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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Romanians To Bank On Religion

BUCHAREST -- Romania has launched a new bank to finance the growth of the country's religious denominations and tap new business, a bank official said.

"We launched Banca Internationala Religioasa, a joint-stock commercial bank," bank president Ion Popescu said at a ceremony at its headquarters.

State companies hold a minority 20 percent stake in the Banca Internationala Religiosa, or BIR, which will grant what Popescu called concessionary loans to 16 religious denominations registered in Romania, where Orthodox Christians make up 85 percent of the 23 million population.

The loans would be used to build or renovate churches as well as for social projects sponsored by the churches, he said.

"The bank will not deal only with the churches. It is open to everybody," Popescu said, "and we plan to develop new activities in the near future."

The bank has a starting capital of 4 billion lei ($2.6 million) and plans to raise another 6billion lei through a share issue over the next few months.