Last edited: February 14, 2005

Romania Orthodox Church Denounces Homosexuality

Reuters, September 13, 2000

By Roxana Dascalu

BUCHAREST — Romania’s Orthodox Church, which condemns homosexuality as a sin, said on Wednesday it would petition parliament against moves to decriminalise gay sex as legislators seek to align laws to European Union norms.

"Our Church does not say a sexual minority should be sent to jail," Archbishop Nifon said after a two-day meeting of senior Orthodox clerics, whose discussions included the issue of homosexuality. "But we must speak out loudly against sin."

Nifon said the gathering of the country’s Orthodox Church leaders, called "The Holy Synod," had decided to urge parliament not to remove the controversial "article 200," which incriminates homosexuality, from the penal code.

"Everybody should know that homosexuality is a sin against religious, and against family and social values, which are at the core of our Church," Archbishop Casian told the joint news conference with Nifon.

The Orthodox Church, which claims the allegiance of 87 percent of Romanians, insists that homosexuality, which has been illegal in Romania since 1968, runs counter to Christian values.

Rights activists claim that Romania lags behind other ex-communist states which have already decriminalised homosexuality, and insist that the country should soften its stance or face an even harder time getting into the EU.

But Casian, who represents the mainstream Orthodox Church in its relations with other churches, dismissed those claims. "I do not believe that European Union integration hinges on the (homosexuality) issue," he said.

Romania started accession talks with the EU in March.

Rights activists also accuse the Orthodox church of trying to wield its influence on politicians ahead of November elections, when 16 million Romanians will elect a new president and a parliament, both for four-year terms.

Romanian deputies voted in June to decriminalise homosexuality, but they maintained terms of up to five years in jail for certain sexual activities, including "abnormal practices, oral and anal sex" if performed in public.

The Orthodox Church Synod was convened at a sensitive time — ahead of a debate in parliament’s upper house, the Senate, on the changes to the communist-era criminal code, in line with suggestions made by the Council of Europe.

Nifon said the Church Synod had decided to ask President Emil Constantinescu not to sign those changes into law, should the Senate also vote to decriminalise homosexuality.

Local gay rights activists have set up a lobby in parliament and have petitioned Romanian Church leader, Patriarch Teoctist, in a bid to temper the Orthodox clerics’ wrath.

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