Romanian Orthodox Church

And comunist period

The RomanianOrthodox Church (BisericaOrtodoxăRomână in Romanian)
is an autocephalous Eastern Orthodox church, in full communion with other
Eastern Orthodox churches, and ranked seventh in order of precedence.
Its Primate has the title of Patriarch. Its jurisdiction covers the territory
of Romania, with additional dioceses for Romanians living in
nearby Moldova, Serbia andHungary, as well as for diaspora communities in
Central and Western Europe, North America and Oceania.
It is the only Eastern Orthodox church using a Romance language. The
majority of Romania's population (16,307,004, or 86.5% of those for whom data
were available, according to the 2011 census data), as well as some 720,000
Moldovans belong to the Romanian Orthodox Church. The Romanian Orthodox
Church is the second-largest in size behind the Russian Orthodox Church.
Members of the Romanian Orthodox Church sometimes refer to the Orthodox
doctrine as Dreapta credinţă ("right/correct belief" or "true faith"; compare to
Greek ὀρθὴὴ δόξα, "straight/correct belief
In 1859, the political union of the Romanian
principalitiesof Moldavia and Wallachiaresulted in the formation of the modern
state of Romania. Since the territorial organization of the Orthodox churches
tends to follow that of the state, in 1872, the Orthodox churches of the former
principalities, the Metropolis of Ungro-Wallachia and the Metropolis of
Moldavia, merged to form the Romanian Orthodox Church.
The 1866 Constitution of Romania declared the Orthodox Church to be
"independent of any foreign hierarchy", and a law passed in 1872 declared the
church to be "autocephalous". After a long period of negotiations with
the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the latter finally recognized the Metropolis of
Romania in 1885, which was eventually raised to the rank of Patriarchate in

Communist period

Restricted access to ecclesiastical and relevant state archives makes an
accurate assessment of the Romanian Orthodox Church's attitude towards
the Communist regime a difficult proposition. Nevertheless, the activity of the
Orthodox Church as an institution was more or less tolerated by the Marxist–
Leninist atheist regime, although it was controlled through "special delegates"
and its access to the public sphere was severely limited; the regime's attempts at
repression generally focused on individual believers. The attitudes of the
church's members, both laity and clergy, towards the communist regime, range
broadly from opposition and martyrdom, to silent consent, collaboration or
subservience aimed at ensuring survival. Beyond limited access to
the Securitate and Party archives as well as the short time elapsed since these
events unfolded, such an assessment is complicated by the particularities of each
individual and situation, the understanding each had about how their own
relationship with the regime could influence others and how it actually did.
The Romanian Communist Party, which assumed political power at the
end of 1947, initiated mass purges that resulted in a decimation of the Orthodox
hierarchy. Three archbishops died suddenly after expressing opposition to
government policies, and thirteen more "uncooperative" bishops and
archbishops were arrested. A May 1947 decree imposed a mandatory retirement
age for clergy, thus providing authorities with a convenient way to pension off
old-guard holdouts. The 4 August 1948 Law on Cults institutionalised state
control over episcopal elections and packed the Holy Synod with Communist
The evangelical wing of the Romanian Orthodox Church, known as
the Army of the Lord, was suppressed by communist authorities in 1948. In
exchange for subservience and enthusiastic support for state policies, the
property rights over as many as 2,500 church buildings and other assets
belonging to the (by then outlawed)Romanian Greek-Catholic Church were
transferred to the Romanian Orthodox Church; the government took charge of
providing salaries for bishops and priests, as well as financial subsidies for the

publication of religious books, calendars and theological journals.
By weeding out the anti-communists from among the Orthodox clergy and
setting up a pro-regime, secret police-infiltrated Union of Democratic Priests
(1945), the party endeavoured to secure the hierarchy's cooperation. By January
1953 some 300-500 Orthodox priests were being held in concentration camps,
and following Patriarch Nicodim's death in May 1948, the party succeeded in
having the ostensibly docile Justinian Marina elected to succeed him
As a result of measures passed in 1947-48, the state took over the 2,300
elementary schools and 24 high schools operated by the Orthodox Church. A
new campaign struck the church in 1958-62 when more than half of its
remaining monasteries were closed, more than 2,000 monks were forced to take
secular jobs, and about 1,500 clergy and lay activists were arrested (out of a total
of up to 6,000 in the 1946-64 period). Throughout this period Patriarch Justinian
took great care that his public statements met the regime's standards of political
correctness and to avoid giving offence to the government; indeed the hierarchy
at the time claimed that the arrests of clergy members were not due religious
The church's situation began to improve in 1962, when relations with the
state suddenly thawed, an event that coincided with the beginning of Romania's
pursuit of an independent foreign policy course that saw the political élite
encourage nationalism as a means to strengthen its position against Soviet
pressure. The Romanian Orthodox Church, an intensely national body that had
made significant contributions to Romanian culture from the 14th century on,
came to be regarded by the regime as a natural partner. As a result of this second
co-optation, this time as an ally, the church entered a period of dramatic
recovery. By 1975, its diocesan clergy was numbering about 12,000, and the
church was already publishing by then eight high-quality theological reviews,
including Ortodoxia and Studii Teologice. Orthodox clergymen consistently
supported theC eauşescu régime's foreign policy, refrained from criticizing
domestic policy, and upheld the Romanian government's line against the Soviets
(over Bessarabia) and the Hungarians (over Transylvania). As of 1989, two
metropolitan bishops even sat in the Great National Assembly. The members of
the church's hierarchy and clergy remained mostly silent as some two dozen
historic Bucharest churches were demolished in the 1980s, and as plans

for systematization (including the destruction of village churches) were
In an attempt to adapt to the newly created circumstances, the Orthodox Church
proposed a new ecclesiology designed to justify its subservience to the state in
supposedly theological terms. This so-called "Social Apostolate" doctrine,
developed by Patriarch Justinian, asserted that the church owed allegiance to the
secular government and should put itself at its service. This notion inflamed
conservatives, who were consequently purged by Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej,
Ceauşescu's predecessor and a friend of Justinian's. The Social Apostolate called
on clerics to become active in the People's Republic, thus laying the foundation
for the church's submission to and collaboration with the state. Fr. Vasilescu, an
Orthodox priest, attempted to find grounds in support of the Social Apostolate
doctrine in the Christian tradition, citing Augustine of Hippo, John
Chrysostom,Maximus the Confessor, Origen and Tertullian. Based on this
alleged grounding in tradition, Vasilescu concluded that Christians owed
submission to their secular rulers because this were the will of God. Once
recalcitrants were removed from office, the remaining bishops adopted a servile
attitude, endorsing Ceauşescu's concept of nation, supporting his policies, and
applauding his peculiar ideas about peace.