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Romania to establish Religious Freedom Day

His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel of Romania and other representatives of religious denominations officially recognised in Romania met with state representatives at the National Art Museum on Wednesday, 10 April 2024.

The participants discussed aspects related to consolidating their collaboration at a social level.

“Today, the Romanian Orthodox Church is convinced that in cooperation with state institutions, it can bring together with other religious denominations a major and beneficial contribution to the life of Romanian society, especially on spiritual, cultural, educational, and social-philanthropic levels,” the Patriarch of Romania said.

“This mission derives not only from the needs of today’s social context but, first and foremost, from the message of Christ’s gospel, which does not separate the love of God from the love of people because God loves all humans and desires their salvation.”

“We thank the Government of Romania for its support offered to religious denominations until now and for organizing this Meeting between the Romanian state’s representatives and the representatives of officially recognized religious denominations as an expression of the co-responsibility and cooperation between the state and the religious denominations for the benefit of the Romanian people,” the Patriarch noted.

PM announces cooperation for social assistance

“I cannot imagine Romania or Europe without the contribution of religious denominations because religious denominations represent the state’s most involved and constant partner. They contribute to our spiritual and cultural heritage, especially in the social and educational fields. In other words, we are on an important journey together,” PM Marcel Ciolacu said.

“I am convinced that through the competent institutions, in particular the State Secretariat for Religious Affairs, we will succeed in diversifying how the Government supports the activities of religious denominations, thus fulfilling the promise made in October 2023 to capitalize on an even greater extent the potential that religious denominations have in the social-philanthropic, medical, and educational field.”

A novelty announced by the prime minister is the possibility of European funding “for joint projects regarding the assistance of people with addictions or the support of single-parent or vulnerable families.”

Legislative changes targeting religious denominations

The State Secretary for Religious Affairs, Ciprian-Vasile Olinici, presented the legislative changes aimed at religious denominations.

Among them is an expansion of the funding areas for several areas of social life, including the social and media activities of religious denominations, as well as the inclusion of the design of places of worship as an activity eligible for funding, including from European funds.

“The social field is an important part that the state sees in the mission of the religious denominations in Romania, which is why the Romanian state has undertaken to finance not only the construction and endowment of social centers but also their maintenance and operation,” Ciprian-Vasile Olinici recalled.

Furthermore, the financial assistance provided to non-clerical personnel will be indexed to the minimal gross salary prevalent in the economy. Similarly, the support for teaching personnel in theological education units not affiliated with state education will be indexed to the pre-university salary.

As declared by the State Secretary, his institution will collaborate with the Ministry of Investments and European Projects.

Legislative initiative: Religious Freedom Day

Ciprian-Vasile Olinici also announced that the State Secretariat for Religious Affairs is preparing a bill to establish Religious Freedom Day in Romania.

In observance of the signing of the Declaration of Religious Denominations for the Integration of Romania into the European Union on May 16, 2000, the designated date is May 16. It is unprecedented in the annals of Romania that every recognized religious denomination has a signature on the document.

“In remembrance of this date, we want to promote a legislative initiative, perhaps adopted as soon as possible, until May 16, so that this day is linked to Romania, to religious freedom in Romania, but also the contribution of religions to the common good,” said the State Secretary.

“We have a religious affiliation of over 99% in Romania, a unique case in Europe, which is why it is normal to celebrate this presence of the religious in the mentality and the activity of Romanian society.”

The state has to support every religion

“Faith gives strength to a people, especially in difficult times,” said Nicolae Ionel Ciucă, President of the Senate. “People need landmarks, they need support, they need tradition, they need to keep their spirit, our spirit, everyone’s, which defines us as a nation and our existence in this region of Europe.”

“The state and religious denominations have common goals. Our desire for social harmony unites us, but we are also united by moral values such as respect for civil law, honesty in helping, and human dignity. The state’s neutrality about different religions does not mean the absence of dialogue or support. In proportion to the needs of each denomination, the state must provide support.”

“Religious denominations are the vectors of support for the Romanian diaspora, with the help of the Romanian state and churches in Romania,” the President of the Senate said.

The meeting was attended by Nicolae Ciucă, President of the Romanian Senate, Deputy Prime Minister Marian Neacșu, Simona Bucura-Oprescu, Minister of Labour and Social Solidarity, Teodora Preoteasa, State Secretary at the Ministry of Investments and European Projects, MP Kelemen Hunor, and representatives of the Institute National Statistics.

The next meeting between the representatives of the state and the religious denominations is scheduled for October this year.

Photography courtesy of / Raluca Ene