The Roman Catholic Church versus the office tower developers

Today the head of Romania's Roman Catholic Church urged the country's President, Traian Basescu, to ensure that an empty 19-story office tower, illegally erected next to the landmark 19th-Century Saint Joseph's Church in downtown Bucharest, does in fact get demolished, as was authorized by an appeals court decision a year ago.

Six thousand marchers had protested the office skyscraper during its construction in 2009, fearing that jack-hammers and drilling would damage the fragile church interior which already had sustained cracks from three earthquakes that had occurred over the course of the previous last century.

Pope John Paul celebrated mass at Saint Joseph's on his visit to Romania in 1999, and this church's interior was called "the most beautiful religious building that exists in Romania" by Prime Minister Mihail Kogalniceanu back in the mid 1880s when the cathedral first was opened.

Having read about this office tower controversy prior to my travel to Romania last September, I had it on my list of "must see" places when I arrived. And indeed that office tower does sit within just a few feet of the cathedral's rear wall.

A man in a business suit came out of the church's front door just as I was passing by, so I asked him if he spoke English. He smiled and made a hand-waving gesture that universally means "only a little." So I pointed up at the office tower and asked him my one-word question: "Illegal?" and he nodded. "Will it be town down?" I asked him. "Yes" he replied. "Are you sure?" I persisted. "Yes!" he was emphatic.

But, as today's news-story indicates, it is ten months later and nothing has yet been done. So now the Catholic Archbishop is publicly accusing city officials, who had promised to respect the court's ruling, of "hypocrisy" and is asking the the nation's President to intervene.

Stay tuned.

12 JUL 2014