Page last updated at 16:43 GMT, Sunday, 16 May 2010 17:43 UK

Building churches offers Romanians jobs and comfort

By Lucy Hooker
Business reporter, BBC World Service

Retired army colonel with megaphone
Government austerity plans have brought pensioners and workers onto Romania's streets

Building more churches is the answer to Romania's economic crisis, according to the Orthodox church in Bucharest.

A church construction programme will create jobs and help Romanians cope with the despair brought on by recession, church authorities argue.

The Romanian government has announced plans to reduce pensions by 15% and public sector wages by 25%.

But church building programmes must not be axed the Orthodox Patriarchate says.

"In every community the church is a symbol of the faith, of the love, and of the hope of the community. And from an economical point of view every church which is in construction also provides work for citizens," said Father Constantine Stoica, spokesperson for the Romanian Orthodox Church.

We have first to solve the moral and spiritual crisis and after that we can solve the economic crisis
Father Constantine Stoica
Spokesperson, Romanian Orthodox Church

Last year the Romanian economy contracted by 7.1%.

Some commentators have suggested that too many new churches are being built when the country still lacks schools and other facilities. But the church disagrees.

"We have to first solve the moral and spiritual crisis and after that we can solve the economic crisis," says Father Stoica.

"The role of the church is very important because inside church the people are taught to maintain hope and faith and solidarity in this very difficult time."

This week pensioners and public sector workers across Romania protested at the cuts which are set to take effect next month.

Protestors this week holding up pay slips at a demonstration
Wages slip: public sector workers face a 25% cut next month

Before 1989 Romanians lived under a communist regime which discouraged religion. But since the collapse of the Soviet bloc, there has been a revival of religious observance. And existing churches are overcrowded.

Father Stoica is confident that the church building programme will continue despite the criticisms.

"The majority of the money, 80%, is from believers. If they don't get government money the community will find the money to finish the churches."

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