of the state. Since the Orthodox Church is the religion of the great majority of Romanians, the Orthodox Church is the ruling church in the Romanian state, whereas the Uniate Church is granted priority with regard to other denominations.... The relations between the state and the various denominations will be defined by law.
These provisions of the constitution elicited considerable anxiety in the ranks of the churches because of their vagueness. Apart from the Orthodox Church, none of the churches were satisfied with the constitutional situation thus outlined. According to Patria, a Uniate organization of Cluj, the objective of the government was to turn the Orthodox Church into a state church, all the more so, as this church had indeed been the state religion in old Romania, used and steered by all governments in accordance with their political objectives. The facts gradually confirmed that the ruling character of the Orthodox Church implied a fully privileged state church. The privileges enjoyed by the Orthodox Church granted it exceptional opportunities. The prescriptions of the law spelled out that the members of the royal family were to be raised in the Orthodox faith, whereas the popes of the church
were to be paid from the state treasury. The practice evolved according to which the feasts of the Orthodox Church were declared state holidays to be observed by members of other churches as well. Every bishop of the Orthodox Church, became members of the Senate, along with the Uniate bishops, whereas only one of the leading dignitaries of the other churches became a member, and even then only if the number of faithful attained 200,000.
These principles were embodied in the so-called Law on Religion of 1928. The law regulated in detail the relationship between the various churches. There were five groups of churches according to these regulations: 1. The ruling church (Orthodox); 2. The privileged church (Uniate); 3. Historical churches (the Latin, Ruthenian, Greek, and Armenian rites of the Catholic, Evangelical, Unitarian, Armenian, Jewish faiths, etc.); 4. A recognized church (Baptist); and 6. the non- recognized churches (Nazarenes, Adventists, etc.). This law made distinctions between religions already in its terminology, because while the two Romanian churches were referred to as "church," the others were called "cults." This law rendered the existence of the Hungarian churches most difficult because, as Sandor Makkai and others noted in parliament, the regulation prescribed what amounted to police control over every manifestation of the non-Romanian churches. According to the Episcopal report of this illustrious leader of the Reformed Church in 1928:
the distrust evident in the spirit of the law on religion, the statutory provisions for excessive controls and the right to interfere, the restrictions on church assemblies, the hindering of contributions by coreligionaires abroad, the inadequate form in which the legal person of the church is recognized, the limitations set on donations by the faithful, the diluting of sentences passed in ecclesiastic courts, the questions raised regarding the exclusive rights of religious instruction, the shaking of the prestige of the church in regard to collection of the tithe, the provisions for overseeing, by outside authorities, of internal matters pertaining to some churches - all these describe the new law on religion. 12
The unequal legal status of the churches remained unaltered throughout Greater Romania. The discriminatory provisions were reiterated almost verbatim in the Romanian constitution of 1938. Hence the churches did not enjoy equal rights, whether on paper or in
reality. This discrimination became particularly obvious in the approach to the financial issues affecting church life.
The land reform described in our chapter on economics deprived the Hungarian churches of some of their land and transferred it mainly to the Romanian churches. Consequently the financial situation of the Hungarian churches was shaken to its foundations, while the Romanian churches attained a most favorable situation. According to the summary tables in the Hungarian Yearbook of Transylvania, the Catholic and Protestant churches owned estates totaling 371,765 cadastral holds before the land reform. They lost 84.5% of these estates during the land reform, that is 314,331 cadastral holds. 13 According to the data collected in Northern Transylvania altogether 136,140 cadastral holds were expropriated from the non-Romanian churches, while a mere 5,582 holds were taken away from the Romanian churches. Thus the non-Romanian churches lost 96%, the Romanian churches 4% of their lands.14 We have no reason to believe that the land reform in Southern Transylvania was carried out differently, since the objectives were the same. From the multitude of complaints from individual dioceses we may conclude that the planners of the land reform deprived the Hungarian churches of about 90% of their property, and transferred the bulk of the expropriated lands to the Romanian dioceses.
The details of the expropriation shed a peculiar light on the proceedings of the individual expropriation committees. Point 4 of
Article 6 of the land reform law in Transylvania specified that up to 40 holds of agricultural land belonging to a given diocese were exempted.
In addition to these 40 holds those dioceses that maintained a school were entitled to 16 additional holds, and those with over 300 parishioners were entitled to 10 more holds - i.e., altogether 66 holds. The Romanian lawgiver determined the minimum size of the estate needed by the dioceses to cover their ecclesiastic and school expenses. Other provisions of the law, and the instructions regarding its execution, stipulated that where the dioceses did not own the amount of land specified above, such land would be transferred to it from the expropriated lands.
Strange things happened during the execution of the provisions of the law. It turned out that the favorable provisions of the law applied only to the Romanian churches, not to the Hungarian ones. The American mission which visited Romania in 1924 cited 43 instances where the provisions of the law were not applied with regard to Hungarian churches. In the community of Suplac [Kiskukullo-Szeplak] land was expropriated from the 23 holds of the Unitarian diocese. At Delenii [Magyarsaros] 19 holds were taken away from the 53 owned by the Unitarian church and school and handed over to the Romanian church. At Cehetel [Csehetfalva] 22 of the 52 holds of the Unitarian church and school were taken away. At Tarcesti [Tarcsfalva],128 of the 150 holds were taken away, 37 out of 66 at Turdeni [Tordatfalva], 30 out of 66 at Aita Mare [Nagyajta]. At Racosul de Jos [Alsorakos] 32 holds from a total of 170 holds were confiscated and handed over to the Romanian church which numbered only 100 parishioners. The Unitarian church at Racosul de Jos, which owned a mere 6 holds, received nothing, nor did the Reformed church which had more members; yet, except for 4 holds, the remaining 138 holds were transferred to Romanians. In the Unitarian diocese of Belin [Bolon] 15 of the 46 holds were taken away and handed over to the inhabitants of the neighboring Romanian community. The plot of the Unitarian church of Brasov, was taken away as a site for a Romanian cultural center. At Dopca [Datk] in the county of Tirnava Mare, 2 of 13 holds owned by the Unitarian Church were handed over to Romanians as lots for houses, and three holds for the benefit of the Romanian church, even though this church already had its full quota of 50 holds. At Haranglab [Haranglab] in the county of Tirnava Mica, the Reformed Church owned only 12 holds, and the Unitarian church 39 holds. These dioceses requested their full quota in vain, while the Romanians received considerable amounts of land.
In another community of Tirnava Mica, at Seuca [Szokefalva], the Unitarian Church requested the amount of land authorized by law to add to its 14 holds. It received nothing, while the Romanian church was awarded 42 holds. At Dirjiu [Szekelyderzs], in the county of Odorheiu, the Unitarian Church was deprived of 36 of its 76 holds. Only 37 of the 230 holds at Meresti [Homorodalmas] were left. The Unitarian parish at Diciosanmartin [Dicsoszentmarton] owned but 12 holds; it requested the amount authorized by law from the lands of the neighboring community, but received no reply, while 182 holds from the confiscated estates in this same community were handed over to the Romanians of Diciosanmartin. Except for 32 holds the entire estate of the Reformed Church at Fagaras, supporting two ministers and a school were expropriated. Of the 42 holds of land owned the Unitarian Church at Cornesti, in Somes county, 4 holds were taken away and handed over to the Romanian church without any compensation. The Romanian church put up its own land for sale and occupied the land expropriated from the Reformed Church. Only 26 holds of the 320 hold estate belonging to the Reformed school of the community of Madaras [Mezomadaras] were left untouched, thereby making it impossible for the church to maintain the school. In the community of Lisnau [Lisznyo] 10 holds were taken out of the 32 holds belonging to the Unitarian Church and handed over to the Romanian church; the Romanian church also received 10 additional hold s from adjoining lands of the neighboring community. In the same community, - 218 of the 248 holds of forests belonging to the Reformed Church were confiscated and divided between the Uniate and Orthodox Churches. In Brasov, the 2 holds of land belonging to the Reformed Church were confiscated and only after lengthy litigation, was the church able to get it back.
The Roman Catholic parish at Diciosanmartin had but 21 holds of land. It filed an application to obtain the amount of land authorized in the law, but received no reply. The newly-founded Romanian church, however, received an estate of 56 holds, and some Romanian individuals also received sizable estates. At Racosul de Sus [Felsorakos], the entire oak-forest belonging to the Unitarian parish was taken away. At Ciceu Mihiesti, Brad [Brad], Sintu [Nyaradszentandras], Bocsita [Magyarbaksa], Ser [Szer], Sieu-Odorheiu, Chinteni, Gilgau, Sintimbru [Marosszentimre] not only the lands but, contrary to the provisions of the Law on Land Reform, even the buildings that belonged to the parishes were taken away. All the estates at Ribita [Ribice], Deusu [Dios], Riu Alb [Feherviz], Aschileu [Eskullo], Sintimbru belonging to the parishes were expropriated. Likewise, the small parishes at Clopodia, Bunea Mica, Bunyaszentmiklos, Caransebes, Granicerii,
Nadlac, Cacuciu Nou, Cristur Criseni, Livida, Tarna Mare, Bocioi, Ciumesti, Dindeati, Sinmicaus [Krasznaszentmiklos] and Negrilesti also lost all their lands. The lands taken away from the Reformed parishes at Reci, Marcusa, and Simleul Silvaniei were earmarked for the foundation of new Orthodox parishes. The land and school-building belonging to the Reformed parish at Marcusa were taken away and handed over to the Romanian church. The Romanian officials at Seplac had the bell removed from the steeple of the community's Reformed Church and gave it away. The Reformed church filed for the land it was entitled to, in vain, while 50 holds were provided for the community's Orthodox Church, which had not even been founded as yet. In the same community the plot of land to which the cantor was entitled by law was confiscated from the Reformed Church and donated to the nonexistent Romanian Church, although no attempt had ever been made to establish a Romanian parish in the community until that time. The expropriated land was rented out, but the Reformed Church received neither the value of the land nor the proceeds from the rental.
In the community of Lisnau the Reformed Church owned 32 holds. It requested the amount of land authorized by law; instead, 10 of its 32 holds were taken away and given to the local Romanian church. The parish of Nusfalau [Szilagynagyfalu] which had 1,800 members, requested the quota of land authorized by law. It received no response. The Romanian church, which did not even exist as yet, was awarded 140 holds in the neighboring community. In the Reformed diocese of Mures only the community of Stejaris [Cserfalva] received 18 holds, but a year and a half later even these were taken back. In this same diocese the Romanian churches obtained their quota of land in every single community, even when such churches did not exist. The foundation estate at Zagon [Zagon] in the county of Trei-Scaune, serving for the support of the orphanage of the Reformed church, was expropriated. The agrarian appeals committee was inclined to allow 30 holds for the upkeep of the orphanage, but the director of the county agrarian committee leased out this land to Romanians, making it impossible for the orphanage to operate. The plot of the Canon of the Reformed church was also confiscated in this community and awarded to the Romanian church not yet in existence. The representative body of the community offered a separate lot for the construction of the Romanian church, but the Romanians would not accept it, insisting on the lot belonging to the cantor. The Unitarian parish of Cioc [Csokfalva], in Mures-Turda county, owned but 24 holds of land. It requested the quota allowed by law, but received no response; yet the Romanians in the neighboring
community of Buzahaza received a lot of land from the confiscated estates, while the Romanian parish of Seuca received 47 holds. 15
The Romanian government gave an evasive answer to the complaints in the report from the American committee; in part it simply denied the fact, while it did not respond at all to some others. The committee noted the facts and stated in its publication that:
in the great debate between the minority denominations and the
Romanian government the Protestant Churches of the world have a task to accomplish as long as the Romanian government does not adjust its policies in accordance with justice; the doubling of its territory increased Romania's political and international obligations twofold as well. 16
Thus, in the opinion of the committee, the Romanian government had indeed acted unjustly in the issue of the expropriation of minority parish properties and in its attitude towards Romanian churches.
The American committee was not merely concerned with the cases pertaining to Protestant parishes; similar harm befell the Catholics. Before the land reform the parishes of the Roman Catholic diocese of Transylvania owned 4,179 holds of real estate. According to the quotas prescribed by the law, they should have received an additional 12,595 holds. In contrast only three parishes received a total of 21 holds whereas many other parishes had to give up even parts of their land exempted from confiscation. They surrendered 47 out of 98 holds at Baraolt [Barot],76 out of 96 at Tirgu Secuiesc [Kezdivasarhely], and 45 out of 78 at Bezidu Nou [Bozodujfalu]. The Roman Catholic parishes in the Szekely area owned fewer estates than they were entitled to under the law. The only parish that retained the legal quota was Ojdula [Ozsdola]. 17
In addition to the above cases many other parishes of the Reformed and Unitarian churches lost their ecclesiastic or school estates in spite of the prescriptions of the land reform law. Thus 6 holds out of 22 were confiscated at Telechia [Orbaitelek],35 out of 52 at Ilieni [Ilyefalva], 18 out of 47 at Chichis [Kokos], 115 out of 145 at Sincraiu [Sepsiszentkiraly], 4 out of 42 at Mugeni [Bogoz], and 20 out of 60 at Patakfalva.
While the Hungarian parishes suffered serious financial setbacks, the Romanian parishes received valuable estates everywhere. The procedure was most striking in the Szekely areas. There was only a sparse population of Romanians in the villages with a predominantly and compactly Hungarian population, but those in charge of applying the Romanian land reform strove to provide the financial basis for the
churches of the Romanians to be resettled in the area. The Uniate Romanians of Jigodiu [Zsogod] received 10 holds. In the community of Vrabia [Csikverebes}, where there was not a single Uniate, 9 holds were reserved for church purposes. The few Romanians in Tusnad Mare [Nagytusnad] received 5 holds, in Pauleni-Ciuc [Palfalva] one hold, at Ijacobeni [Csikkaszonjakabfalva] 30 holds. The nonexistent Romanian church at Marcoc [Markos] received 10 holds, the five Romanians in Ozun [Uzon] received 10 holds, the 30 Romanians of Sintionlunca [Szentivanlaborfalva] also received 10 holds. Similar procedures were used to set the financial foundations for the Orthodox churches as well. Thus the 34 holds confiscated from the Reformed parish of Reci was handed over to the Orthodox church even though there was not a single Orthodox living in Reci at the time. The 70 holds of forests and 10 holds of fields of the Reformed church of Lisnau, were transferred to the Uniate church in the community. This was generally the fate of the confiscated estates of Hungarian dioceses and parishes.
In the course of the land reform, parts of the estates of some Romanian churches were confiscated as well. The most interesting case among these was the expropriation of part of the estate of the Uniate bishopric of Blaj, some 1,600 holds. But on April 9, 1936, a law was printed in the Monitorul Oficial authorizing the Ministry of Agriculture to return the 1,600 holds of land confiscated from the bishopric of Blaj. 18 It is hardly necessary to mention that no Hungarian church benefited from similar procedures.
On July 9 of the same year number 157 of the Monitorul Oficial printed a law which compensated the Romanian churches for the losses suffered as a result of the tax reform. There was no law dealing with the similar losses suffered by the Hungarian churches.
Another decree of 1938 provided for distributing 18,000 hectares of forests and 600 hectares of fields among the monasteries of Romanian orders. Of course, there was no such decree benefiting Hungarian monastic orders.
Another decree of 1938 placed the properties of Hungarian monastic orders of foreign origin in the hands of the Orthodox Patriarch of Bucharest. On April 2 of the same year, the Monitorul Oficial number 77 published the law regarding the religious foundation of Bukovina, endowing it with a distinct legal personality and declaring its officials employees of the state.
On June 5, 1939, Monitorul Oficial number 127 published a decree granting to the canons of the Orthodox Church and the cantors of the Orthodox and Uniate churches the benefit of a retirement age that was lower than what applied to employees of other churches.19
All these measures prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that the Romanian governments made every effort to increase the financial means of the Romanian national churches and to impoverish the Hungarian churches. The same purpose is clearly apparent in the determination of the amounts of subsidy awarded to priests and ministers of the various churches.
As mentioned, in former times the Hungarian government, from 1898 on, disbursed the subsidies to the priests and ministers of all churches according to the same norms, without making distinctions between nationalities. Miron (Ilie) Cristea, who was to become the Orthodox Patriarch, carried out research in the Ministry of Religious Affairs to ensure that the subsidies were disbursed even where the Uniates constituted the overwhelming majority and the number of Orthodox faithful was negligible. The Romanian church organizations found no grounds to complain about the award of the Congrua and its equitable distribution under Hungarian rule.
The Romanian state disbursed the Congrua from 1920 on. For about a decade no discrimination was felt because the amount of the Congrua was determined according to the prescriptions of the law, without distinction as to ethnic group. The situation changed, however, after 1930. In 1931, Nicolae Costachescu, a minister from the National Peasant Party, raised the issue of tying the subsidy to the number of faithful. This was in conflict with the prescriptions under section 31 of the Law on Religion which, in addition to the number of faithful, also took into consideration the financial situation and actual needs of the churches in determining the amount of the subsidy. The Ministry of Religious Affairs kept an account of the faithful of only those parishes where the clergy received the subsidy. Clergy in charge of congregations numbering less than 400 or 200 faithful received no subsidy.
In 1932 the subsidy was determined according to the number of the faithful, which entailed serious consequences. According to the new system the Unitarian clergymen received subsidies amounting to 750 to 1,250 lei, the Reformed 1,150 to 1,700 lei, the Lutherans and Roman Catholics 2,050 to 3,000 lei, the Uniates 2,150 to 3,150 lei, and the Orthodox 2,150 to 3,400 lei. Thus the clergymen of purely Hungarian Unitarian and Reformed churches received about half the amount awarded to Uniate and Orthodox clergymen with the same or lesser professional training. After 1931 the subsidies received by the Hungarian churches diminished from year to year. In the two-year period from 1931 to 1933 the decreases totaled 14.815,390 lei in the case of Reformed clergymen and 2.354,350 lei in the case of the Unitarians. In the same period the subsidies to Uniate clergymen
increased by 23.311,560 lei. With this measure geared to the number of faithful the government decreased the subsidies by 4.606,209 lei to the Roman Catholics, by 23.926,679 lei to the Reformed, and by 5.913,549 lei to the Unitarians. 20
The representatives of the churches did everything possible to rectify the unjust system. In some cases a truly tragicomic situation evolved. Everyone in Transylvania was aware that the Reformed and Unitarian clergymen, most of whom had families, received in general about one third of the amount granted to the celibate Orthodox clergymen. It was also common knowledge that in a certain year the Unitarian bishop received a smaller subsidy than the doorman of parliament. In 1935 there was some improvement. Lapedatu, the Romanian Minister of Religious Affairs earmarked 30 million lei at the beginning of 1935 in order to partially redress the balance in the award of the Congrua to the clergymen of various denominations. Thereby the clergymen of the Reformed and Unitarian churches received some compensation. At the same time, however, the overall amount of the Congrua was decreased by means of further measures. We may read the following in the administrative report prepared for the 1935 general assembly of the Reformed diocese of Transylvania:
Although the relative amount of the Congrua of our clergymen increased somewhat, it is still not enough to survive on; in fact, in many places, especially in the towns, it dropped to a few hundred lei. In spite ~,f all our efforts and struggles we have not succeeded in obtaining uniformity in the award of the Congrua with the majority churches.... Along with the decreases in the Congrua the Minister of Religious Affairs decreed that the post of clergymen that become vacant as a result of death, retirement, or resignation would not be awarded the Congrua the following year, i.e. that the new clergymen selected for the post would receive the Congrua only if he brings it with him from some other post, in which case that other post is left without it. This has also affected our diocese negatively. As of April 1,1935 recently graduated assistant clergymen could not be appointed to posts with a Congrua. Petitions or personal interventions in this regard have remained without result to this day. If this measure is maintained we must count with all our clergymen being deprived of the Congrua in just a few years. 21
The situation did not improve, however; two years later one of the periodicals of the Reformed Church explained that many a Reformed
minister was now living in misery such as was unimaginable earlier. There were ministers who owned no more than the shirt on their back, and others, with children, where misery was even deeper. And so it continued until 1940, when they collected 12 112 million lei to raise the state subsidies awarded to Protestant clergymen. This extra money was barely sufficient to raise the subsidies awarded to Protestant ministers to parity with those awarded to Catholic priests.
In addition to the clergymen, the central organizations of the churches received state subsidies as well. The Romanian state paid professors of theology and the top men in the hierarchy. As already mentioned, the Reformed diocese of Oradea had to wait until 1940 to receive state subsidies because of the delays in the official recognition of the Evangelical superintendency of Arad. On the other hand, the bishops and the theological institute of the Unitarians, as well as the Council of Directors of the Transylvanian Reformed District, and the professors and personnel of the Cluj Theological Institute of the Transylvanian Reformed District were paid from state subsidies. But the subsidies meant to supplement the income of clergymen contributed an effective weapon in the hands of the state for, in practice, the withdrawal of the subsidy did not take place under the specific circumstances defined in the law, but in an entirely arbitrary manner. It sufficed for the clergyman to give the faithful advice in matters of schooling, or as regards the rules pertaining to conversion: the Minister would cancel the subsidy without any investigation on the basis of reports from Romanian groups in the area. Such cases became especially frequent after 1934, as we may read in the official reports prepared for the general assembly meetings of the various churches. The report of the Council of Directors prepared for the 1935 general assembly of the Transylvanian Reformed District mentions the withdrawal of the subsidy from certain clergymen: "three of our ministers have been unpleasantly surprised." Gabor Barabas, the minister of Zagon, lost his Congrua as of June 1, 1935, by directive 89997/1118-35 of the Minister of Religious Affairs because "he deliberately and antagonistically stayed away from the celebrations of May 10." The Congrua was withdrawn from Lajos Barta because, according to the Minister of Religious Affairs, "he was involved in widespread irredentist propaganda activities." Karoly Szilagyi, minister at Somcuta Mare [Nagysomkut] lost his Congrua because, as the Minister stated in his directive 114507114940, he had been "working against the interests of the state."
Our Council of Directors forwarded the letters of explanation of the above-mentioned clergymen to the Minister of Religious Affairs, and the lack of validity of the charges was pointed out to the ministry and a committee of representatives of our district: "we hope our above-named compatriots will be able to benefit from the Congrua to which they are entitled, even if belatedly." 22
Judging from these words it would appear that the Romanian Minister of Religious Affairs had deprived the clergymen accused of activities not to his liking of their Congrua, without any investigation, by directive, with immediate effect. The charges of irredentism raised against the clergymen proved unjustified in all cases, inasmuch as they stemmed most of the time from some misunderstanding or baseless suspicion. These procedures were diametrically different from the procedures applied by the Hungarian state in the case of subsidies to Romanian priests. As we had noted from the Romanian sources, the Hungarian Minister of Religious Affairs withdrew the Congrua only as a result of a legal ruling by the courts or as a result of an investigation. It is easy to surmise the differences in the outcome of the two kinds of procedures.
From 1935 until the fall of Greater Romania in 1940 withdrawal of the state subsidies was among the most frequent incidents characterizing the internal history of the Hungarian churches. Hundreds of Hungarian clergymen were deprived of their Congrua in 1936 and especially in 1937 under various guises. The reports of the autonomous bodies of the Reformed and Unitarian churches in 1937 and 1939 are filled with specific complaints to this effect.
|THE NATIONALITIES PROBLEM IN TRANSYLVANIA 1867-1940|