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Chapter VI
Church-State Relations and Minority Existence

State Religious Policy

The churches are the last and still relatively independent institutions of the Hungarian minority in Romania. During the current phase of Romanianization, however, deliberate efforts have been made to weaken or to dissolve church circles, most notably those of the Roman Catholics and the Calvinists. To understand the motivations for this efforts we need to examine briefly the state's general religious policies and the present status of churches in Romania.

In its tendency toward intolerance the Stalinist regime targeted all believers including ethnic Romanians. [84] The overall aim of the state was to repress religious worship, even within the private sphere, and to subordinate the ecclesiastical hierarchy to the Party's objectives. The state's relationship to minority churches was also influenced by the churches, natural antagonism to policies aimed at national exclusivism. Each individual denomination was subjected to different methods of oppression and each was subjugated to a different degree.

Ironically, of all the denominations, the oppression of Romanians belonging to the Greek Catholic (Uniate) Church is the most serious in its consequences. The Greek Catholic (Uniate) Church, numbering some 1.5 million believers, was merged by decree in 1948 with the Romanian Orthodox Church, in effect eliminating it as a separate denomination. It received a hierarchy entirely subservient to government aspirations composed of the leaders of the Romanian Orthodox Church. This political subservience is reflected in the 1948 statement given by the newly installed Patriarch, Iustinian Marina of Bucharest, who said on this occasion: "God has charged the Orthodox Church with the mission to show the way of truth to all those who believe in the approaching fulfilment of progress and socialist welfare." [85] Having accepted the government's control, the Orthodox Church has been allowed to maintain its monastic communities with its extensive property holdings. Moreover, it could retain an extensive network of institutions and publications edited in both Romanian and foreign languages. At the same time, it has been allowed to maintain extensive external relations. However, the reports of Romanian emigres and the intemational press, often provide details about the ordeals of both the Ronmlian Orthodox and the fomier Greek Catholic priests as well as laymen who remain faithful to the real mission of their respective churches. [86]

The Romania Orthodox Church has been a loyal servant of nationalist state policy, even participating in propaganda campaigns both at home and abroad. It has taken an active role in anti-Hungarian incitement and has continued press campaigns with this objective for many years now. [87] It should be noted, however, that while the Orthodox Church is regarded as the carrier of the national faith in Romania, its official political statements cannot be equated with the views of the Romanian Christian population as a whole. At the same time, in today's state of Romanian-Hungarian relations, gestures of solidarity with the Hungarian minority churches are rare.

These policies confined the Hungarian churches within the four walls of their houses of worship, depriving them of their educational and cultural institutions and of virtually all international contacts. The monastic orders, which traditionally had played a large role in education and pastoral activity, were dissolved. The work of the so-called "Status" was terminated. This had been the organ entrusted with the conduct of the economic and cultural affairs of the Roman Catholic Church. It was endowed with funds of its own and an existence that went back centuries. [88] The "Status" was a typical autonomous Transylvanian institution. As an elective Catholic secular body, it had come into being when Transylvania was still an indepelident Protestant principality. It existed from the 16th century Until after Warld War II. Initially, it even had some administrative Church responsibilities. Almost all of its estates, both ploughlands and forests, however, had already been expropriated under the Romanian land refom of 1921.

Of all minority denontinations, only the Calvinist[89] and the Unitarian churches pursue a continuous but limited publishing activity today The Reformatus Szemle (Calvinist Review), is limited to 82-pages annually with a domestic circulation of 1,100. According to the govemment's propaganda leaflet entitled "The Calvinist Church in the Socialist Republic of Romania" [90] altogether nine self-supporting chu rch publications appeared between 1945 and 1976 The same source also maintained that the Calvinist Church is "not concerned" with the publication of Bibles and hymnals, because it has received gift books from sister churches in the Wes. (In 1972, as a result of protracted negotiations, the World Reformed Alliance was able to present 20.000 Bibles to the Romanian Calvinist Church. A large part of this gift, however, did not reach the intended audience but was placed into storage. In 1984, these Bibles were then recycled into toilet paper in the Braila paper mill. The news of this incident leaked out and provoked great international indignation). [91]

The Catholic Church has not been in a position to publish Bibles either. During the past forty years the Catholic community has been provided only with Roman Catholic wall calendars issued at Alba-Iulia (Gyulafehervar) and Satu-Mare. In recent decades, a prayer book. a short catechism and a liturgical calendar have also been printed.

The secularization of church schools. endorsed by Arlicle 30of the present constitution hurts mainly the Hungarian and German minorities. It states "The school shall be separated from the church. No denontination, congregation, or religious community shall establish or maintain educational institutions other than specialized schools for the training of the personnel of the denomination concerned". [92] Since the Orthodox Church had already given up its own schools and transferred them to state ownership at the time when Ronunia was still a monarchy, the vast majority of Romanians were not affected by this new constitutional provision

The most adversely affected have been the churches of the Hungarian minority, particularly the Roman Catholic and Calvinist Churches, the two largest religious communities of this minority.

The Hungarian Catholic Community [93]

Some three-quarters of all Roman Catholics in Romania are Hungarians According to conservative estimates, they number more than a million today. More than 900,000 of them live in Transylvania. The majority of the remaining 100,000 are the Csango Hugarians, who live east of the Carpathians in Moldavia. In addition to the Hungarians, members of the Roman Catholic Church in Romania include nearly 160,000 Swabians of the Banat region and some 20,000 persons of other nationalities living in the same region It also includes nearly 150,000 members of Romanian mother tongue or nationality living in Moldavia and Bucharest. The total number of Roman Catholics in Romania is thus between 1.3 and 1.4 million.

The Church administration rests upon four dioceses dating from the 11th century. The Transylvanian diocese, with its seat in Gyulafehervar (Alba-Iulia) was formed in A D 1009 It was completely incorporated into Romania in 1918. The also anneexed Partimn (Crisana) and Bansag (Banat) regions comprised three dioceses which extended into Hungary as well: (1) the Szatmar (Satu-Mare) diocese, which was separated from the bishopric of Eger in 1804 when the latter becaune an archbishopric: (2) the diocese of Nagyvarad(Oradea). which was founded in 1093; and. (3) the diocese of Csanad, reestablished at Temesvar (Timisoara) at the end of Ottomanl domination. By this time it had acquired a Swabian majority.

In 1927. the Holy See concluded a concordat with the Romanian State. This concordal look into account the changed sovereignty over the three diocese. Pursuant to this agreement, the diocese of Satu-Mare was merged with tile diocese of Oradea. The Tralisylvanian diocese was renamed the diocese of Alba-Iulia, and the Romanian part of the diocese of Csanad was renamed the diocese of Timisoara. Under the same agreement, the Bucharest bishopric, founded in 1872. was transformed into an archbishopric. The three Transylvanian Roman Catholic bishoprics with an overwhelming Hungarian majority, as well as the bishopric of Iasi. were in this way subordinated under Bucharest. At that time the Transylvanian diocese alone registered more than 375,000 members, while the Bucharest archbisilopric had only a total of 50 to 60 thousand members assigned to 26 parishes.

Apart from the changes that took place between 1940 and 1944, the above situation prevailed until 1947, when the Romanian State abrogated its agreement with the Holy See. In 1948, it then compelled the Greek Catholics to unite with the Orthodox Church. It also recognized - by virtue of the 1950 Act on Religious cults (Legea cultalor) - only the jurisdiction of the Alba-Iulia bishop in Transylvanian territory, thereby also reducing the status of the other three bishoprics to archdeaconries. However, the repudiation of the concordat, inadvertantly ended the Bucharest archbisilopric's jurisdiction over all the dioceses in Transylvania.

The foregoing indicates the Romanian government's successful effort to reduce the weight of the minorities and their freedom of action by reducing the organizational autonomy of their churches and by conferring disproportionate influence to the Romanians belonging to the same denomination. However, these persistent attempts to subjugate Hungarian Church leadership did not succeed. The internal life of the Church remained free of direct government control.

After 1945, the state sought to enforce a statute under which it would have had a decisive say in the appointment of ecclesiastical personnel. This was challenged by Bishop Aron Marton who submitted a counterproposal on behalf of the other three bishoprics. The negotiations were brought to a close with the arrest of Bishop Marton in 1949. This was followed by a wave of arrests and imprisonments of Church dignitaries. In the meantime, the clergy of the diocese refused to recognize the authority of ecclesiastical figures who had been illegally imposed on the diocese by the state. Aron Marton was finally set free in 1955, and he resumed leadersl ip over his diocese. His role was not diminished by the fact that he remained under house arrest in his episcopal palace at Alba-Iulia from the autumn of 1956 to the end of 1967. Finally, in 1980, Antal Jakab, a confidential associate of Aron Marton's beca ne his successor as Bishop of Alba-Iulia. Antal Jacab had been convicted in 195l and kept in forced labor camps and prisons until December l964.

All this shows that Hungarian Catholics, despite their utr defenselessness, have been able to safeguard their internal autonomy. An important consequence is that the state has barely any say in the appointment of priests and superiors. Only in personnel rnatters concerning nomination to posts of a juristic nature and to some institutional appointrnents does the govenment have the right to exercise the veto. Moreover, this veto is limited to a very narrow circle: the ordained personnel of the bishopric, the Theological Academy, and the officially recognized four archdeacon ries, including the dioceses of Satu-Mare, Oradea, and Tirnisoara. Of these, the appointment of the bishop, the suffragan, and three ordained subordinates falls within the competence of the Holy See: that of the others, within the province of the Bishop of Alba-Iulia. Consequently the state's veto right is of relatively negligible value, as the state's failed efforts to impose its will in the early 1950s demonstrates. The state has not been able to nominate candidates who are considered to be acceptable to the clergy.

The Church can also act on its own in the matters of religious instruction. In this realm civil authority does not determine the language and methods of religious instruction, the use of premises, or attendance policies. In these matters, the government has had recourse only to external means of intervention, e.g., intimidation or the timing of school activities so that they conflict with the times set aside for religious instruction.

Overall, the Roman Catholic Church of the Hungarians in Romania is characterized by a strong and independent-minded clergy and hierarchy and by an intensive religious life encompassing broad strata of the faithful which also provides an important institutional framework for the use of the mother tongue. However, the Church is deprived of access to the media and lacks a church press. It is also hindered in its contacts with sister churches in Hungary and with intemational Church organizations.

During the decade of the 1980s, however, new state-sponsored efforts have undermined the integrity and Hungarian character of the Church. From 1982 onward, the Theological Seminary in Alba-Iulia has been under pressure to apply an arbitrary ceiling on the number of seminarians. This would drastically hamper the training of future priests. (It should be noted that there are many in Romania who would like to enter the priesthood as a vocation). In 1977, the ceiling allowed for 40 seminarians. In 1983, the number of novices admitted was only 25 and in 1985 and 1986 only 16. As a consequence of the bishop's opposition and the backing he received from the clergy. 25 novices were again admitted in 1987. At the present time. however. the ceiling remains a major difficulty for the Protestant community.

All indicatiolls are that Romanian policymakers believe that the time is ripe for eradicating the Hungarian character of the Transylvanian Catholic communities. To this end they have utilized the unresolved problems of the Greek Catholics who have refused to be integrated into the Orthodox Church and the Romanianized Csango Hungarians who have been dispersed by industrialization and economic pressures throughout Transyl vania. Both of these lalter groups are Romanian in language but Calholic in denominational commitment.

The Romanian Greek Catholics, like the Ukrainian Greek Catholics have been incorporated into the Orthodox Church. However, they have not yet given up the idea of restoring their own church, and in this quest they have always been supported by the Holy See as well. Afler the merger of 1948, the Romanian Greek Catholics who remained loyal to theirfaith, simply began to frequent the Catholic churches observing Latin rites. These were predominantly the churches of Hungarian communities. They also organized religious instruction in secret, meeting illegally in private homes and even ordained their own priests and consecrated their own bishops.

The problem of the Romanan-speaking Roman Catholics is very unlike tile problem of Romanian Greek Catholics. Since the Second Vatican Council has made the national language the language of liturgy the, Romaian speakilig Roman Catholics in Transylvania have also asserted their desire for Romania-language church services. Romanan-speaking Roman Catholics number in the tens of thousands.

Romanian authorities use these two genuine concerns to generate "demands'' for the use of the Romanian language in the Catholic church services of the Hungarian parishes. The Romanan authorities encourage the Greek Catholics. who far outnumber the Moldavian Roman Catholics, to demand the celebration of Mass in Romanian in the predominantly Hunganan urban parishes. They also demand the establisment of Romaniaan parishes by the Bishop of Alba-Iulia. Officials of the State Office for Church Affairs and state security agents continually exert pressure to ths and upon the parish priests. At the same time, "representatives" of the Romaluan worshipers voice their demands in petitions to the Holy See.

There is no doubt that the appearance of Romanian-language parishes within the Alba-Iulia diocese would launch a process in the Roman Catholic Church that would threaten the Hungarian community. It would parallel the merger of educational and cultural institutions mentioned earlier. As has been pointed out ths had led in recent decades to the almost total annihilation of their ability to transmit their language and culture. In view of the political trends it is understalidable why the Hungarian Catholics of Romania fear the Romanian government's increasingly vigorous activity in the direction of church policies. They see this as the first step to Romanianie every Roman Catholic and later. at a more opportune time to submerge the whole of Romanian Catholicism into the Orthodox community.

The object of Romanian policy is, therefore, to polarize the Hungarian Catholic community by playing off their national consciousness, as opposed to their religious identity. The tension created by forcing a choice between nation and religion is shaking both elements of identity to their very foundations. The way to avoid this conflict situation would be one in which harmony would prevail between the mission of the Church to both the interests of the Hungarian and the Romanian Catholics alike. A new system of Church organization might be the answer. It would maintain the traditional territorial principle, but would also take into consideration mother-tongue affiliation. In other words, Romaanian and Hungarian language worshipers would belong to two different bishoprics. Insofar as the number of Romanian Ronan Catholics in Transylvania would justify it, they should be free to found a diocese of their own. Until their number justify this they should, as a dispersed group, come under the jurisdiction of one of the Roman Catholic dioceses east or south of the Carpathians. Similarly,thle Bishop of Alba-Iulia should exercise jurisdiction over the Hungarian Catholics who are dispersed and living in areas of Romania outside the Transylvanian diocese. The proposed solution is, incidentially, also in harmony with the provisions of the canonical code (cf. Canon 372, Art. 2 and Canon 518). Such an approach to the question is also timely and feasible in Romania because the repudiation of the concordat with the Holy See by the Act on Religious Cults, left the issue of the boundaries of Roman Catholic dioceses unsettled. The new arrangement could clarify the situation as concerns bilateral relations both between the Holy See and Romaltn and with respect to public law. (The proposed solution would not apply to the Greek Catholic Church which had been dissolved by force in 1949. Its members demand that the church be restored to its original standing.)

The Hungarian Calvinist Community [94]

The Calvinist Church concluded an agreement with the Romanian government in 1949. This agreement gives the govenunent authorities extensive control over the internal life of the Church. The highest-ranking ecclesiastical and secular officials of the Churcil (bishops, chief wardens, deacons) are selected by the state from a slate of several candidates. The result is that a number of important positions have been occupied by people beholden to state power. The Calvinists are thus today more subservient to the state than the Catholics. It should be noted, however, that the local church boards which are elected by the members, still have some influence. The church boards still enjoy considerable prestige in their respective communities in spite of the state's dictatorial power to restrict their role.

The Calvinist Church in Romania today numbers some 800,000 members. Its membership is composed almost entirely of Hungarians, and its Sunday sermons and other religious services are also conducted in Hungarian. The 732 mother or parent churches, some 150 dependent or affiliated churches, and roughly 750 dispersed congregations together constitute 13 dioceses and two church districts. At the time when this report was prepared the number of local church board members was about 12,000 and the number of pastors, 680. Attendance at religious services stands at about 12% on ordinary Sundays and 23% on holidays; 30% of the confirmed members of the Church (i.e., those who can participate in Communion) regularly partake of the Lord,' Supper. Compared to international data, including data in Hungary, these figures are suggestive of a rich and manifold church life.

In addition to noting the role of the local church boards with regard to ethnic preservation, it should also be mentioned that the life of the Calvinist Church is "clergy centered." This state of affairs is a matter of historical tradition and is not a necessary element of faith. However, the employment and training of "laymen" by the Church is lagging behind the times. The brunt of the work is thus borne by the pastors, although their number will dwindle by another 75 individuals over the next five years. This means that by 1992 there will actually be some 140 vacant posts for clergymen. The reason for the shortage of pastors is the imposition of discriminatory and restrictive quotas particularly since 1979. Restriction of admission to universities is a nationwide phenomenon. Similarly, the number of students admtted to the two Orthodox, as well as to the Roman Catholic and Protestant, theological seminaries is detemtined by the public authorities of the central govenunent. Even the establishment of the United Protestant Theological Seminary was the consequence of forcible state intervention which resulted in the compulsory merger of the Calvinist, Lutheran, and Unitarian theological seminaries in 1949.

The limited number of admissions before 1979 was detennined on the basis of perceived needs by the Church authorities. Over the preceding thirty years. the average annual number of graduates received by the Calvinist Church had been 23. The restrictive quotas since 1979 have reduced the average number to only 8.3 per year. In reality, ten admissions are now allowed. but this number is reduced by the dropout rate. It has also been affected by the fact that not a single pastor was graduated in 1986, since the four-year course was challged to a required five years. Consequently, over the course of this period, the Church has received 15 fewer graduate theologians each year. At present, the Theological Seminary in Cluj has 48 Calvinst students instead of the customary 115 to 120.

The above situation is further aggravated by another factor In spite of the restrictive measures mentioned in earlier chapters, the number of Hungarian town-dwellers has increased in recent decades as a result of urbanization Consequently, more than half of the Calvinists live in cities of more than l00,000 inhabitauns, where only 10% of the pastors are located. The result is that there are frequently rural congregations with 150 members and huge urban congregations where 30,000 are "ministered" to by a single pastor. Given the widely dispersed location of rural congregations and the difficult transportation conditions, the small congregations cannot be merged. This makes it impossible to transfer rural pastors to urban congregations. Ideally, the urban congregations ought to be divided up and organized under the guidance of at least some 70 to 80 pastors and assistant ministers Thus, five years hence, the shortage of clergymen will be 2l0 and not l40. The actual needs of the Church will be much closer to the former figure.

Smaller Religious Groups of the Minority [95]

The Unitarian Churc which has played a prominent role in Transylvanian Hungarian culture, has 80,000 members at present. It has a bishopric at Cluj, where the training of ministers takes place at the earliermentioned United Theological Seminary. Since the end of the last century, the Church publishes a periodical entitled Kereszteny Magveto. (Christian Disseminator )

The Lutherans are a denomination of mixed nationalities, in which Germans provide the majority of believers with fewer Hungarians and some Slovaks. The number of Hungarian members in the early 1980s exceeded 30,000. They have a Hungarian-language bishopric that has its seat in Cluj.

The newer denominations (Baptists, Pentacostalists, Adventists, etc.) are mostly composed of mixed natiomlities. According to church estimates, they comprise some 80,000 members at present, but constantly increasing. The state assumes a selective stance towards these smaller denominations. While there were some 60 denominations in existence in Rornania before World War II, only 12 of them are now officially recognized.

The Special Hungarian and Jewish Relationship

The Jewish ''nationality'' in Romania obtained Romanian citizenship only after the First World War, in 1923. Even then citizenship was only granted because the more than 100,000 persons of Jewish faith living in territories annexed to Romania had already enjoyed citizenship rights in their original country of Hungary. They also had civil and human rights which had been unknown to the Jewry of Romania prior to World War I.

On the greatly expanded and newly acquired territory of Romania after 1920 there were about 800,000 Jews. As with other national minorities, the authorities resorted to various legal and political means to Romanianize them. This also affected the mass of Transylvanian Jews, who maintained their Hungarian culture and had considerable economic potential and vast intemational contacts.

During the early years of World War II, in 1941-42, the Romanian fascist paramilitary orgaunzation called the Iron Guard, the Cuza movement, and the army joined forces and almost entirely liquidated the barely assimilated Jewish population of the north-eastenn part of Romania. This alliance also decimated their co-religionists in Southenl Transylvania and in the south of Romania by forcing them to flee or by confining them in concentration camps. The Jewry of Northenn Transylvania also suffered because of the collusion of the organs of Hungary's Ministry of Interior which enabled the Genman Nazis to deport them to the Third Reich, where most of them perished. [96]

About 90% to 93% of the Romanian Jewish population that survived the Holocaust (numbering a little over 400,000 at the end of the war) has left the country over the past 35 years. The increasingly aggressive auniiSemitism of the state and the Party, has led to their mass emigration. Since the late 1950s, the persecution of minority cultures in general and of individualism and of communal subcultures has prompted the Jews to emigrate in larger numbers. This emigration was also encouraged by the general insecurity prevailing in Romania's social, economic and polibcal life.

The number of Jews still living in Romalua is estimated to be only 22 to 28 thousand. Moreover, as stated by Chief Rabbi Moses Rosen of Romania, 65% of these are over sixty years of age. And, according to reliable estimates, those still living in Transylvania today number no more than 5,000 individuals, including about 3,000 Hungarian-speaking Jews. Those Romanian Jews who have declared themselves to be of Hungarian nationality have been targeted for double discrimination. Their fate has always been more adverse, and they have always had fewer opportunities.

Now when in certain Romanian Party circles some openly boast that within ten years Romania will become "a state free of Jews," it becomes clear even to outside observers that the past and present of Romanian anti-Semitism, [97] has been a practice drill. What has happened to the Jewish population of Romania is now becoming an increasingly likely scenario for all other minorities as well.

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