US Congressmen press for return of church property from Romanian gov’t

Twenty US congressmen turned to Secretary of State John Kerry urging him to put pressure on the Romanian government to restitute Hungarian church property confiscated after 1945.The letter signed by US representatives including Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the chair of the committee for foreign affairs, and Christopher Smith, co-chairman of the US Helsinki Committee, said illegally confiscated religious institutions should be immediately returned in a fair and equitable manner.

“The communist government of Romania confiscated 2,140 schools, hospitals, orphanages and other charitable and civic institutions from the Roman Catholic, Hungarian Reformed, Evangelical Lutheran, and Unitarian churches, as well as 1,980 Jewish communal properties, as well as all properties, including church buildings themselves, from the Greek Catholic Church that it summarily banned,” the letter said.

The congressmen – 13 Republicans and 7 Democrats – asked Kerry to protest against the latest Romanian law on the restitution of church property, which raises from 5 to 10 years the period which churches must wait before coming into ownership of restituted property.

The letter also asks the US government to monitor the case of the Szekely Miko Reformed High School in Sepsiszentgyorgy (Sfantu Gheorghe), in which case on June 28 last year, the Buzau Court of Appeal reversed the original decision of restitution to the Hungarian Reformed Church.

The Romanian supreme court will rule in the case of the three accused on June 27, the congressmen said.

The letter noted that the US House of Representatives had urged already in 2005 that the Romanian government should return confiscated assets to all religious denominations.

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