The leader of the Romanian Orthodox Church apologised on Tuesday for the Orthodox Church's silence when the former Communist government destroyed churches and suppressed religions.
   Fr Constantin Stoica, spokesman for Patriarch Teoctist, said: "It is a gesture of reconciliation. There were mistakes made in communism and concessions the church made in order to survive." In an interview with the church's news agency, the patriarch said: "I personally ask for forgiveness and I am doing it now because I didn't have enough courage before ... in my heart I am sad ... because I made a great number of the faithful suffer."
   In just the ten years prior to the fall of Communism in 1989, at least 17 churches were destroyed by the government of dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu. Catholics, in particular, were evicted from churches that were handed over to the Orthodox Church, and many Catholics were imprisoned, tortured, and killed for practicing their faith.
   "It was a terrible period," said Stoica. "With a simple movement of his arm, Ceaucescu made churches disappear." Ceaucescu's had whole villages, churches, and cultural sites destroyed as he implemented ambitious building plans. Since 1989, many new churches and monasteries have been built.
CWN 16/2/00

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