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The Romanian Catholic Church

The establishment of a communist government in Romania after World War II proved disastrous for the Romanian Greek Catholic Church. On October 1, 1948, 36 Greek Catholic priests met under government pressure at Cluj. They voted to terminate the union with Rome and asked for reunion with the Romanian Orthodox Church. On October 21 the union was formally abolished at a ceremony at Alba Iulia, and the country's six Greek Catholic bishops were arrested on the night of October 28-29. On December 1, 1948, the government passed legislation that dissolved the Greek Catholic Church and gave over most of its property to the Orthodox Church. Four of the six arrested bishops, along with another who was consecrated underground, later died in prison. In 1955 the bishop of Cluj-Gherla, Iuliu Hossu, was released from prison but placed under house arrest in various Orthodox monasteries until his death in 1970. Pope Paul VI announced in 1973 that he had made Hossu a Cardinal in pectore in 1969.

After 41 years underground, the fortunes of the Greek Catholic Church in Romania changed dramatically after the Ceausescu regime was overthrown in December 1989. On January 2, 1990, the 1948 decree which dissolved the church was abrogated. Greek Catholics began to worship openly again, and three secretly ordained bishops emerged from hiding. On March 14, 1990, Pope John Paul II reestablished the hierarchy of the church by appointing bishops for all five dioceses.

Unfortunately the reemergence of the Greek Catholic Church was accompanied by a confrontation with the Romanian Orthodox Church over the restitution of church buildings. The Catholics insisted that all property be returned as a matter of justice, while the Orthodox held that any transfer of property must take into account the present pastoral needs of both communities. In 1998 a bilateral commission between the Orthodox and Greek Catholics was established to resolve property issues, but progress was slow and only 16 churches were returned as a result of its work. It has practically ceased activity since 2004. Altogether less than 200 former Greek Catholic churches had been returned by 2006, many of them in the Banat region where Orthodox Metropolitan Nicolae was more willing to allow the return of Greek Catholic property. More than 200 worshipping communities are still without a church and compelled to meet in public places. In the meantime the Greek Catholic Church has reduced its property claims from an initial list of 2,600 to less than 300.

The remains of Bishop Ion Inochentie Micu-Klein were returned to Romania and buried in Blaj in August 1997. In 1998 proceedings were initiated in Rome for the possible canonization of the Greek Catholic bishops who died during the communist persecutions.

Provincial councils of the Romanian Greek Catholic Church were held at Blaj from May 5 to 14, 1872, from May 30 to June 6, 1882, and from September 13 to 26, 1900. These councils passed legislation concerning various aspects of church life, and all were approved by the Holy See. A fourth provincial council was held in five sessions over a four-year period from 1997 to 2000.

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