On 6 to 8 March 2019, a group of twenty religion journalists from Romania paid a visit to Brussels, to get first-hand knowledge of the EU institutions and their way of operation, as well as of the current challenges of Christian media and the broader ecclesial context in Belgium.
Representing Orthodoxy to the EU
On Wednesday, March 6, the delegation visited the Representation of the Romanian Orthodox Church to the European Institutions headquartered in Brussels, where they were welcomed by Rev. Sorin Selaru, director, Rev. George Valcu, secretary, and Rev. Gabriel Pop, assistant.
During the meeting, Fr. Sorin Selaru briefed them on the history of the Romanian Orthodox Parish of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker, which is a property of the Romanian Patriarchate in Brussels.
Fr. Selaru explained why the church was dedicated to St Nicholas, noting that the church building was bought exactly on December 6, when the feast of the Holy Bishop of Myra is celebrated.
He went on to offer details regarding the construction works that are currently being carried out at the church building, especially the non-liturgical spaces, that will house various activities, especially for young people. Fr Selaru added that most of the money covering the costs of the works are offered by the Romanian Patriarchate.
The Director of the ROC Representation to the European Institutions also referred to the Romanian youth, saying that many come to Belgium to study theology at renowned universities in the country. He stressed that theology students are very involved in the mission of the Romanian parishes, particularly in terms of providing catechesis.
Kerk en Leven
On Thursday, March 7, the group traveled Nord, to Antwerpen, where they visited the headquarters of the Kerk en Leven weekly, the Roman Catholic Cathedral, as well as the Romanian Orthodox parish in the city.
At Kerk en Leven, the delegation was received by the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Luk Vanmaercke, who presented the history and activities of Kerk en Leven, but also noted the challenges they face.
Kerk & Leven is owned by the Roman-Catholic Church and has a circulation of approximately 200,000 copies.
In addition to the problems faced by printed publications in general, the weekly newspaper in Flanders is also affected by the low interest in religion of the Belgian people. However, one of Kerk & Leven’s main goals is to attract young audience.
The representatives of the religious media in Romania had the opportunity to visit the Flemish newspaper’s printing facilities, where they were able to see the next edition of Kerk en Leven during printing process.
Religion in Belgium
The same day, the journalists had a meeting with representatives of the Roman-Catholic Diocese in Atwerp at the city’s Gothic Cathedral of Our Lady.
Deacon Pieter Wieerts and Jan Kint spoke about the Belgian society’s lack of interest in spirituality.
They said that many Catholic parishes are being dissolved and that church buildings are used for other purposes or even risk being demolished.
The representatives of the Diocese of Antwerp also expressed their hope that unused churches will be turned into museums or will be used by other Christian confessions.
Romanians in Antwerp
Given the context in the Belgian society, the many thousands of Orthodox Romanians living in Antwerp have the opportunity to gather in a liturgical space for worship at the Nativity of the Mother of God Parish.
The journalists visited the church where the Romanian parish holds its divine ministry and learned from Fr. George Valcu that there are real chances that the church building will soon be purchased by the Romanian community from the Roman-Catholic Diocese of Antwerp.
Visit to the EP
On the last day of their trip, the Romanian journalists paid a visit to the Brussels headquarters of the European Parliament, where they met Mr. Traian Ungureanu, MEP, and representatives of the press services of the EP. Mr. Ungureanu shared to the guests his views on the future of the EU, especially in light of the upcoming election for the EP, in May 2019, and took a series of questions on the current multifaceted challenges that the EU has to face.
This visit was made possible with the help of the Representation of the Romanian Orthodox Church to the European Institutions and with the support of MEP Traian Ungureanu.
Text and photo credit: www.basilica.ro/en