EGMR: Grand Chamber Panel’s decision – Lupeni Greek Catholic Parish and Others v. Romania (application no. 76943/11)

von Dr. Georg Neureither

At its last meeting (Monday 19 October 2015), the Grand Chamber panel of five judges decided to refer the following case to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights: Lupeni Greek Catholic Parish and Others v. Romania (application no. 76943/11), concerning the restitution of places of worship belonging to the Greek Catholic Church which were transferred to the Orthodox Church under the totalitarian regime, and more specifically the question of the application of a special law to determine the legal status of such property.

The applicants are the Lupeni Greek Catholic Parish, the Lugoj Greek Catholic Diocese and the Lupeni Greek Catholic Archpriesthood, all of which are situated in Romania. They belong to the Eastern-Rite Catholic (Greek Catholic or Uniate) Church.

After the fall of the communist regime in 1989, legislation was passed in Romania (Legislative Decree No. 126/1990 – hereafter “the special law”) specifying that the legal status of property which had belonged to the Greek Catholic Church would be determined by joint commissions made up of representatives of both denominations, who were to take account of the “wishes of the adherents of the communities in possession of these properties”. In the event of disagreement, the party with an interest entitling it to bring proceedings could do so under ordinary law.

Following the dissolution in 1948 of the Lupeni Greek Catholic Parish, the Lugoj Greek Catholic Diocese and the Lupeni Greek Catholic Archpriesthood, a church and an adjoining courtyard that had belonged to the Lupeni Greek Catholic Parish were transferred to the ownership of the Romanian Orthodox Church in 1967.

The applicant parish was legally re-established on 12 August 1996 and comes under the authority of the Lugoj Greek Catholic Diocese (the second applicant) and the Lupeni Greek Catholic Archpriesthood (the third applicant) ...

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