Pope expresses concern over construction in Bucharest near cathedral

Publish date: 20-01-2007
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VATICAN CITY: Pope Benedict XVI expressed concern on Saturday about construction near the Catholic cathedral in Bucharest and urged respect for religious liberty, especially for Eastern Rite Catholics, who had suffered decades earlier during communist rule.

Benedict spoke of his concern in a speech to welcome the new ambassador to the Holy See from Romania, where the large majority of Christians are Orthodox.

The pope said he "could not help but express his worry" about the cathedral. St. Joseph Cathedral has been surrounded by controversy since a private company last year started constructing an office building nearby.

Romanian Catholic Church officials and nongovernment organizations had argued that the construction of the building just a few meters (yards) from the 130-year-old cathedral will weaken the cathedral's structure. There have been several small protests and petitions by Catholics and others who see the cathedral as an important landmark.

Benedict noted that the archbishop of Bucharest has made numerous appeals to government authorities "to preserve the historic patrimony that it constitutes and the values of faith that it represents."

He expressed joy over what he called progress in government efforts over the "delicate handling" of the restitution of church property confiscated during former communist times in Romania, and said he hoped religious liberty would be fully respected, especially regarding Eastern Rite Catholics.

Some 2,500 churches were confiscated in Romania in 1948, and Eastern Rite Catholics, who follow Orthodox ritual but are loyal to the Vatican, were banned. The ban was lifted after the 1989 anti-communist revolt, but most of the churches have not been handed back.

The pope also said he hoped that Romania, which joined the European Union this year, can "rediscover a new political, cultural and spiritual thrust, capable of building a promising future for new generations."


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