The $300 Million Cathedral Under Construction in Bucharest

The Cathedral of National Redemption is being built at a cost of $300 million.

Deutsche Welle reports on the new $300 million dollar (€200 million euro) cathedral being built in front of the People’s Palace in Bucharest, the capital of the south central European nation of Romania.

The bill is being paid jointly by the Romanian Orthodox Church and by the Romanian government. Before you freak out at the latter detail, remember that American ideas about the separation of church and state often do not apply in Europe. Many of the older, more established churches in Europe receive state funding, such as in Germany where a church tax is levied and dispensed to the two state churches: the Roman Catholic and Evangelical Lutheran Churches.

Even so, I wonder what Christ would say–at the risk of implying an assumption–about a place of Christian worship being built at such a monumental cost. Furthermore, as the report by Deutsche Welle points out, the project is catching some heat as the government closes several hospitals, something that makes me wonder.

Romania is overwhelmingly Christian (upwards of 89% belong to the Romanian Orthodox Church) and has had a rough history over the past half-century. Under Ceausescu, who ruled the country under a Communist dictatorship until he was driven from power in a popular revolution at the end of the 1980s, the church in Romania faced repression and many likely see this as an act of conciliation (i.e., a church being built in front of the secularly-monumental People’s Palace in the center of Bucharest.)

It’s for that reason I’ll avoid passing judgment because (a) I’m not Romanian, (b) I’ve never been to Romania, (c) I don’t know any Romanian Orthodox Christians, and (d) all I know about situation is what I’ve learned from Deutsche Welle. But in an age of multi-million dollar church buildings (even–ahem, especially–in America), it should give us pause nonetheless.

2 thoughts on “The $300 Million Cathedral Under Construction in Bucharest

  1. In addition to what Marian said, I’d like to make two points. One is that the reports of the repression the Romanian Orthodox Church faced during the communist regime are greatly exaggerated.

    Churches were demolished, it’s true, but on one hand there were very few churches that were targeted specifically for being churches, most of them being demolished alongside with other buildings and monuments in the process of urbanization. A process that involved a callous disregard for the cultural heritage of Romania, granted, but in no way exclusively targeted at religious monuments. On the other hand, many churches were moved to avoid their demolition and, what’s more, about 500 churches were built during the said regime (and this according to the numbers presented by the Romanian Orthodox Patriarchy itself).

    In the same line of thought, people weren’t persecuted simply for being religious. It may have been discouraged and frowned upon when it came to Party leaders and other officials, but this is truly a long way from persecution. People were persecuted for speaking against the regime or simply for having “suspicious” acquaintances or family members and, given the high percentage of Christians, most of them were religious but, again, they weren’t targeted for being religious. A fair point to support this idea is that the communist state financed churches and religious schools — the very Patriarch of the Orthodox Church studied Orthodox Theology in a state-run (the only kind) university during the communist regime!

    The second point is that while there was repression of religion, it was directed at other denominations than the Orthodox Church which, no matter how much it liked to victimize itself, has had mostly to gain. There were very few “officially recognized” denominations and some were outrightly banned (Jehova’s Witnessed for instance). What’s more, and relevant enough for the sort of “persecution” the Orthodox Church faced, one of the first acts passed by the communist regime when it came in power was to outlaw the Greek Catholic Church from Romania — and pass its property to the Orthodox Church.

  2. This is a correct assessment of the situation for the most part. The Orthdox Church was allowed to exist during the communist regime and even helped the state in indoctrinating the people during that time.
    I am a Romanian and my opinion on this cathedral and others being build around the country is that it’s a complete waste of our money. As I am not religious my opinion could be understandable but I also heard many religious people who argue against these kinds of things. In this country the state also pays some of the salaries of the orthodox priests, I think it’s around 20 million euros anually maybe more. Also the priests and their helpers get money from the people for every funeral , wedding, etc, money that they just pocket and don’t give any kinds of receipts and don’t pay tax on. The church is just a big leach and should be heavily taxed or the state should cut all financial help to it. If Romanians are indeed 90% Christian orthodox then there should be no problem in getting money from the flock to build churches and whatnot.
    The situation is ridiculous. i’m from Suceava a small town of 120 000 people in the north of the country, here along side many historical churches and monastaries hundreds of years old there have been built dozens of new churches. In the situation in which church atendees have fallen in recent years I can’t see their purpose aside from providing a place of work for surplus priests and for extra revenue.
    They’re some greedy bastards…..

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