eurel     Données sociologiques et juridiques sur la religion en Europe et au-delà

2018

  • November 2018 : The national cathedral consecrated

On 25 November 2018, around 40,000 worshippers took part in the service consecrating the national cathedral, or Cathedral of Salvation, of the Romanian nation. The service was celebrated by Patriarch Daniel of the Romanian Orthodox Church, and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, together with a large number of hierarchs from Romania and abroad.

Events around the consecration continued on 30 November, the feast of the Holy Apostle Andrew, the Cathedral’s first patron. For the occasion, the service was celebrated by the patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church, Daniel, and Theophile III, patriarch of Jerusalem.

The construction of the cathedral began in 2010 and will continue until 2024. It is at present 95% completed, is 120 m high and is considered the highest Orthodox edifice in Southeastern Europe. It forms part of an architectural complex that includes 8 lifts, 2 multi-purpose rooms equipped with altars that will serve as churches, 4 pavilions that will bear the names of the apostles Saint Andrew, Saint Peter, Saint Paul and Saint Luke, each intended for a specific function (respectively receiving religious pilgrims, receiving lay pilgrims, cultural and missionary action, and social and medical action), a library, a hotel, reception halls and the residence of the Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church. The basements contain 4 anti-atomic bunkers, 42 crypts, a museum of Christianity and various spaces for communication with the media. The cathedral can welcome up to 5,000 worshippers during services. Designed to last more than 500 years, the cathedral is the safest place in Romania in the event of a major earthquake.

The idea of building a cathedral representative of the Romanian space dates back to the days immediately following the War of Independence in 1877-1878. The endeavour was delayed or blocked multiple times for ideological or economic reasons, such as the two World Wars, the advent of the atheist Communist regime, the slow and difficult transition to democracy after 1989 and frequent economic crises. Yet the Church, the kings of Romania, the Romanian intelligentsia and a large part of the population never abandoned the undertaking. The cathedral’s importance comes less from its functionality as from its status as a symbol. First of all, it in effect asserts the identity of the Romanian people as independent and Orthodox Christian. It was, thus, not by coincidence that it was consecrated, despite not yet being entirely finished, around 1 December 2018, Romania’s National Day, but also the date celebrating the centennial of the Great Union, an event of the highest importance in the history of the Romanian people.

The consecration of the national cathedral has the value of a symbolic act with national and political significance, which underlines the sovereignty of the Romanian state and the autocephalous status of the Romanian Orthodox Church, as well as the immense role of the Church in the survival of the Romanians as a nation. In recent times, however, the construction of the cathedral has been widely criticised, in particular for its reliance on sizeable State funding. In November 2018, the costs of the works declared by the Romanian Orthodox Church amounted to €110 million, 75% of which came from public funds.

  • October 2018 : Failure of the referendum for the “traditional family”

On 6 and 7 October 2018, a referendum took place in Romania to amend art. 48 (1) of the Constitution by replacing the reference “between spouses” with the more restrictive “between a man and a woman”. The move drew on a citizens’ initiative, the first to be launched in Romania since the fall of Communism in 1989, initiated by the Coalition for the Family at the end of 2015. It was actively supported by representatives of religious faiths.

Human rights NGOs, meanwhile, saw the initiative as a curtailment of the rights of LGBT minorities. The Constitutional Court nevertheless approved the proposed amendment to the Constitution, finding that it does not interfere with any individual rights. The proposed revision was also approved by the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. Prior to the referendum, the Coalition for the Family concluded a cooperation agreement with the main parties in Parliament, which promised to support the revision of Article 48 (1) of the Constitution.

Despite this support, at least in theory, the referendum failed as the validation threshold (i.e. 30% of the number of people registered on the permanent electoral rolls, see Art. 5(2) of Law No. No. 3/2000 on the organisation and conduct of the referendum) was not reached. According to the Central Electoral Office, 21.1% of Romanians with voting rights (3,731,704 total number of voters) took part in the ballot during the two-day consultation. This meant that the referendum on 6 and 7 October produced the lowest turnout since 1990. The constitutional amendment was supported by 91.56% of voters (see the official website of the Central Electoral Office).

In Romanian legislation, marriage is already governed by Article 277 of the Civil Code, which prohibits other forms of equivalent cohabitation (homosexual marriages and unions). However, it is permissible for spouses who are nationals of European Union Member States and/or third-country nationals, and who have contracted a same-sex marriage in a European Union Member State, to remain on the territory of the Romanian State under the conditions provided for by European law.

Thus, although the referendum was not validated, Romania remains one of the European countries that does not grant legal recognition to same-sex couples. Other Eastern European countries, such as Bulgaria, Latvia, the Republic of Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Serbia, Ukraine, Croatia, Macedonia, Slovakia and Hungary, limit marriage to persons of the opposite sex in their constitutions. By way of comparison, 13 European states allow same-sex marriages (see Eurel article, “Same-sex marriage”) in Europe.

  • September 2018 : The referendum for the redefinition of the family will be held

On 10 September 2018, the Senate, in its capacity as the decision-making body, adopted the bill proposing to amend Article 48 of the Constitution to assert that the family is based on marriage between a man and woman and not between spouses, as currently stipulated (see article on marriage). It should be recalled that the Chamber of Deputies already adopted in May 2017 the citizens’ initiative to revise the Constitution, which defends the traditional family.

This provision, which is meant to be introduced into the Constitution, is already in the Civil Code ; however, the Coalition for the Family, the association which, with the support of religious institutions, has garnered more than 3 million signatures for the revision of the fundamental law, claims that the traditional family would thus be better protected.

On 17 September 2018, the Constitutional Court of Romania approved the law on the revision of the Constitution. On the following day, on 18 September, the Romanian Government adopted an Emergency Ordinance that established the organisation of the referendum over two days, on 6 and 7 October 2018, between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. The question to which voters will answer with “yes” or “no” is “Do you agree with the law revising the Constitution of Romania in the form adopted by Parliament ?”

Romanians living abroad will also be able to vote at the polling stations set up in diplomatic missions and consular offices and institutes.

  • July 2018 : The Great Mosque of Bucharest will not be built

The Romanian Council of Muslim Worship said it had discarded the idea of raising one of the largest mosques in a Christian country, in Bucharest, as announced three years previously (see Archives of Debates, October 2016). The reason given was lack of funds.

In 2015, the Romanian state gave Romania’s Muslim cult 11,000 square metres of land over a 49-year period for the construction of a mosque and cultural centre. The only condition was that investment began within three years. The idea of raising a mosque in the Romanian capital, considering the project’s gigantic proportions, sent waves of dissatisfaction through Romanian society.
At the time, the Mufti had said the funds needed to build the mosque, amounting to about three million euros, would be paid by the Turkish State. After three years, when the deadline to start the project was reached, the Mufti announced that the plan to raise the mosque was well over budget.

However, informed observers of Romanian public life suggested that the reasons for foregoing the mosque’s construction could be different, the lack of funds being but a pretence.
One reason could be the reluctance of part of Romanian society to build a mosque which, due to its size, could gain the status of a symbol in the capital of a predominantly Christian country. This reluctance is explained to the historical past of conflict between the two States plus the current pervasive fear of Islamic terrorism.
Similarly, the reason for the subject’s politicisation may be plausible. The fact that the Turkish state stopped funding the mosque reflects either real financial difficulties in the Ankara regime or the fact that Ankara realised that the mosque risked upsetting relations with Romania, a strategic partner of the Turkish state both bilaterally and in the NATO alliance.

The Romanian Council of Muslim Worship also announced that it had returned the land to the Romanian State, a sign that the plan for a large mosque in Bucharest has been dropped for the time being.

For more information, see the Adevărul article (in Romanian).

  • March 2018 : Good Friday, a public holiday in Romania

Good Friday has officially become a legally-recognised holiday. The law for the implementation of paragraph no. 1 of art. 139 of the Labour Code was adopted by the Chamber of Deputies and promulgated by the President of Romania in March this year. With this, Romania joins the 16 other EU countries where Good Friday is a public holiday.

The Labour Code now designates the following days as statutory public holidays : 1 and 2 January ; 24 January (Union Day of the Romanian Principalities) ; Good Friday ; the first and second days of Easter ; 1 May (Labour Day) ; 1 June (Children’s Day) ; the first and second days of Pentecost ; 15 August (assumption of the Virgin Mary) ; 30 November (Saint Andrew) ; 1 December (Romania National Day) ; 25 and 26 December (first and second days of Christmas).

Romania now has 15 statutory public holidays, 9 of which are based on Christian religious holy days.

D 19 septembre 2018    AGabriel Birsan

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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