The 1859 union of the two autonomous principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia - by votes of their respective parliaments - under Prince Alexander Cuza opened up new prospects of ecclesiastical conflict in the Balkans. Cuza proceeded to the confiscation of monastic lands and other properties belonging to Orthodox ecclesiastical institutions (including the Holy Sepulchre and Mount Sinai), which provoked an outcry in ecclesiastical circles. In 1865 a bill for the proclamation of the independence of the church of Romania 'according to the requirements of the political and intellectual progress of nations' was intro-duced.15 It set in motion a repetition of the story of Greek autocephaly. The new regime imposed on the church in Romania, in imitation of the Greek settlement of 1833, subordinated the church to the state with all appointments and decisions made subject to state approval.
The Great Church under Patriarch Sophronios III had already in 1863 protested - to no avail - against the confiscation of monastic properties in Romania, but in 1865 it reacted strongly to the proposed new ecclesiastical regime, pronouncing it contrary to the holy canons and doctrinally dubi-ous.16 The requirements of secular state building and the forces of nationalism in Romania, nevertheless, proved stronger than the canonical conscience of the church. Despite the overthrow of Cuza and the election in his place of a new prince, Carol Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, the ecclesiastical question between Romania and Constantinople dragged on for another twenty years, until its final settlement in 1885. Intermediate attempts and proposals at settlement of the ecclesiastical question in 1867,1870 and 1872-73 were rejected by Constantinople on the grounds that they were designed to serve secular interests and that they were consequently incompatible with the holy canons. When Romania was recognised as an independent kingdom in 1881, the Romanian hierarchy proceeded to a ceremonial act of great symbolic significance, which affirmed their assent to ecclesiastical independence. On 25 March 1882 they performed the solemn ceremony of blessing the holy oil used in the sacrament of chrism, a privilege that the ecumenical patriarchate had through the centuries reserved for itself. With this act the Romanian hierarchy sacralised their nation's aspirations to independence in the most effective way imaginable and integrated into an Orthodox religious framework the secular ambitions of Romanian nationalism. The patriarch Joachim III reacted sharply to this initiative, and in a letter of 10 July 1882 pointed out that in usurping this ancient privilege of the patriarchate the Romanian bishops were not only violating
15 Vapheidis, 'EKKAr/aiaaTiKT), iii-b', 587.
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