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Romanian Orthodox Church

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Paleo-Christian object from the early 4th century, unearthed at Biertan, near Sibiu, in Romania
One of the many classical proofs of Christian life in Transylvania prior to the arrival of Huns in Europe. This early 4th century votary, belonging to a certain Zenobius, clearly reads EGO ZENOVIUS VOTUM POSUI .
Professing the right belief, on the right path to sainthood
Father Dumitru Stăniloae (floruit 1903 - 1993). Romanian Orthodox Church Priest, Theologian, Academic and Professor, Father Stăniloae worked over 45 years for the perfect Romanian translation of the Church Fathers, in the world famous opus magnum, the Romanian Philocaly - Filocalia Românească'.

Table of contents
1 Definitions
2 Ecumenical Issues
3 History
4 Canonical Status
5 Organization
6 Famous Romanian Orthodox Theologians
7 Patriarchs
8 Important Living Figures of the Romanian Orthodox Church
9 Very Selective Bibliography
10 External links

Definitions

Romanian Orthodox Church in Romania

The Romanian Orthodox Church is one of the
Autocephalous Eastern Orthodoxy Churches. The majority of Romanians in Romania by a very wide margin (about 20 million according to the 2002 census data) belong to it. Among all orthodox christians, the mere numbers of Romanians make the Romanian Orthodox Church second only to Russian Orthodox Church's Moscow patriarchate (currently counting some 50 million believers.) However, all-important historical issues detailed below make the Romanian Orthodox Church the first national, first attested and first apostolic (church built by the Apostles themselves) in Europe.

Romanian Orthodox Church in the Republic of Moldova

Romanians in the Republic of Moldova belonging to the Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia, having resisted russification for 192 years (after the annexation of Bessarabia by the Czarist Empire in 1812) are 2 million strong in 2004. In 2001 they won a landmark legal victory against the Government of the Republic of Moldova at the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights.

Significance

This means that despite current political issues, the Moldovan Metropolitan Church is now recognized as " the rightful successor" to the Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia and Hotin.

This Romanian Orthodox Church existed from 1918 till 1940 and was only brought by Stalin under the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church's Moscow patriarchate. The Metropolitan See of Bessarabia is an inalienable part of Romanian Orthodox Church.

Synonims for Orthodoxy in the Romanian language

Best known is Dreapta credinţă. Orthodox believers are also known as dreptcredincioşi or dreptmăritori creştini.

Ecumenical Issues

Most Eastern Orthodoxy Autocephalous Churches, including the Romanian, maintain a respectful spiritual link to the Ecumenical Patriarch. Now in office is His All-Holiness Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople and New Rome.

History

Early Christianization

According to an old theory,
Christianity reached Dacia with the military progress of the Roman Empire at its highest geographical extension, as many colonists moved north of Danube to avoid the persecution organized by the imperial Roman authorities.

However, the weight of evidence, from archaeological to linguistical to ecclesiastical history, points to a different story, especially since Saint Paul and Silvanus first preached into the Miniature Macedonian Rome of Caesarea Philippi and only later in Rome proper.

Moesia Inferior had indeed been visited by Saint Andrew, brother of Saint Peter and by their disciples, well in advance of the Dacian Wars. An impressive number of toponymes, ethnographical material and the most ancient church tradition - also attested in writing by Eusebios since the 4th century follow Saint Andrew, the Apostle of Dacia and Scythia Minor. All of these could not possibly have been maintained in situ in a non-Christian organized Dacia: If the Christian faith were only brought there by Romans or Roman prisoners rather than growing locally as a grass root phenomenon, then only a few early Christian remains would be on record. In fact, the Roman army deserted north-of-Danube, Left Bank Dacian provinces in corpore starting as soon as the Goths (who were christianized only later) invaded it, around 240 AD. There are more recent historians who maintain that Christianity became widespread much later, with the Byzantine troops of the Eastern Roman Empire then with the extension of Byzantine Romania. Others still point to the Caucasian Georgia or Iberia, and the Lesser Armenia as the first Christian countries. All of them fail to explain the unique liturgical vocabulary of Romanian which could only have been acquired at the very sources of Early Christianity. Cunningly, even Gibbon, as early as the 1780s, vindicates an early Christianization beyond the Left Bank of the Lower Danube.

Right Bank of the Lower Danube - Scythia Minor - Dobrudja

After 297, on the territory of the Roman province of Scythia Minor (now Dobrudja, between the Right Bank of the Lower Danube and Tomis on the western shores of the Black Sea), martyrs of the Christian faith are legion.

First Known Martyrs

Bishop Ephrem was killed in 304, on March 7th in Tomis, followed by countless others, especially during the repression ordered by emperors Diocletianus, Galerius, Licinius and Julian the Apostate.

Factors Involved in Christianization of Dacians, and First Records Thereof

Had Dacians received Christianity as religio illicita only via the crypto-Christians among the Roman troops (therefore after the Dacian Wars 106 AD, and hastily before the 276 AD Roman military retreat) the deep, lasting and grass root organization of the Early Romanian Orthodox Church would remain unexplained. Truth of the matter, as always, must be searched within a larger body of knowledge:

Neighboring the Roman Empire well before the birth of Jesus Christ, Dacians were organized religiously in a system that impressed the authors of antiquity, from Plato to Saint Justin Martyr and Quintus Florus Septimius Tertullianus - the famous Carthaginian church father from the late 2nd century. In Adversus Iudaeos, Tertullianus literally and explicitly mentioned Dacians as followers of Jesus Christ.

Much unlike others who were converted later and sometimes only "upside-down" - by force, starting with their military leaders (peoples extant or only arriving in Europe after the birth of Jesus Christ), Dacians were not migratory hordes. Although they had that proven military might usually associated by the Roman authors with the epithet of barbarians, Dacians also followed a well established centralized authority, maintained a continuous record of spiritual tradition, exerted harmonious systems of trade and thrived on self-sustained economics.

All of these must have prepared conversion to Christianity in a solid, lasting, and now very well proven manner.

Christianization and Romanian Ethnogenesis Interwoven

Romanians, who directly continue Dacians in the same linguistical territory, are Christian eversince their European ethnogenesis came into the historical record. There simply was no efficient ecclesiastical, military or otherwise administrative authority to christianize them according to the widespread later model, so completely as to resist all organized persecutions and as early as the 2nd and 3rd century AD.

An important, impressive number of dioceses and martyrs are first attested in Dacia in the very times of Ante-Nicene Fathers. The first known Daco-Romanian Christian priest Montanus and his wife Maxima were drowned, as martyrs, because of their faith, in 304, on March 26th.

Rich Romanian folkloric ethnographical and traditional material and some extremely rich or unique archaeological records demonstrate a solid, organized, widespread Christian life at the Lower Danube well in advance of the first ecumenical synods.

Some Unique Features of the Romanian Orthodox Church

The Romanian Orthodox Church is the only orthodox church of a country receiving Apostolic Christianity and speaking a romance language derived from Latin.

Byzantine religious records also mention a unique form of bishoprics in the region - namely the chorepiscopate or countryside episcopate - as opposed to the better known religious centers in large cities.

The very name of Church in Romanian, Biserică is unique in Europe. It comes from βασιλικα - meaning communications received from the king and also the place where the Emperor administered justice, rather than εκκλησία with all its modern ecclesiological connotations.

All of these, in conclusion, might explain the huge success of Christianity in the Romanian regions, which demonstrate the very first attested organization of Christianity for a whole people in Europe.

From the Early Middle Ages through the Renaissance

Since the south-of Danube Dacia was also known as Vlahia Mare - Greater Wallachia, the north-of-Danube Dacia was known as Ungro-Vlahia - the "Hungarian" Wallachia. This important geographical and ethnogenetic fact of Romania is still reflected into the name of the first Metropolitanate of Ungro-Vlachia. Following the complex relationship of Byzantine Patriarchates and Romanian-Bulgarian Czarates, Romanians adopted Old Church Slavonic in the Saint Liturgy since the early 9th century. However, most of the religious texts were learned by heart by priests who either did not understand Slavic languages, always wanted to be understood by their own community, or both. The etyma of boscorodire - an old Romanian word, borrowed from Slavic - compellingly demonstrate this contention.


"Byzance after Byzance"

Ecclesiastical life flourished in all organized forms on both sides of the Lower Danube. However, national metropoles and Metropolitanates for the Romanians north of the Lower Danube were only created in the late
13th century and early 14th century, according to the political developments there. Many religious texts were to be periodically transcribed until the 16th century in Old Church Slavonic only, perhaps as a reaction against Catholic missionarism active mainly alongside, and sometimes even through the military adventures of the Hungarian Apostolic Kingdom. However, important Romanian translations certainly circulated, including the famous Codicele Voroneţean. The famous Bucharest Bible - Biblia de la Bucureşti, the first complete Romanian translation of the Bible in the late 17th century, published in 1688 during the reign of Şerban Cantacuzino (regnabat 1678-1688 in Wallachia) is a mature, somptuous work. Its cultural import is not unlike that of King James Version for the English language. This could not have been achieved without many previous (and perhaps as yet unknown) anonymous translation work. For this, a wealth of Byzantine manuscripts, brought north of the Danube in the "Byzance after Byzance" movement described by famous historian Nicolae Iorga is an outstanding proof.

Although most of the time under foreign suzerainty (under the Ottoman Turks in Moldavia and Wallachia and under the Hungarian rule in Transylvania), Romanians characteristically kept their orthodox faith as part of their national identity.

Habsburgs attempted to persuade orthodox clergymen to join the Uniate Church

In 1698 in Transylvania, a small part of the Romanian Orthodox Church granted ecclesiastical authority to the Pope, but kept all of their orthodox traditions and even every single instatiation of their day-to-day religious life. It was therefore only a politically motivated movement, in order to obtain the much needed equality of rights with to the Catholics. Indeed, by becoming members of the "Greek-rite Roman Catholics" church, a minority of Romanians in Transylvania - ethnically always the majority of the population there, eventually managed to be treated as a nation by the occupation forces, in the likes of the three minorities collectively known under the syntagm of Unio Trium Nationum. The counterpart of this half-measure was the arival of Jesuits in Transylvania, with not always the best consequences for the Romanian national rights.

Recent History

Fully Autocephalous since 1885 the Romanian Orthodox Church is part of the spiritual, political and national identity of Romanians. All opinion polls fail to single out another institution that Romanians would trust more than the Romanian Orthodox Church.

Canonical Status

The Romanian Orthodox Church is organized as the Romanian Patriarchy. The highest hyerarchical, canonical and dogmatical authority of the Romanian Orthodox Church is the Holy Synod.

Organization

There are five Metropolitanates and ten archbishoprics in Romania, and more than twelve thousand priests and deacons, servant fathers of ancient altars from parishes, monasteries and social centres. Almost 400 monasteries exist inside the country for some 3,500 monks and 5,000 nuns. Three Diasporan Metropolitanates and two Diasporan Bishoprics function outside Romania proper. As of 2004, there are, inside Romania, fifteen theological universities where more than ten thousand students (some of them from Bessarabia, Bukovina and Serbia benefiting from a few Romanian fellowships) currently study for a doctoral degree. More than 14,500 churches (traditionally named lăcaşe de cult) exist in Romania for the Romanian Orthodox believers. As of 2002, almost 1,000 of these were either in the process of being built or rebuilt.

Famous Romanian Orthodox Theologians

Father Dumitru Staniloae (floruit 1903 - 1993) is widely regarded by famous specialists of all denominations as the greatest theologian of the 20th century. His other opus magnum, outside the real duhovnicesc (deepest spiritual) opus, is the 45-year-long perfected collection also known as the Romanian Philocaly.

Patriarchs

Miron, Nicodim, Iustinian and Iustin were the historical Patriarchs of the Romanian Patriarchy.

Important Living Figures of the Romanian Orthodox Church

Very Selective Bibliography

Mircea Păcurariu, Istoria Bisericii Ortodoxe Române, Sophia, Bucureşti, 2000 (the standard text in Romanian, well updated, complete, superbly printed - an excellent reference.)


External links