Romania: dispute over pilgrimage to Iași
Hundreds of thousands of believers go on a pilgrimage once a year to the eastern Romanian city of Iași to pray at the tomb of St. Paraskeva. The authorities had banned the pilgrimage this year due to the coronavirus, a move criticized by the Orthodox Church. In a bid to calm the tensions, the city granted access to the tomb to thousands of believers who had come to visit it despite the ban on Wednesday.
Money more important than human lives
Alexandru Toma Pătrașcu, founder of the Romanian Secular-Humanist Association, accuses the Church of being greedy for money on Contributors:
“It is well known that after 1990 the Church built up a veritable tourism empire and was given ownership of several hotel complexes by the state for free. The pilgrimages are big business. ... But this year, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, a large percentage of the pilgrims would be risking their lives if they were allowed to take part in the events. What a dilemma for the Church! Should it forego the income or give up a few of its faithful members? To leave no doubt, the Patriarch himself has publicly declared that restrictions on pilgrimages are 'an inappropriate, discriminatory measure'. ... It is obviously difficult to accept that the lives of people are more important than the Church's own bank accounts!”
Authorities causing chaos
Journalist Magda Grădinaru explains on Spotmedia why everyone is unhappy now:
“The images from Iași - showing crowds of people without masks, shooting angry looks at passers-by who are wearing them - are dreadful. Apart from the provocations, they show the drama of a country where trust has been compromised. However it's not the lack of conviction of the former or the conviction of the latter that is to blame, because things can't be separated as easily as that. Spirituality exists where there is a search, where there is dialogue. But the failure of the authorities, the lack of clear rules and norms that would make people feel protected rather than utterly vulnerable - all of this is creating chaos.”