During a three-day visit to Transylvania, U.N. special rapporteur for minority rights Fernand de Varennes has been informed about the problems Hungarian churches in Transylvania are facing with regard to the restitution of properties seized by the Communist Romanian state in 1948.
Roman Catholic Archbishop György Jakubinyi informed de Varennes about the legal framework of property restitution in Romania and the case of the of the Batthányeum (also known by its Latin name, Biblioteca Batthyaniana) in Gyulafehérvár/Alba Iulia. The library – founded by Roman Catholic bishop Ignác Batthyány in 1798 – is the largest repository of medieval Latin codices in Romania. It was closed in 1949 by the Romanian state and nationalized in 1950. In 1998 it was restituted to the Catholic Church, but the local municipality appealed the decision and after a long legal battle has prevailed. The Catholic Church has appealed to the European Court of Human Rights.
Reformed Bishop of Transylvania Béla Kató pointed out that Romania not only does not respect its own restitution law but it also misuses the legal system into reversing previous decisions.
“We are glad that we can meet someone who will listen to us and is interested in our problems, given that for the last decade the Hungarian churches in Transylvania hasn’t had a chance for dialogue with the government,” Kató said.
He also mentioned the case of the Székely Mikó College, that had a fate similar to the Batthányeum and in which case the Reformed Church has also appealed to the European Court of Human Rights.
Title image: Fernand de Varennes meets the representatives of Transylvanian Hungarian churches in Kolozsvár/Cluj-Napoca (photo: László Mihály)