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The Cross on the Hill: How the Romanian Left Tried and Failed to Take Down One of the Most Important Christian Symbols in the Country

Cross on the hill - el american

In a world in which the words “tolerance,” “solidarity,” and “love” are repeated ad nauseam, the Cross is undoubtedly the most persecuted symbol. In many places, Christians are murdered by Islamist fanaticism in the face of international passivity. In old Europe and Latin America, we have seen churches burned by the hatred of communists and progressives of all stripes. In Spain, the demolition of crosses has become the norm through the application of the law of historical memory, which in the name of “reconciliation,” prohibits the remembrance of those who were murdered —in many cases, for their faith.

However, under this persecution, we find that the most extreme ideological positions and supposedly moderate politicians also support it for more “material” reasons. It does not matter that Christianity is one of the pillars of our civilization because, unlike other symbols that have nothing to do with our history and identity, tearing down Crosses is a sign of modernity, and, all too often, they have no one to defend them. The latest case was in Romania.

The “Crucea de pe Cetățuie” (the Cross on the Hill of Cetățuia) is one of the most important cultural and historical symbols of Cluj-Napoca, one of the largest cities in Western Romania. It is also one of the most visible points of the city. The Cross can be seen from any part of the city, and it is one of the most important attractions both nationally and internationally.

The Cross was built in 1997, 25 years ago. The idea of erecting it came four years earlier from Dr. Francisc Țăranu, an almost centenarian civic activist, who promoted the idea of building a large cross on the Cetățuia hill in Cluj-Napoca, on the site where, in 1948, the communists had dynamited a cross erected in the interwar period between 1936-1937. The oak cross had been destroyed by Hungarian troops in 1941 but was re-erected on 13 March 1945. It seems that a cross had been erected on the same spot in the Middle Ages.

The then mayor, Gheorghe Funar, approved the project and the architect Virgil Salvanu was commissioned to design it. In recognition of his initiative, Dr. Francisc Țăranu became an honorary citizen of Cluj-Napoca in 1997. The Cross on the Hill, also called “Monument to the Heroes of the Nation” because it was dedicated to the memory of the martyrs of the Revolution of 1848-1849, is made of stone, bronze, and stainless steel, almost 23 metres high and weighing 60 tons, was inaugurated in a magnificent ceremony on December 1st, 1997 —the National Day of Romania.

On the same day, the Cross was consecrated by two important Romanian hierarchs, the Orthodox Metropolitan of Cluj, Bartolomeu Anania, and the Greek Catholic Bishop of Cluj-Gherla, George Guțiu, in the presence of thousands of people.

Despite this history and the patriotic symbolism of the Cross, the press announced in early September the intention of the mayor of Cluj-Napoca, Emil Boc of the National Liberal Party (one of the parties in the coalition government in Romania), to demolish the Cross for the modernization and redevelopment of the entire area, removing the whole area represented by the staircase, the plinth and the Cross itself, for the restoration and enhancement of the southeast bastion of the Vauban Fortification. According to media reports, the new project, which did not include the cross for “aesthetic” reasons, was to be completed within two years and at a total estimated value of some 42 million euros.

Fortunately, Romanian society, full of organizations defending Christian values, reacted. In Parliament, the Patriotic Alliance for the Union of Romanians (AUR), the main opposition party in Romania and the second party in voting intentions according to the latest polls, mobilized in defense of the Cross. Several AUR parliamentarians and leaders reacted publicly and categorically and called for a halt to such sacrilege.

One of the harshest reactions came from Claudiu Târziu, chairman of the organization’s National Steering Council and leader of AUR in the Senate, who addressed harsh words to the mayor of Cluj-Napoca: “Shame on you, a so-called ‘liberal,’ for making such a mockery of your Christian nation by announcing that you are going to demolish the Cross. We will never accept such an infamy.”

On September 8th, MP Dan Tanasa gave all information about the project to Patriarch Daniel of the Orthodox Church, and the church’s reaction was swift. All it took was a meeting between Father Andrei, Metropolitan of Cluj, and the city council for Mayor Emil Boc and Deputy Mayor Dan Tarcea to publicly backtrack and promise that, despite the modernization, the Cross will remain in place and will not be destroyed. The Cross needs prayers, yes, but it also needs people to step forward to defend it. “For evil to triumph, it is only necessary that the good do nothing.”

Álvaro Peñas is a political analyst specializing in Eastern European countries. He writes for El Correo de España and several European digital outlets. He is deputy director of two programs on Decisión Radio and a regular contributor to the television channel 7NN.

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