No love lost as Christians battle over cathedral

Click to follow
BLACK ROBES swishing, thousands of Orthodox priests silently marched in a show of strength through the Transylvanian city of Cluj yesterday, where a week ago Orthodox and Eastern Rite Catholics exchanged fisticuffs in a contested cathedral.

"Are you Orthodox? If so, come with us," an Orthodox priest called out to one of the 1,000 bystanders who had gathered in the centre of the city, 203 miles north-west of the Romanian capital, Bucharest.

The Orthodox priests had come from all over Transylvania for the silent march. Many of them did not make the sign of the cross in front of the cathedral, which one week ago was handed back to Eastern Rite Catholics after 50 years.

Orthodox faithful customarily cross themselves in front of any Christian church.

Eastern Rite Catholics who held a service yesterday shut the cathedral's front doors and said they would not allow any Orthodox inside. They used loudspeakers to broadcast the service into the street.

The tension between the two religious communities dates back to the end of the Second World War, when Romanian Communists suppressed Romanian Christians who professed loyalty to the Vatican and in some cases handed over their buildings to the Orthodox church hierarchy.

The Catholics claim that the Orthodox priests colluded with Communist authorities.

"You should be carrying Stalin's portrait," on old woman, who said she was an Eastern Rite Catholic, called out to the Orthodox priests.

Last week, Romanians were shocked by scenes of Orthodox and Eastern Rite Catholics hurling the communion table and other holy objects around Cluj's 16th-century cathedral.

Police yesterday maintained a low-key presence on the march.

"I don't understand these manifestations," said Arpad Pal, an ethnic Hungarian watching the priests march. "Christianity is a religion of love and we should love each other."

- AP, Cluj