Working Paper 69

Legal Recognition and Recovery of Property: Contested restitution of the Romanian Greek Catholic Church Patrimony

Stéphanie Mahieu

Department ‘Resilience and Transformation in Eurasia’

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Working Paper 69

Following its re-legalisation in 1989, the Romanian Greek Catholic Church after almost forty years of forced reunification with the Orthodox Church, attempted to react at several levels: at the material level, primarily property restitution, at the organisational level, in defining its structure, and at the dogmatic and ritual level, defining its liturgy. The Church chose to give priority to property restitution and started a campaign to this effect. This process, even though it is similar to other property restitution processes in Romania and in neighbouring countries, has specific features of its own: the official owner (the Romanian state) was not the user (the Orthodox Church) and many members of this Church did not favour systematic restitution of its properties. The paper, based on three case studies, focuses on the juridical and non-juridical arguments implemented both by the Greek Catholic and the Orthodox Church in order to resolve property issues. I focus on the arguments presented by both sides to justify their actions at critical moments, which might turn into violence. I stress the gap between juridical decision and its implementation, and show that court decisions do not systematically prevent violence.

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