Nationwide Protest Against Buzau Court Decision Regarding Re-Nationalisation of Church Property

2012. augusztus 24., péntek

On 1 September, 2012 church delegations from all over Transylvania are going to gather at the grounds of the Székely Mikó Reformed High School in Sepsiszentgyörgy (Sfântu Gheorghe), protesting against a legal verdict issued by the Romanian government to re-nationalise the school which is owned by the Transylvanian Reformed Church District in Romania. Dr Géza Pap, bishop of the Transylvanian Church District has asked all deans, ministers, elders and congregation members to join the cause and raise their voices together against the unfair decision of the Buzau Court.

The school, like many other church properties in Romania, or, in fact, all over Eastern Europe, has its own complicated history of nationalisation and privatisation. Originally, the Transylvania region of Romania belonged to Hungary. In 1920, however, the Trianon Treaty ceded it to Romania, as an act of penalising Hungary for supporting Germany in World War I. After World War II, communists took control of Romania, and as a consequence, all private property was nationalised. Thus the properties of the four traditional Hungarian churches (Roman Catholic, Reformed, Unitarian and Lutheran), the Greek Catholic Church and the Jewish community were confiscated.

Several years after the fall of the Communist regime in Romania, in May 2002 the Property Restitution Committee was established. The Committee issued a court decision that returned private church properties back to their original owners. Accordingly, the ownership of the Székely Mikó High School was handed back to the Reformed Church. The property, however, had been intentionally destroyed beforehand. The Transylvanian Reformed Church District in Romania invested more than 2.2 million Lei ($ 630,000) to refurbish the high school.

In 2005, the European Parliament issued a Resolution Article that emphasised "the need to speed up the implementation of the law on the restitution of property." However, Romania continued its campaign of obstructing church property restitution.

In 2006, the 108th Congress of the United States of America introduced House Resolution 632, whose preamble included "Urging the government of Romania to provide equitable, prompt and fair restitution...for property confiscated by the former Communist government in Romania."

In fact, the Romanian State issued a great number of new laws, which intentionally created legal ambiguities to further stall the property restitution process.

When the Reformed church made an attempt to retrieve their rightful ownership over the apartments that once served as accommodation for the teachers of the high school, present tenants began to question that the property ever belonged to the church. As a matter of fact, the school's operating licence issued by the Romanian Ministry of Education dates back to 1928, and it was signed by Anghelescu, Minister of Education. This document clearly states that the Székely Mikó Reformed High School is the property of the Transylvanian Reformed Church District.

The Romanian authorities took measures which made the appeal of the Reformed church impossible. Primarily, the property records substantiating church ownership were barred from being used as evidence. Secondly, the Romanian Court imposed a penalty of 1,137,000 Lei ($ 318,000) against the Transylvanian Reformed Church District. Third, the Romanian Court sentenced three members of the Property Restitution Committee to jail, for three years each, for legally transferring the real estate back to its rightful owner: the Hungarian Reformed Church in Romania. The General Assembly of the Transylvanian Reformed Church District has submitted an appeal in defense of these committee members.

In 2006, the Brasov Court of Appeal definitively and irrevocably recognised that the Székely Mikó Reformed High School and all its assets were owned by the Hungarian Reformed Church in Romania, prior to the nationalisation. This very decision was recognized and confirmed by the Buzau Court hearing on 24 January 2012.

Besides violating international law, the High School verdict constitutes an attack against minority Hungarians in Transylvania, Romania. Hungarians are considered as "enemies" of the majority population in Romania and do not have equal rights. The international media need to expose the anti-minority rhetoric, revisionism, and resentment so obviously present in Romania.

The General Assembly of the Transylvanian Reformed Church District considers the proceedings initiated against the members of the Restitution Committee an authentic show trial. As such, it constitutes an attack against Hungarians in Transylvania. In addition, the General Assembly believe that this situation signals the beginning of an imminent re-nationalisation process, harkening back to the days of communism. Therefore, they advocate the international monitoring of the Romanian justice system and call for a review of the Romanian restitution process, which has been delayed since the fall of communism in 1989. They also welcome a trial in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg (France) to bring the prevailing powers of the Romanian State to justice.

The Synod of the Reformed Church in Romania considers this act of confiscation a harsh attack not only against the church and the ethnic Hungarian population, but against the Rule-of-Law in Romania and the citizens of the European Union. The Synod believes that until the Reformed church's confiscated property is de-nationalised or proper compensation is received, there is no legitimate relationship between the Hungarian Historical Churches of Transylvania and the prevailing powers of the Romanian State.

The Synod has requested that the Competent Authorities quickly intercede and stop the wholly illegal process of re-nationalisation of the Székely Mikó Reformed High School in Sepsiszentgyörgy, as the Buzau Court Decree issued on June 28 reverses Church progress and subjects believers to memories of the pre-1989, dark-dictatorship. The September 1 demonstration is going to be a strong gesture with the aim to break the stubbornness of Romanian authorities, and to draw even more national, international and media attention to the unfair conduct of church properties and Hungarian educational institutions in Romania.

Compiled and translated by Katalin Burns from the resolution and statment of the Transylvanian Reformed Church District (

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