Ceausescu's nemesis rejects Romania's 'shop window ecumenism'

By Ecumenical News International
September 12, 2007

The Romanian Protestant cleric who is said to have sparked the 1989 revolution that led to the overthrow of Nicolae Ceausescu, the country's communist leader at the time, boycotted the recent European church assembly in Romania - writes Stephen Brown.

He says he is protesting at what he calls Romania's "shop window" ecumenism.

Bishop Lazslo Tokes of the Hungarian-speaking Reformed Church District of Oradea in Transylvania had been scheduled to address the Third European Ecumenical Assembly taking place in Sibiu from 4 to 9 September, but he failed to turn up.

"With my staying away from the assembly, I myself intend to signal that our Reformed believers long for something more than 'shop window ecumenism'," said Tokes in a message to participants posted on the web site http://eea3.reformatus.hu/, and distributed to participants in a leaflet.

Tokes, once a pastor in Timosoara in Transylvania, came to prominence in 1989 as an outspoken opponent of the Ceausescu regime. In December 1989, security forces killed scores of people who had gathered around Tokes' home to protect him from arrest, an event often credited with having provoked further demonstrations and the ultimate overthrow of Ceausescu.

In his open letter to participants, Tokes said that in the communist era a "shop window ecumenism" was forced upon churches in Romania.

"There has not been any progress concerning the appearance of an authentic and valid ecumenism ever since," he continued. "Moreover, the relation between the majority Orthodox and the other minority churches, i.e. the Greek Catholic and the Reformed Church, has become especially tense."

A separate statement on the Web site and in the leaflet states that the Reformed Church in Oradea is locked in a property dispute with the Romanian Orthodox Church.

Tokes said a proposal from his church that all Romania's churches should sign a document during the Sibiu assembly pledging ecumenical cooperation had been turned down.

As a result, his church had considered organizing a protest demonstration outside the assembly, but dropped the plan out of consideration for participants.

Organizers of the assembly told Ecumenical News International they had no comment to make on Tokes' statements.

The Sibiu assembly was organized by the Conference of European Churches and the Council of European (Roman Catholic) Bishops' Conferences. The two groupings account for most of Europe's Roman Catholic, Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox churches. It follows similar assemblies in Basel, Switzerland in 1989 and in Graz, Austria in 1997.

[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.]

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.