JUCĂREȘTI, 28 April 2016 – Last Sunday, the Great National Assembly of Juclandia finally approved a new Statute of the Church of Juclandia, replacing the old 2013 statute with an updated one, that reflects the constitutional changes of 2015. However, the contentious issue of Church clergymen getting actively involved in politics created a deep divide among the citizens of Juclandia, leading to an irreconcilable split between those who advocate a complete separation of Church and politics, and those who think the Church should get involved in politics.
The conflict started when the Great National Assembly started debating a new statute for the Church. FUP members promoted an amendment which barred the bishops of the Church from becoming party members and getting actively involved in politics. However, political support for amendment was not enough, so the Statute was adopted in its original form, with 101 ‘ayes’ and 55 ‘nays’.
The Popular Unity Front supports the separation, whereas the Democratic Renewal Front and most of the United Revolutionary Front consider that there is no reason to prevent the Bishops of the Church from getting involved in politics. In a heated debate last Sunday, Teddy Populescu, former Prime Minister and the FUP’s general secretary, claimed that the Church should belong to spiritual affairs and that the clergy should stay away from secular matters. Ovia Bogi, the President of Juclandia and also the president of the FUP, compared the Church of Juclandia to the Council of Justice, whose members are constitutionally barred from being party members (but are not prevented from taking political sides).
Gori Jucărescu contested Bogi’s argument, saying that the two cannot be compared, as the Council of Justice represents the state’s judicial body, while the Church of Juclandia only has spiritual authority in the country. Memebers of the Democratic Renewal Front also argued that the Church’s bishops do not benefit from any special status, apart from the Patriarch, who is ex officio a member of the Council of State.
Bartholomeos II, Juclandia’s incumbent Patriarch (since 2008), also serves as president of the Democratic Renewal Front, Juclandia’s third party, and is actively involved in many political debates, often taking sides that are considered to benefit the Church. However, the Church itself has not taken any official position on political issues, and the bishops do politics as individuals.
The Popular Unity Front claims however that for as long as the Patriarch serves as an ex officio member of the Council of State, he represents the Church and can use this position to further his political goals. As a result, all members of the Popular Unity Front decided today to renounce their status as members of the Church of Juclandia and instead join the Secular Association of Juclandia, which was founded by the 2015 Constitution and was intended to serve as a representative association of secular humanist, agnostic and atheist Juclandians.
While most members of the FUP declare that they have only left the Church of Juclandia as an institution and have not renounced their Christian faith, Theodosius, Bishop of Culinar, said that those who renounce their allegiance to the Church of Juclandia cannot be considered Christian anymore. Patriarch Bartholomeos has not been available for comment.
The Secular Association of Juclandia has been memberless ever since it was founded by the 2015 Constitution. This influx of members now means that a statute must be written for the Association as well, which should elect a President from among its members by June. All 61 members of the Popular Unity Front announced that they will become members of the Secular Association.
This unexpected and surprising decision comes days before Juclandians celebrate Easter, which this year coincides with the Constitution Day, on the First of May.