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Churches Want to Drive Stake through Dracula Park in Transylvania

Church leaders in Romania have condemned government plans for a 120-hectare Dracula Park to encourage tourist interest in Transylvania's legendary vampire.

"The Dracula myth has nothing to do with the Romanian people or its history," said Costel Stoica, spokesman for the Romanian Orthodox Church's Bucharest patriarchate. "It gives a false image of our country, deriving from an Irish writer's fantasy."

The Orthodox priest was reacting to a vote on 19 November by Romania's senate, approving a tourism ministry ordinance setting up the park outside the northern town of Sighisoara. He said Orthodox church leaders had not been consulted or notified about the project, against which the church's Alba Iulia archdiocese had formally protested.

The government plans were also denounced by Romania's minority Lutheran church, which said the park would violate environmental regulations and fuel interest in the occult. "We urge you to find other uses for the region's natural, historical and rural resources," the church's superior consistory said in a statement earlier this month.

"Universally known and recognised Christian and humane values are being imperilled by this attempt to promote entertainment and games based on cruelty, horror, occultism and vampirism."

Work on the site, in Sighisoara's Breite national park, was started on 5 November by tourism minister Dan Agathon, as part of a campaign to regenerate tourist interest in Romania. Organisers predicted Dracula Park would attract a million visitors yearly to the medieval town, which appears on UNESCO's world cultural heritage list.

The project has sparked opposition from historians and architects as well as churches.

Stoica said that Dracula Park had been one of several "peculiar ideas" submitted by Agathon, a member of Romania's governing Social Democrat party, who had shown an "unfriendly attitude" to the Orthodox church since taking office.

"Knowing what the Dracula myth means in western countries, he is now trying to profit from it," the Orthodox spokesman told ENI. He argued that such a park would "encourage obsession with the supernatural among young people", he said.

The character of Dracula, created by Irish novelist Bram Stoker in 1897, is believed to be based on the historical 15th-century personage of Vlad Tepes, or Vlad the Impaler, ruler of Romania's Wallachia province, who was known for brutal treatment of captured Turks, unruly nobility and Orthodox priests.

The prince, whose popular name, Dracula, derived from the Order of the Dragon set up to defend Christendom against the Turks, fortified the future Romanian capital, Bucharest, before being assassinated. In the Stoker novel, Dracula is killed by a knife plunged through the heart.

The Romanian Orthodox Church had no "official viewpoint" concerning Tepes, Stoica said. However, despite the prince's cruelty, he had a "positive image" in Romanian history as a symbol of "justice, fidelity and patriotism", the Orthodox spokesperson added. He had resisted foreign rulers and helped to unify Wallachia.

The vicar-general of Romania's Greek Catholic Church, Christian Sabau, also criticised the government, for "making money from a pernicious, untruthful myth", and said Vlad the Impaler's legacy had been "crudely distorted" by the Dracula legend. --ENI

Posted December 7, 2001 on Trinity News

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