Church leaders in Romania have condemned government plans for a 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 last week by Romania's senate, approving a tourism ministry ordinance to set 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 recognized Christian and humane values are being imperiled 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 November 5 by tourism minister Dan Agathon, as part of a campaign to regenerate tourist interest in Romania. Organizers 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, ...

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