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Despite its communist past, Romania is considered one of the most religious countries in the EU. Of the approximately 20 million inhabitants, around four fifths profess the Romanian Orthodox Church. According to the Vatican, around one and a half million Catholics live in Romania.
They are divided into the Roman Catholic and the Greek Catholic Church, which is unified with Rome. The latter celebrates the mass according to the Byzantine rite instead of the Latin one. The Romanian Catholics are looked after by around 1,900 priests.
The origins of the Romanian Catholic communities go back to the time of the Habsburg rule over parts of today's Romania and the mission of the Jesuit order. The Romanian-speaking Catholics were among the educated elite among the predominantly Orthodox population. After the First World War, their territories came to Romania.
With the beginning of communist rule in 1948, massive suppression of the two Catholic churches began. In particular, the Greek Catholic community was pressured to break with Rome and join the Orthodox Church.
Many priests and bishops ended up in prison and there were executions.
Pope Francis recently declared martyrs to seven Greek Catholic bishops who died or were executed in prison during the period of persecution that lasted until 1970. On June 2nd, the last day of his three-day visit to Romania, Francis will beatify them in a solemn service. (kna / as of: May 22nd, 2019)
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