Romania: 1) Procedures involved in the licensing of a priest in the Orthodox Church in Romania; 2) Permission required from a Bishop for a priest in the Orthodox Church to seek refugee status elsewhere; 3) Possibility of a priest in the Orthodox Church emigrating through a transfer to a parish outside Romania
|Publisher||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Author||Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada|
|Publication Date||1 September 1989|
|Citation / Document Symbol||ROM2148|
|Cite as||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Romania: 1) Procedures involved in the licensing of a priest in the Orthodox Church in Romania; 2) Permission required from a Bishop for a priest in the Orthodox Church to seek refugee status elsewhere; 3) Possibility of a priest in the Orthodox Church emigrating through a transfer to a parish outside Romania, 1 September 1989, ROM2148, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6acf220.html [accessed 13 December 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
1) According to the Human Rights Internet Directory: Eastern Europe & the USSR, the Law on Religious Confessions, or The State Decree 17 of 1948, gives official recognition to 14 denominations and puts them under the supervision of the Romanian Department of Cults. [Laurie S. Wiseberg, ed., Human Rights Internet Directory: Eastern Europe & the USSR, (Cambridge, Mass.: The Harvard Human Rights Internet, 1986), p. 165.] This means that the Romanian state licenses clergy, pays their salaries, and oversees retirement benefits. [Ibid., p. 166.] The United States Department of State also mentions in its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1988 that the state controls the licensing of clergy in Romania. [U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1988, (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1989), p. 1174.]
In an effort to obtain more details on licensing procedures, a Research Officer at the IRBDC contacted Dr. Joseph Tson of the Romanian Missionary Society in Wheaton, Illinois, on 19 September 1989. Dr. Tson stated that a priest must first finish his studies after which an interview is held with the state authorities. Usually, a member of the secret police is present for this interview. The priest has to agree that he will collaborate with the authorities, obligating him to give reports on people in his parish or to transmit orders of the state to the congregation. The priest is then ordained and a license is issued. The information provided by Dr. Tson could not be corroborated in published sources available to the IRBDC at the present time.
2) Information on the permission required for a priest to seek refugee status is not available to the IRBDC in published sources. However, Dr. Tson stated that priests seeking to emigrate or claim refugee status usually do not agree with the tenets of Communism. Emigration is viewed in Romania as a rebuke of the Communist system. Therefore, in general, a priest does not ask for permission from his Bishophe simply leaves the country. Dr. Tson pointed out that such an action cuts a priest off from his church hierarchy which is supported by the Romanian state. The Bishop, even if asked, would not give his permission for an emigrant to seek refugee status. Rev. Emile from the Eastern Orthodox congregation in Ottawa could not comment on Dr. Tson's information. He did mention, in his conversation with a Research Officer on 20 September 1989, that he had to seek the permission of his Patriarch in order to emigrate from Lebanon to the United States and then from the United States to Canada. He could not say, however, whether the situation would be similar for Romanians. The information provided by Rev. Emile can not be corroborated in published sources at the present time.
3) No information is available to the IRBDC at the current time in published sources indicating whether a priest can emigrate through transfer to a parish outside Romania. However, Dr. Tson, in his telephone conversation with the Research Officer, claimed that the Romanian Orthodox Church has jurisdiction over the many congregations of the Romanian Orthodox Church outside of Romania. Together, the state and the bishops choose which priests can be trusted enough to be sent abroad. Dr. Tson said that he strongly suspects that due to the nature of the state approval of such appointments, the priests involved would most likely be strongly sympathetic to the Romanian government. As in the two previous questions, the information provided by Dr. Tson can not be corroborated at the present time in published sources.
Rev. Emile commented that such transfers are possible if a need arises in a parish outside of Romania. The Department of State report claims that, in general, the leaders of religious denominations receive permission to travel abroad on official business without difficulty. [Ibid., p. 1176.]
For further information on the status of the practice of religion in Romania, please see the attached documentation, including a 1985 Amnesty International report entitled Romania: Cases of Religious and Political Imprisonment.
Amnesty International. Romania: Cases of Religious and Political Imprisonment. London: Amnesty International International Secretariat, 1985.
Wiseberg, Laurie S., ed. Human Rights Internet Directory: Eastern Europe & the USSR. Cambridge, Mass.: The Harvard Human Rights Internet, 1986. 165-166.
U.S. Department of State. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1988. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1989. 1174-1176.