The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople and the leader of the Romanian Orthodox Church have inaugurated a massive new cathedral in Bucharest, amid controversy over the use of public funds for the project.
Tens of thousands of people stood outside the People's Salvation Cathedral for a November 25 service led by the Istanbul-based Patriarch Bartholomew I, who is considered the leader of the worldwide Orthodox community, and Romanian Patriarch Daniel.
The inauguration comes less than a week before Romania marks Great Union Day on December 1, a national holiday marking the unification of Transylvania, Bessarabia, and Bukovina with the Romanian Kingdom 100 years ago.
Construction of the 120-meter-high cathedral in Bucharest, which will be able to hold as many as 5,000 worshipers, began in 2010 and is scheduled to be completed in 2024.
It towers over the nearby Palace of the Parliament built under the late communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.
The Romanian Orthodox Patriarchate says the unfinished building has cost 110 million euros ($125 million) so far.
With three quarters of the amount coming from public funds, the cost has created controversy in a country where investment in infrastructure such as hospitals is badly needed.
The patriarchate argues that Romania "needs a representative national cathedral, which symbolizes faith, freedom, and dignity of the people."
Around 86 percent of Romania’s population of 20 million are Orthodox believers.
The cathedral’s inauguration comes amid tensions inside the Orthodox churches over Ukraine's move to create a national independent church.