August 8, 2013

Romanian Patriarchate Responds To BBC Documentary

A Manipulation that Does Not Honor the BBC Television Station

August 5, 2013

In regard to the documentary titled “Although it is the poorest country of the EU, a church is built in Romania every three days”, presented by the BBC on 3 August 2013, and taken over with no critical discrimination whatsoever by some Romanian mass media sources, the Romanian Patriarchate explains:

The construction of new places of worship is not a caprice, but a liturgical must, especially in the urban areas, where the construction of churches was forbidden in the time of the communist regime. After 1990, at the initiative of the communities of faithful from all over the country supported by the local authorities, about 2000 places of worship were built or are being built, because those existent had no more room to accommodate the large number of Christians who attend the religious services. Their construction, painting and maintenance are financially sustained especially by the parochial communities who are their beneficiaries also.

As for the support from the state budget to the religious cults recognised (not only the Romanian Orthodox Church), according to the Ministry for Public Finances, this one amounts to 0.2% of the state budget or 0.08% of Romania’s GDP and it is the consequence of the confiscation of the church estates through the Law for the Secularisation of the Church Estates (1863) and by the communist regime of Romania beginning with 1948. A possible interruption of the support from the state budget to the religious cults may follow after the retrocession of all the church estates owned and exploited by the Romanian State.

As for the financial support from the State Budget for building the Cathedral for the Nation’s Salvation, this one is in accordance with the Law for Religious Affairs (489/2006) and Law for the Cathedral for the Nation’s Salvation (376/2007).

Moreover, the National Fund-Raising for constructing the Cathedral for the Nation’s Salvation has been taking place for over two years, with the participation of many donors, especially priests and faithful.

All the inaccurate information presented in the BBC documentary are taken from the same tendentious source (Secular Humanist Association of Romania), as Deutsche Welle television channel did in August 2011, who made a similar reportage, of which argumentation was discouraged by the Romanian Patriarchate at the time. For example two years ago, the Deutsche Welle reportage used the same pathetic and alarming rhetoric concerning the construction of the Cathedral for the Nation’s Salvation through the appreciation of the cost of its infrastructure, red-grey stage, to over 600 million euro. In reality, the cost estimated by experts amount to 100 million euro, and after achieving the infrastructure of the future Patriarchal Cathedral (finished in April 2013), it was diminished by 20%.

As for the explanation of the author of the BBC documentary, according to which the representatives of the Romanian Orthodox Church have not accepted an interview to express their point of view, we mention:

A few days after finishing the infrastructure of the Cathedral for the Nation’s Salvation, possibly at the suggestion of its opponents, two journalists from BBC – one from Romania, Mr Paul Andrei Lungu, and the other one married to a Romanian, Romanian language speaking and with a good command of the Romanian traditions, Mrs Tessa Dunlop – asked for the support of the Romanian Patriarchate to achieve as soon as possible a reportage both on the “popularity of the Romanian Orthodox Church and on the publicizing of the actions of the Romanian Orthodox Church” at the international level. The application of the two journalists caused confusion concerning their good intentions, taking into account their previous journalistic activity, the very short time established for filming (only a few days), contrary to the British Institution media usage, and their insistence to film at the building yard of the Cathedral for the Nation’s Salvation according to a rather strange plan. In this sense, very relevant is the fact that the BBC journalists asked for interventions at the Romanian Patriarchate to be allowed to film, through the representatives of the Romanian diplomacy in London and of the British diplomacy in Bucharest.

In conclusion, the authors of the BBC documentary succeeded in overshadowing the image of one of the most appreciated international institutions for the professionalism and accurate information presented, through the exclusive presentation of the information suggested by the representatives of an anti-religious and anti-clerical trend of Romania or through the interviews taken only from some interlocutors attentively selected for the purpose. The tendency to exaggerate and to convey the false message according to which Romania is the “poorest country of the EU” because of the Romanian Orthodox Church, a country with an educational, medical and social assistance system in crisis, with no proof in this regard, does not honor the British Television channel.

Moreover, we think it is a more dignified attitude for a Christian European people to build new churches, necessary to large communities, than sell empty churches because they lack faithful, to be changed into commercial or sporting spaces, as often happens in Great Britain and other secularized countries of the West, to the surprise of other religions.