Romanian Orthodox Elders and Spiritual Fathers
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The Orthodox Church in Romania
The Romanian people - a Latin people as its language in all its structural elements also makes evidence - is the only one in the East of Europe that belongs to the Latin people. Its formation is the result of the symbiosis of the native Thracian-Gaeto-Dacian population with the Latin one and of the gradual assimilation of other nations temporarily settled in the wide hearth in which it came to existence. Here, Christianity penetrated in Apostolic times. In Dobrudja - the ancient Scytia Minor - the Word of the Gospel was preached by Saint Apostol Andrew - in the second half of the first century A.D. After the Roman Empire had conquered Dacia (106 AD), the number of the faithful increased either by settling here the followers of the new faith who had left the Romanized populations in the Lower Danube or by those who came in this place together with the colonists, the army, the miners and the merchants who were sent by the Roman Empire in its new province.
The majority originated in provinces already christianized by the Lord`s Apostles.
After the withdrawal of the Roman administration and army in the North of the Danube, in 271 A.D. the Christians, being no longer threatened by the pagan authority of Rome that chased and persecuted them for there faith, increased in number and started to organise themselves as a Church.
The great number of Dacian-Roman martyrs in the South of the Danube during Emperor Diocletian`s persecutions (284 - 305), who paid with there lives for confessing their faith in Christ, brings evindence of the spreading of Christianity in this area at that time. Moreover it strengthens the convinction that Christianity was much older in this area, as long as, during the Roman period, there had been bishops and priests.
Christianity took swing with our forefathers on both sides of the Danube during Constantinian Peace that followed the edict of religious tolerance - Milan, 313 AD. Hence, in the Lower Danube, there functioned numerous bishoprics, some of them certainly much older. One of these was the see of Tomis founded in the last half of the 3rd century, with a canonical autority on both sides of the Danube. In the 5th century it became an autocephalous archbishopric and then a metropolitan Church. In the next century it was canonicalyl independent and it had 14 bishopric sees.
In the 16th century, Emperor Justinian (527-565) brought back the Byzantine rule on the left of the Danube and reunited it with that on the right of the Danube, ecclestically too, by placing it under the jurisdiction of the archbishopric Justiniana Prima which he had founded in 535. Supported by such circumstances, the North-Danubian Christiandom made an important progress. Basilicas and many other palaelo-Christian vestiges which have been discovered all over our country up to the present confirms it.
The Romanian Christian terminology, especially that which expesses tha basic notions of faith, constitutes another sign that our ancestors were also preached the Gospel in Latin which they understood as a Romanized population.
In conclusion, when the Romanian people appeared in history as a Latin nation it was already Christian. Thus, the Romanian people is one of the few nations that, without having a fixed date of its Christianization, was born Christian and this is how it has remained up to the present, being the only Orthodox Latin people, and at the same time, the oldest Christian people in this part of Europe. Moreover, as a preacher of the Gospel, it prepared the Bulgarians and the Slaves for Christinization. In its turn, forced by historical circumstances, it had to receive the Slave language in the cult of the Church, and it used it until the 17th century.
In the 14th century, after the formation of the Romanian feudal States in the South and East of the Carphatians - Wallachia and Moldavia - as a proof of there complete political independence, they started organizing the Church. In 1359, a Metropolitan see was founded in Wallachia, at Curtea de Arges, and in 1401, in Moldavia, the Metropolitan see of Suceava was confirmed by the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
In 1370, another metropolitan Church is founded in Wallachia with its centre at Severin, and at the beginning of the 16th century, the bishopric sees in Ramnicu Valcea and Buzau. In the East of the Carpatians there came into being the bishoprics of Roman and Radauti, in the 15th century, in the 16th century the bishopric of Husi, and in 1864 the bishopric of the Lower Danube.
In Transilvania there were orthodox bishopric centres, too: at first at Dabaca, then at Vad, Feleac Geoagiu, Balgrad (Alba Iulia) Ienopolea, Caransebes, Arad, Oradea and Sighetu Marmatiei. The Metropolitan Church of Transilvania was abolished in 1701 and reactivated as a new bishopric in 1761. In 1864 it became a Metropolitan Church as it is today.
The metropolitans of Wallachia and Moldavia toghether with there Church have always been in a canonical relationship with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and they have always enjoyed a special honour in the Orthodox world.
In 1885, the ecumenical patriarch Joachim IV signed the tomos recognizing the authonomy of the Romanian Orthodox Church which granted it complete equality in rights with the other sister - Orthodox Churches, and also maintained dogmatically, canonically and liturgically, a relation of interdependence to them. The patriarchal tomos, also signed by the other members of the Ecumenical Holy Synod, was the third document of this kind, after those in 1850 (promulgated for the Church of Greece) and in 1873 (for the Serbian Church).
In 1925, the Romanian Orthodox Church was raised at the rank of a Patriarchate. This religious event was the consequence of state unification on the 1st of December 1918, as well as a natural illustration of the role of the Church in the history of the Romanian people. Itís a unanimously recognized fact that at the crucial moments of the Romanians`history, the Orthodox Church has been a primordial factor in preserving and affirming our national identity. The first books in Romanian were printed by Church establishments; the first Romanian schools were also organized by Church establishments.
The first patriarch, Miron Cristea, enthroned on the 1st of November 1925 was followed by the patriarchs Nicodim Munteanu (1939 - 1948), Justinian Marina (1948-1977) and Justin Moisescu (1977 - 1986). On the 16th of November 1986, his Beatitude Teoctist, former metropolitan of Moldavia, was enthroned as Patriarch. (He has been a hierarch since 1950).
The census of the population in 1992 showed the existence of almost 19,8 milions Christian Orthodox people (86,8 %) out of the population of the country, which places the Romanian Orthodox Church (from a numerical point of view) on the second place among the Orthodox Churches, after the Russian Church, which has almost 50 millions Orthodox Christians.
The Romanian Orthodox Church, develops its activity on the basis of the statute of organisation and functioning sanctioned by the Holy Synod in 1948 and acknowledged by the Presidium of the Grand National Assembly by the Decree no.233 on the 23rd of February 1949. There are also other 10 Church regulations for the proper functioning of different fields of activity (deliberative and executive organs as Church units, monasticism, appointment or transfer of clergy, theological education, confessional cemeteries, etc.).
The statute of organization and functioning of the Romanian Orthodox Church and the regulations of application have suffered important modifications and additions. The modifications made by the leadership of the Romanian Orthodox Church, after December 1989 have no longer been sanctioned by state organs.
The Romanian Orthodox Church is organized as a Patriarchate with the title of the Romanian Patriarchate. The highest authority of the Romanian Orthodox Church for all the dogmatic, canonical, as well as Church problems of any kind is the Holy Synod. It consists in the Patriarch and the appointed hierarchs (metropolitans, archbishops, bishops, vicars). Between two sessions of the Holy Synod the problems that may appear are solutioned by the Permanent Synod, which consists in the Patriarch and the appointed metropolitans.
As a central representative organ of the Romanian Orthodox Church for al the administrative and economical problems, as well as for those which does not fall under the responsibility of the Holy Synod, there is the Church National Assembly, which consists in three reprezentatives of each diocese (a priest and two lay people), designated by the respective diocesan meetings on a four-year period. The supreme administrative organ both of the Holy Synod and of the Church National Assembly is the Church National Committee. This consists in three priests and six lay people, elected by the Church National Assembly on a four - year period and patriarchal administrative councilors as permanent members.
Within each diocese (bishopric or archbishopric) there functions the Diocesan Assembly as a deliberative organ for all the church, administrative, cultural and economical problems. The Diocesan Assembly consists in the representatives of the clergy and of the faithful, a third per cent, respectively two thirds per cent. The executive organ of the Diocesan Assembly is the Diocesan Council which consists in the bishop, the vicar and the administrative councilors as permanent members, and nine members (three priests and six lay people) elected for four years by the Dioceaan Assembly.
The parish, the basic unit of the Church has as, its deliberative organ, the Parish Assembly which consists in all the major men in the parish. The executive organ is the Parish Council elected by a Parish Assembly on a four - year period. The Parish Assembly also elects the Parish Committee which consists in women especially, which has philanthropic functions.
The parishes of a diocese are organized in deaneries which are administrative units that include several tens of parishes. These are leaded by an archpriest who pursues the good unfolding of the pastoral and administrative activities of priests and parishes.
The monastery is a settlement where a religious community of monks and nuns lives. They dedicate their life to prayer, poverty, chastity and obedience. The leader of the monastery is the abbot supported by the monastic community, the spiritual council and the economical council.
Juristidictionally, the Romanian Patriarchate consists in five metropolitan sees in the country and the metropolitan see of Basarabia (reactivated in December 1992) and the Romanian Metropolitan See of Germany and Central Europe. On December 31, 1998 there functioned: 10 archbishoprics and 13 bishoprics, 143 deaneries of archpriests, 10.069 parishes, 347 monasteries, 124 hermitages and 5 succursal monasteries.
On December 31, 1998 there served 10068 priests and 161 deacons, assisted by 3382 psalm- readers.
In monastic settlements there lived 2482 monks and 4246 nuns. In 1998 the Romanian Orthodox Church posessed 13627 places of worship (23 cathedrales, 9878 parish churches, 2794 affiliated churches, 353 cemetery churches, 353 monastic churches, 123 monastic chapels and 129 patriarchal chapels) and 5220 parish houses. Almost 2400 places of worship are hystorical and architectural monuments. In 1998 there were built 145 churches, other 731 being in construction.
In the Romanian Patriarchate there function 19 schools for psalm-readers were almost 1700 pupils attend a 3-year period of studies, 9 theological - medical post-secondary schools, 39 theological seminaries (among them 6 are monastic) were almost 6000 pupils study. In the university education, in 14 universitary centers (Alba Iulia, Arad, Baia Mare, Bucuresti, Cluj, Constanta, Craiova, Galati, Iasi, Oradea, Pitesti, Sibiu, Targoviste, Timisoara) there are theological faculties with one or more specializations: pastoral theology (10 centers) theology - philology (14) theology - social assistance (8), theology - cultural patrimony (3) and theology- Christian archaeology (1). In all these faculties there are almost 6700 students. In the faculties in Bucharest, Iasi, Sibiu, and Cluj there are organized one - year Master's studies and doctor`s courses.
After 1989, editorial and publishing activity took a full swing. In 1998 there were 43 reviews and publications, (5 central, 38 diocesan and parish ones). Last year there were published 50 titles of theological,religious, historical and spiritual books. The official gazette of the Romanian Patriarchate is Biserica Ortodoxa Romana (The Romanian Orthodox Church) and it has been printed for 115 years. The oldest religious publication is Telegraful Roman (The Romanian Telegraph) which has been printed by the Archbishopric of Sibiu for 146 year. Important reviews of theological research studies are: Studii Teologice (Theological Studies), Ortodoxia (Orthodoxy), Vocea Bisericii (The Voice of the Church), Revista Teologica (The Theological Review), Mitropolia Olteniei) The Metropolitan Church of Oltenia), Teologie si Viata (Theology and Life), Altarul Banatului (The Altar of Banat) and others.
In the Romanian Patriarchate there functions the Orthodox Bible and Mission Institute which coordinates the publishing activities. Beside the Publishing House of the Bible and Mission Institute there also function other Church Publishing Houses at the Neamt Monastery, Sibiu, Timisoara, Iasi, Cluj, Ramnicu-Valcea, Alba-Iulia, Oradea, Beius, the Sihastria Monastery. These publishing houses has published tens of thousands of books, fundamental works, first of all the Holy Scripture, then the New Testament, the Psalter, the Little Bible, books of Christian teaching, catechisms, the lives of the Saints, books of prayer, theological works, translations of the Holy Fathers, schoolbooks and universitary studies.
Within the Romanian Orthodox Church there are organized 95 museum collections of art and centers for patrimony books and old church objects preserving: 11 diocesan centers, 44 in the monasteries, 26 in parishes and 14 in deaneries and in other places.
Valuable libraries of the Romanian Orthodox Church are : the Library of the Holy Synod, the Library of the Metropolitan Church of Sibiu and the libraries of the Neamt and Cernica Monasteries.
After 1989, the Romanian Orthodox Church resumes its activity of religious assistance in the army, prisons, hospitals and philantropic settlements (orphanages, asylums etc).
On December 31, 1998 there were 87 places of worship in hospitals were 125 priests served, 37 priests served in prisons, 42 priests served in 38 places of worship in the army, 46 priests in 13 places of worship in schools and 3 priests served in 7 asylums and orphanages.
For supporting the poor, orphans, helpless old people and persons with a handicap, the Romanian Orthodox Church founded a series of settlements as: the asylums in Suceava, the Recea Monastery, the Tocile parish (Brasov county), Campeni village, Amaru (Buzau), Stavropoleos parish (Bucharest), Iasi, Saint Sabbas (Buzau), the Ramet Monastery (Alba). The Church has also organized consulting rooms in Bucharest, the Saint Elijah parish, Iasi, Timisoara, Braila, the Recea Monastery, Sibiu.
After the Revolution in December 1989 there were reestablished or founded associations or foundations for supporting the mission and charity activity of the Church. There were reactivated: Oastea Domnului (The Lord`s Army) - initiated by the priest Iosif Trifa at Sibiu in 1926 - Fratia Ortodoxa (the Orthodox Brotherhood), Societatea Nationala a Femeilor Ortodoxe Romane (The National Society of Romanian Orthodox Women). There were also founded other organizations like: Liga Tineretului Ortodox (the League of Orthodox Youth), Asociatia Studentilor Crestini Ortodocsi Romani (The Association of Romanian Orthodox Christian Students), Saint Stelian (Bucharest), Saint Sabbas (Buzau), Civica (Timisoara), The Great Saint Martyr Minas (Constanta), Precista Mare (Roman), Saint Nicholas (Bacau and Sibiu), Saint Gregory Palamas (Bucharest), Bishop Grigorie Leu (Bucharest), the Foundation Bishop Melchisedec (Roman), the Christian Cultural Association Miron Cristea (Sfantu Gheorghe-Covasna) etc.
Within the international church organisations the Romanian Orthodox Church develops and maintains relations with almost all the Christian Churches in the world, particulary with the sister - Orhodox Churches. There have been mutual visits and contacts with the Old - Oriental Churches, the Roman - Catholic Church, the Anglican Church, the Protestant Churches in Europe and America.
The Romanian Orthodox Church is a member of the World Ecumenical Council of Churches and of the European Church Conference. It also takes part in the activities of the international Christian organisations of youth, women and others.
Beyond the borders of the contry there are several millions of orthodox Romanians organized in Church units. Because of the difficult conditions of post-war history they were partly under foreign canonical jurisdiction. The greatest part belongs to the Metropolitan Church of Basarabia and the North of Bucovina. The Romanian Orthodox Church has never recognized the breaking of these limbs out of its body and their passing to other juristiction. In 1992 the Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church reactivated the autonomous Metropolitan Church of Basarabia with its see in Chisinau (the Republic of Moldavia). Petru Padurar, former bishop of Balti was elected metropolitan.
In 1993, there was founded the Romanian Metropolitan Church of Germany and Central and North Europe with the See in Berlin. Seraphim Joanta was elected metropolitan.
Beside these there are a few other dioceses abroad: the Romanian Orthodox Archbishopric for Western Europe, with its see in Paris (Iosif Pop has been archbishop since 1998) the Orhodox Missionary Archbishopric in America and Canada, with its see in Detroit (archbishop Victorin Ursachi), the Romanian Orthodox Bishopric in Gyula (Hungary, bishop Sofronie Drencec) and the Romanian Orthodox Bishopric in Varset (Jugoslavia).
In some other countries there are Romanian parishes or settlements under the direct jurisdiction of our Patriarchate. In Israel, there are the Romanian Orthodox settlements in Jerusalem and at the Jordan. In Australia and New Zeeland there are five parishes and three affiliated churches and there is a parish in Sophia (Bulgaria).
Outside the jurisdiction of the Romanian Patriarchate there is the Romanian Orthodox Bishopric in America and Canada, with its see in Grey Tower, leaded by Nathanael Pop, the Romanian Orthodox Bishopric in Europe, with the see in Paris and the free Romanians`Orthodox Bishopric with its see in Freiburg (Germany).
THE METROPOLITAN CHURCH IN WALLACHIA AND DOBRUDJA
It was founded in 1359 under the name of the Metropolitan Church of Ungrovlahia with it See at Curtea de Arges. Iachint was its first metropolitan.In 1517 the Metropolitan See moved from Curtea de Arges to Targoviste then to Bucharest in 1668 where it has been ever since. The present title was endorsed after 1990. The See is in Bucharest, and the metropolitan is also the patriarch. It consists in the folowing dioceses: the Archbishopric of Bucharest, the Archbishopric of Targoviste, the Archbishopric of Tomis, the Bishopric of Arges, the Bishopric of Buzau, the Bishopric of the Lower Danube, the Bishopric of Slobozia and Calarasi and the Bishopric of Alexandria and Teleorman.
THE METROPOLITAN CHURCH OF MOLDAVIA AND BUCOVINA
It was sanctioned by the Ecumenical Patriarchate in 1401 when it had its See at Suceava. Iosif was its first metropolitan. At the middle of the 17th century its See moved to Iasi where it has been ever since. It consists in : the Archbishopric of Iasi, the Archbishopric of Suceava and Radauti, the Bishopric of Roman and the Bishopric of Husi.
THE METROPOLITAN CHURCH OF TRANSILVANIA, CRISANA AND MARAMURES
The Transilvanian Metropolitan Church has lasted since the second half of the 16th century. Its first metropolitan was Eftimie. At the end of the 17th century, the Ortodox Metropolitan Church in Alba Iulia ceased its activity when its metropolitan Atanasie Anghel and a part of his clergy and the faithful passed to the Catholic Church. The Orthodox Metropolitan Church of Transilvania was reactivated only in 1864 with its See at Sibiu. Andrei Saguna was its first metropolitan. It consists in: the Archbishopric of Sibiu, the Archbishopric of Vad, Feleac and Cluj, the Archbishopric of Alba Iulia, the Bishopric of Oradea, the Bishopric of Maramures and Satmar, the Bishopric of Covasna and Harghita.
THE METROPOLITAN CHURCH OF OLTENIA
It was founded in 1370. Its first See was at Severin but it had a short existence. It was transformed in a bishopric with its See at Ramnicu-Valcea. It was reactivated as a Metropolitan Church in 1939 with its See at Craiova, abolished in 1945 and reactivated in 1949. It consists only in two dioceses: the Archbishopric of Craiova and the Bishopric of Ramnic.
THE METROPOLITAN CHURCH OF BANAT
It was founded in 1974 with the See in Timisoara. It consists in : the Archbishopric of Timisoara, the Bishopric of Arad and the Bishopric of Caransebes.
"Viata religioasa din Romania", Studiu documentar al Secretariatului
de Stat pentru Culte, Bucuresti, 1999, pag. 17-29.