The Romanian Orthodox Church since 1918 19181944

In 1918, the union of Bessarabia, Bukovina, Transylvania and Banat with Romania led to the creation of the unitary national Romanian state, initially ruled by King Ferdinand I (1914-27). The entire confessional organization underwent significant changes, as in the former provinces there were people of religious confessions who had not been acknowledged in former Romania (the General Cult Law was passed in 1928). The 1930 census found that 72.6 per cent of the population were Romanian-Orthodox, 7.9 per cent Greek Catholic, 3.9 per cent Roman Catholic (Hungarians, Szeklers, Poles, some Romanians), 6.8 per cent Lutheran-Evangelist (Saxons), and 2 per cent Reformed (Calvin Magyars). The Jews represented 4.2 per cent at that time, while the Presbyterians, the Magyar Unitarians, the Armenian-Gregorians and the Muslim Turks and Tatars in Dobrudja made up below 2.6 per cent of the population.

In 1919, all Orthodox hierarchs became members of the Holy Synod in Bucharest. In December 1919, the Bishop of Caransebes, Miron Cristea, was elected Primate Metropolitan. Shortly afterwards the process of church union was initiated. It continued until 6 May 1925, when the Law and Organization Statute of the Orthodox Romanian Church was passed, based on the principles of Andrei Saguna's Organic Statute in Transylvania. On 4 February 1925, the Holy Synod decided to found the Romanian Orthodox Patriarchate, and to institute the primate metropolitan as patriarch. After the law was passed, Miron Cristea became the first Patriarch of Romania, on 1 November 1925. Nicodim Munteanu, the former Metropolitan of Moldavia and author of theological works and translations from Russian, from the Old and the New Testament, succeeded him from 1939 to 1948.

New bishopric centres were founded in Oradea, Cluj, Hotin (Balti), Ismail, Constanta (Tomis), Sighet (Maramures) and Timisoara. On the eve of World War II, the patriarchate had the following structure: the metropolitan seats of Vallachia (with bishopric centres in Bucharest, Ramnic, Buzau, Arges, Tomis), of Moldavia and Suceava (with centres in Iasi, Roman, Husi, Galati), of Ardeal (with centres in Sibiu, Arad, Caransebes, Oradea, Cluj, later in Timisoara), of Bukovina (with centres in Cernauti, Hotin-Balti, later Maramures-Sighet), and of Bessarabia (with centres in Chisinau and Ismail). An army bishopric centre was also established in Alba-Iulia, as well as a Missionary Centre for the Orthodox Romanians in the USA and Canada, with its headquarters in Jackson, Michigan.

Out of the representative hierarchs of this period, Metropolitan Nicolae Balan of Transylvania (1920-55) fought for national union and for the unitary organization of the Church. He was one of the pioneers of Romanian ecumenism, a leading editor of publications in Sibiu, which he made into an important theological centre. Metropolitan Irineu Mihalcescu of Moldavia (1939-47) taught at the Faculty of Theology in Bucharest for thirty-five years and was considered the best theologian in the inter-war period. Bishops Roman Ciorogariu of Oradea, Nicolae Ivan of Cluj, Iacov Antonovici of Husi and Grigorie Comsa of Arad were honorary members of the Romanian Academy.

Theological education developed in the Faculties of Bucharest, Cernauti and Chi-sinau (since 1926), in the Theological Academies in Transylvania and Banat (Sibiu, Arad, Caransebes, Cluj and Oradea), as well as in the seminaries that existed in every old bishopric centre. Some outstanding professors should be mentioned: in Bucharest: Ioan Irineu Mihalcescu, Teodor M. Popescu, Niculae Popescu, Nichifor Crainic, Serban Ionescu, Haralambie Roventa, Petre Vintilescu, Vasile Ispir; in Cernauti: Vasile Tar-navschi, Vasile Gheorghiu, Nicolae Cotos, Vasile Loichita, Valerian Sesan; in Chisinau:

Grigorie Pisculescu (pen-name Gala Galaction) and Vasile Radu (both of whom retranslated the Bible), Iuliu Scriban, Ioan Savin, Valeriu and Cicerone Iordachescu, Toma Bulat, Constantin Tomescu; in Sibiu: Nicolae Colan, Dumitru Staniloae; in Cluj: Liviu Munteanu; and in Arad: Ilarion Felea. Some priests were also historians (some of them were elected Members of the Romanian Academy), others were writers or folklor-ists. Many were missionaries, social workers, military priests or teachers of religion in middle schools.

New periodicals were published between the wars: Biserica Ortodoxa Romana and Studii Teologice in Bucharest, Candela in Cernauti, Luminatorul and Misionarul in Chi-sinau, Revista Teologica in Sibiu. Ecclesiastical art, particularly architecture and painting, flourished as churches were constructed especially in Transylvanian towns. The Vallachian and Moldavian styles prevailed, based on the traditional Byzantine one. New monasteries in Transylvania revived monastic life in this province.

The Orthodox Church resumed its former links with other Christian Churches. Delegates from Romania participated in the pan-Orthodox conferences in Constantinople (1923), Mount Athos (1930), the first Conference of the Professors of Theology in the Balkans (Sinaia, 1924) and the first Congress of the Theology Professors in Athens (1936). It also took part in the incipient ecumenical movement. Professors and hierarchs participated in several conferences of the three main inter-war branches: 'Practical Christianity' held in Stockholm (1925) and Berne (1926), 'Faith and Organization' in Lausanne (1927) and 'World Alliance for the Union of Peoples through the Church' in Prague (1928) and Norway (1938), with subsequent regional conferences held in Romania (1924, 1933, 1936). The links with the Anglican Church were consolidated soon after the Anglican orders had been acknowledged by the Holy Synod, and subsequent to Patriarch Miron's visit to Britain in 1936.

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