Eastern Catholics Ask Romania to Restore Their Property

Want Churches Seized by Communists in 1948

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BUCHAREST, Romania, JUNE 17, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Romania´s Eastern-rite Catholic Church has demanded the return of property seized by the Communists.

In an open letter to Prime Minister Adrian Nastase and Culture Minister Razvan Theodorescu, Bishop Lucian, who heads the Romanian Eastern-rite Catholics, called on Parliament to adopt a solution that would allow «for the return of (Church) property abusively confiscated and now in the hands of the state.»

The Church wants the return of all property including churches, libraries, real estate, parish houses, land and other assets which were confiscated in 1948 by the Communists, a letter faxed to the Associated Press said.

The development Saturday is a sign that a Zenit report earlier this month was overly optimistic about the likely return of property this autumn.

A ban on the Church was lifted after the 1989 anti-Communist revolt, but there has been little restitution of property and suspicions remain between the majority Orthodox Church and Catholics.

The Eastern-rite Catholics adhere to Orthodox traditions but hold allegiance to the Pope. Earlier this month, John Paul II appealed to Romania to hand back Eastern-rite Catholic real estate. The Communists banned the Eastern-rite Catholics because its believers professed loyalty to a foreign power — the Pope.

Responding to the Holy Father, Romanian President Ion Iliescu said the state is unable to force the restitution of Catholic Church property, claiming only local worshippers can decide the ownership of a church.

In 1948, authorities seized almost 2,500 churches and other property from the Catholics and handed them over to the Orthodox Church. Since the ban on the Church was lifted in 1989, just 120 of the 2,500 churches have been handed back, according to official statistics.

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