Bishoip Valerian D. Trifa – The Orthodox Church Today 1964

The downfall of the Czarist regime in Russia, in 1917, provoked a spontaneous movement to restore the Patriarchate. A Sobor of Bishops elected a Patriarch in the person of Tikhon and abolished the „Holy Governing Synod“ of the Czars. However, this could not bring the Patriarchate to its old glory, because one year later, the Soviet regime took over, and one of the first acts of the new government was to enact legislation separating the Church from the State and proclaiming the atheistic policy of the new regime. Ecclesiastical properties were nationalized, clergy were deprived of livelihood, churches were closed, teaching of religion was prohibited and Patriarch Tikhon was arrested. From now, the greatest persecution against the Orthodox Church in modern times began. The powerful Communist party in Russia set as its goal the liquidation of religions, and particularly, the Orthodox Church. For twenty years, the Russian Orthodox Church suffered martyrdom.

In spite of all this, it seems that Orthodoxy remained in many hearts, and the Soviet government itself recognized this. Under the pressure of the Second World War necessities, the open persecution of the Church stopped.

In 1943, with the approval of Joseph Stalin, a national council of the Orthodox Church was called and Metropolitan Sergei was chosen Patriarch.

Two years later, after Patriarch Sergei’s death, the present Patriarch Alexei took office. In 1945, the Orthodox Church was recognized as a religious corporation with the privilege to worship under the control of the government. Some of the theological schools were opened and some churches were made available for public worship.

Although it is extremely difficult to obtain reliable information concerning the real situation of the Orthodox Church in Russia at the present time, it is interesting to compare the situation of the Church today with conditions existing prior to the First World War.

                                                1914   1954

Churches                                 54,457   22,500

Priests                                     57,105   ?

Monasteries                             1,498   80

Theological Academies              4   2

Seminaries                              57   8

Parochial Schools                       40,150   None

The Russian Church today lists 73 Dioceses inside the Soviet Union and several exarchates abroad (Western Europe and North America, etc.). The total number of Russian Orthodox Christians is estimated today at about 50 million.

The clergy is trained in Seminaries and Graduate Schools. In 1960,43 students graduated from the two Academies and 185 from the Seminaries. This is a very small number considering the necessities.

The government of the Russian Church is centralized in the hands of the Patriarch, assisted by a Synod of six Bishops, but all religious activities are controlled by the State. No Synod of Bishops may be called without State approval. The Patriarch himself must abide by the rules of the „Council of Affairs of the Orthodox Church of the Council of Ministers of the U.S.S.R.“

The activities of the Church are generally limited to worship. But with all the Marxist anti-religious propaganda, many Russians retained allegiance to religion. The few churches opened for worshipo are overcrowded on Holy Days and the Holy Sacraments are administered regularly. It is estimated that every fouth Soviet citizen keeps alive some connection with the Church. The serious problem confronting the Church is that of religious education and instruction. On one side, the official policy of the Communist Party is to eradicate religion, and on the other side, the Church lacks the freedom to defend itself openly.

Politically, it seems that the Russian Orthodox Church has reached a relatively solid position in relation to Soviets. The Patriarch supports the position of the Soviet government on all major international policies, and in exchange, the government gives the Orthodox Church certain privileges, which makes its existence as an organization possible. Moreover, representatives of the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate are participating at international interdenominational gatherings, and recently, the Russian Patriarchate became a member of the World Council of Churches. The voice of the Russian Orthodox Church is heard again in the world, even if it is not loud enough in its own homeland.

The Patriarch of Moscow at present is His Beatitude Alexei elected in 1945.

6. The Patriarchate of Serbia

The history of the Serbian Orthodox Church goes back to St, Sava who organized an independent, autonomous Metrpolitanate in 1219, under Czar Stephen Dushan. In 1346, the Metropolitanate was given Patriarchal rank. But 43 years later, in 1389, the Serbs fell under the Turkish yoke, and for more than five hundred years, the Church organization suffered all types of set-backs.

At one time, the Serbian Church was subjected to the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople. Part of the Serbian population, settled in the Austrian territory, organized a Patriarchate in Karlovitz. Other autonomous Church units formed on Serbian territory until 1920, when all consolidated into the Serbian Orthodox Church. The Metropolitan of Belgrade, Dimitry, was then elected Patriarch.

World War II brought many trials to the Serbian Church. During the War itself, many Bishops were taken to concentration camps. On Croatian territory, Bishops, Priests and uncounted thousands of Orthodox people were physically annihilated. After the war, others were harshly treated by the new Communist regime.

The most radical changes happened also in the status of the Church through new legislation which separated the Church and State and nationalized many Church properties.

Recently, a compromise solution was found and the Church, enjoying unquestionable moral prestige, is finding a modus vivendi with the State.

Numerically, the Church of Serbia counts 7,500,000 faithful, 3,101 Priests, and 2,864 parishes.

The Patriarch is His Beatitude Germanos, elected in 1959.

7. The Patriarchate of Romania

Christianity reached Romanian territories via Roman colonists and missionaries from South of the Danube. The spread of Christianity in Romania coincided with the formation of the Romanian people as a nation. Juris-dictionally, Romanian Churches were subjected at first to Metropolitans South of the Danube, among them in particular, Ohrid. But in the 14th Century, they passed under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

During the Middle Ages, there were two Romanian Metropolitanates, one in Ungro-Vlachia and one in Moldavia, both enjoying a considerable measure of autonomy.

In Transylvania, the Church was later organized under the Metro-politanate of Serbia.

When the Romanian Principalities united, forming the RcnunLar: Stite. the Church followed suit and reoosmced any dependence upon foreign ecclesiastical authorities. In 1885, the Romanain Orthodox Church became autonomous with the Metropolitan of Bucharest as Primate.

After World War I, when all the Romanian Provinces were united into Greater Romania, the Romanian Orthodox Church was granted the status of Patriarchate in 1925. The first Romanian Orthodox Patriarch was Miron Cristea.

Numbering more than 13 million believers and due to the collapse of the Russian Orthodox Church organization under the Communist regime, between the two wars Romania had the largest Orthodox Church in the world.

In 1935, the Romanian Orthodox Church counted:

1 Patriarch

5 Metropolitans

13 Bishops

14 milion faithful

75 monasteries with

2,842 monks

14,200 Priests

8,279 licensed cantors

10 Theological Seminaries

5 Theological Academies

3 Theological faculties at the Universities

World War II brought many changes in the ecclesiastical situation in Romania, Romania lost the Provinces of Bassarabia and part of Bucovina with many believers passing under Soviet domination. On the other side, under the pressure of the goverment, 1-1/2 million former Uniates joined the Orthodox Church.

The political regime also changed into a Communistic one. A new Constitution was imposed and laws were enacted separating formally the Church from the State but retaining some of the provisions of the old system, among them, payment of the salaries of the Clergy by the State. The government has practical control over the Church, but legally recognizes the Orthodox Church as a united organization with its own head, the Patriarch. Bishops must swear an oath of allegiance to the State and limit themselves to strictly liturgical activities. Teaching of religion in the public schools was abolished and many of the theological schools were closed. The monastic life was completely reformed, eliminating some monasteries as „unproductive institutions“, and emphasizing in others manual labor, enabling them to integrate into the „production“ of the Socialistic State.

In line with the new policy of „acclimatization,“ some of the old Bishops were forced into retirement and new ones took over, declaring themselves ready to cooperate with the State. In exchange, the Church gained certain advantages, and although seriously handicapped, was able to survive.

Today, the Romanian Patriarchate incorporates over 14 million believers, placing itself as the second largest Orthodox community in the world, coming after Russia.

The relations between the Romanian Church and the Communistic State are governed by the law of cults enacted in February, 1948. The Orthodox Church itself is organized on the basis of the „Statutes for the Organization and Functioning of the Romanian Orthodox Church,“ drafted by Patriarch Justinian and promulgated in February, 1949. The Statutes replace the ones in effect from 1925. Through the new Statutes, the power of the Patriarch was enlarged, but certain administrative prerogatives were left also to the Metropolitans and Bishops.

The administrative central organization of the Romanian Church is at this time as follows:

1. The Holy Synod composed of the Patriarch. Metropolitans and Bishops.

2. The National Church Assembly composed of the members of the Holy Synod and three representatives (1 priest and 2 laity) from each Diocese.

3. The National Church Council composed of 9 members (3 priests and 6 laity) elected by the National Church Assembly and working under the presidency of the the Patriarch.

4. The Patriarchal Administration composed of the Patriarch, two assistant Bishops, six Priest counselors, and the lay officers of the Patriarchal Chancery.

Jurisdictionally, the territory of Romania is divided into five Metropolitanates, each having two or three Dioceses. At the end of 1863, the following were listed:

I. The Metropolitanate of Ungro Vlahia

a) Archdiocese of Bucharest See in Bucharest Archbishop and Metropolitan: Patriarch Justinian (Marina).

b) Diocese of Buzău

See in Buzău

Bishop: Antim (Anghelescu).

c) Diocese in the Lower Danube

See in Galatz

Bishop: Chesarie (Paunescu).

II. The Metropolitan of Moldavia and Suceava

Archdiocese of Jassy

See in Jassy

Archbishop and Metropolitan: Justin (Moisescu).

b) Diocese of Roman and Huşi See in Roman

Bishop: Partenie (Ciopron)

III. The Metropolitan of Transylvania

a) Archdiocese of Alba Julia and Sibiu

See in Sibiu Archbishop and Metropolitan: Nicolae (Colan).

b) Diocese of Vad, Feliac and Cluj

See in Cluj

Bishop: Teofil (Herineanu).

Diocese of Oradea

See in Oradea

Bishop: Valerian (Zaharia).

IV. The Metrpolitanate of Oltenia

a) Archdiocese of Craiova

See in Craiova

Archbishop and Metropolitan;

Firmilian (Marin).

b) Diocese of Râmnic and Argeş

See in Râmnicul Vâlcea

Bishop: Iosif (Gafton).

V. The Metropolitanate of Banat

a) Archdiocese of Timişoara and Caransebeş

See in Timişoara

Archbishop and Metropolitan: Nicolae (Corneanu).

b) Diocese of Arad, Ienopole and Halmagiu

See in Arad

Bishop: Teoctist (Arăpaşu-Botoşăneanul).

The two Patriarchal Vicars are:

1. Antim (Nica) – Târgovisteanu

2. Visarion (Aştileanu) – Ploieşteanul.

Thus, the Romanian Church has today 12 Dioceses, compared with 18 which existed before the Second World War. The difference is due to the following:

1. The Metropolitanate of Bucovina with the Dioceses of Cernăuţi and Hotin are now in Soviet territories.

2. The Metropolitanate of Bass-arabia with the Dioceses of Chişinău and Cetatea Albă also fell under Soviet rule.

3. The Diocese of Constanţa was combined with the Diocese of the Lower Danube and the See in Galatz.

4. The Diocese of Râmnic and Severin was united with Argeş.

5. An Archdiocese was established in Craiova.

6. The Diocese in Huşi was joined to the Diocese of Roman.

7. The Diocese of Arad was transferred to the new Metropolitanate of Banat together with the Diocese of Caransebeş.

8. The Patriarchate of Bulgaria The Bulgarians adopted Christianity officially in 864 when their Czar Boris was baptized a Christian. The Bulgarian Church became a Patriarchate in 917.

But when the Bulgarians lost their independence in 1018, their Patriarchate was reduced to an Archdiocese with Greeks as Bishops. Once again, it became was Patriarchate in 1235, but the Turkish domination put an end to Bulgarian independence for five hundred years. During that time the Bulgarian Church affairs were under full control of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

In 1870, the Turkish Sultan granted autonomy to the Bulgarian Church, but the Ecumenical Patriarch did not recognize it and as a consequence, the Bulgarian Church was formally considered „schismatic“ up to 1945.



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