Changing the definition of marriage as provided in the Constitution: it’s the purpose of a constitutional referendum that will take place in Romania on October 6-7 on an initiative of the Coalition for Families, an umbrella organization representing 30 NGOs in Romania, including Catholic organizations such as Catholic Action and the Family Association in Romania. The Catholic bishops of Romania have also expressed their full support to the initiative with an Exhortation to priests and Catholic faithful, which is also addressed to all people of good will, with an invitation to back the referendum. Voters are called to answer with Yes or No the following question: “Do you agree with the Law for the revision of Romania’s Constitution in the form adopted by Parliament?” In the current form, the Romanian Constitution defines the family as “the free-willed marriage between spouses,” while the proposal to be voted in the referendum is that family is based on marriage “between a man and a woman, and on the parents’ right to ensure the growth, education and upbringing of their offspring.”
In their Exhortation Romanian bishops declare that “the term ‘spouses’ could give rise to misunderstandings” and that is why “it is necessary to clarify that only the free-willed marriage between a man and a woman can be defined ‘marriage’”. The referendum, first proposed in 2015, went through all the necessary procedures for its concretization, including the collection of 3 million signatures. The initiative has been recently approved by the Supreme Court and by Senate.
Moreover, the faithful must be “strongly encouraged to spread information on this initiative at home, in the workplace, among friends and as a form of apostolate to promote participation in the vote.” In their Exhortation the bishops explain the reasons for supporting the referendum: “The redefinition of marriage is in full agreement with the teaching of the Gospel, and it is also in the spirit of the tradition of the Romanian people, which is why the Catholic Church has supported the initiative proposed by the laity and by a large number of citizens from the beginning.”
Mindful of current trends, the Catholic Church in Romania is also aware of the “risk of contradicting current sensitivity or popular currents of thought.” The bishops point out that Amoris Laetitia contains an invitation to promote marriage as a union between a man and a woman. “This clarification in the Constitution is more than necessary”, they say. Furthermore, in the Exhortation it is noted that “the purpose of the Constitution is to serve as the foundation of adequate legislation in the field of the family, ensuring that the rights of everyone are protected and the nature of things in the Christian tradition are respected.”
The referendum needs a turnout of 30% to be valid. The document in favour of the referendum was prepared by the Romanian bishops of the Latin rite and the Byzantine rite, during the plenary session held from 18 to 20 September in Sumuleu Ciuc. During the meeting the bishops also spoke of the fire that destroyed the Episcopal Palace in Oradea, young people and the upcoming Synod in the Vatican, and education. The final statement, signed by Secretary General, Fr Francisc Ungureanu, conveys the closeness of all the members of the Romanian Bishops’ Conference to Msgr. Virgil Bercea, ordinary of Oradea, seeking ways to provide support for the restructuring works. September 22 marks another important event for the Catholic Church of Romania: the beatification ceremony in Nisiporesti of young Veronia Antal, virgin and martyr, a model of lived out faith.