Romania divided over cathedral

Romania's Orthodox Church is building the gigantic Romanian People's Salvation Cathedral in Bucharest. Protests against the construction and the resulting costs have been going on for years, but at the start of April a pop song reignited the debate. Commentators try to explain why the issue is so contentious.

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Dilema Veche (RO) /

Deeply religious, totally divided

Religion is a fundamental driving force in Romanian life, sociologist Vintilă Mihăilescu explains in Dilema Veche:

“Mistrust, dissatisfaction and fear of the future are extremely widespread in our society. Millions of families don't know where they belong. A growing number of people ask themselves who they are and where they're headed. The need for fixed points of reference is widespread. Religion and the family provide such points of reference. ... But in the case of Romania the polarisation among believers is a paradox. In the last census 96 percent of the population said they were religious: we're the most religious society in Europe and rank among the top ten in the world. So why are we so polarised? ... Because we're Orthodox Christians against false Orthodox Christians, that is against false Romanians. Sartre said: hell is other people. In our case we could say: we ourselves are hell.”

Ziare (RO) /

Protests come far too late

The fact that the music group Taxi & Friends has come up with a song against the construction of the cathedral now of all times makes Iulian Leca, editor at the online portal Ziare, suspicious:

“If Taxi & Friends had done this when such things could still have influenced the decisions of politicians who supported the construction with money, laws, land and campaigns, I would have raised my hat to them. But now, when construction is almost finished, their action is more suspect than any aesthetic judgement. The song is bad PR. It's like a group of adults hurling stones at the windows of a school in revenge for what they suffered in their childhood. The real luck of this sad song is that it has caused the true believers' blood to boil. They too want to exact revenge for the miseries of the present with the construction of a cement monster - the biggest cathedral in Southern Europe and the pride of a people that has awoken to religion just as everyone else was heading for bed.”

Adevărul (RO) /

Romania lacks a proper debate culture

The debate about the song of protest against the construction of the Bucharest cathedral has often been crude in tone, writes Mircea Vasilescu on the blog site Adevarul:

“Where does this excessive reaction come from? I can't provide an answer to that but I can present a theory. For years our public sphere has been boiling over with emotion. … This sphere is dominated by talk shows that are perfect examples of how not to debate. People simply don't know how to talk, argue and listen to each other any more. … Watching television doesn't just provoke negative emotions, it encourages people not to think for themselves. … The excessive reaction to this song seems to me to be a typical case of not thinking. It's stupid to believe that the song could harm the cathedral. On the contrary, it only reaffirms the old principle that was already practised vigorously back in the days of Stalinism: those who aren't with us are against us.”