On his tenth anniversary of patriarchal ministry, His Beatitude Daniel gave an interview to the Patriarchate’s Herald of Orthodoxy. In this interview, the patriarch was asked to present the main blessings received from God in the last decade, but also the obstacles he has faced in his endeavours. In his answer, Patriarch Daniel expresses his joy for the brotherly cooperation with many persons and points to the fact that the unpredicted challenges he went through have helped him to increase his spiritual maturity and his faith.
The patriarch stresses the importance of Church mission on the media and social level and explains that the activities of the Church in society are based on Christ’s merciful and sacrificial love for humankind.
Other topics addressed in the interview include: understanding the needs of young people, using modern technologies in the cultural and pastoral ministry, Romanian diaspora, the Holy and Great Council of Crete, and the Romanian People’s Salvation Cathedral as a symbol of Orthodox Christianity in Romania and a solemn veneration for all the heroes of the Romanian nation.
It has been 10 years since Your Beatitude’s enthronement as Primate of the Romanian Orthodox Church on 30 September 2007. The events of this Patriarchal decade have been well documented in the Church press and within the media at large. Could you perhaps summarise for us here what you consider to be the foremost blessings received from God for the benefit of the Church and of our people?
The 10th anniversary of Patriarchal service gives us a special opportunity to faithfully thank God for the gifts He has granted to our Church during this period, and to remember with gratitude and commendation all those who have helped us bring these gifts to fruition – clergy and laity, shepherds and flock, spiritual parents and sons or daughters, brothers and sisters in Christ our Lord.
Ten years ago at the time of our enthronement as Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church, on 30 September 2007, we stated our pastoral priorities regarding the concrete steps towards strengthening the Church’s spiritual mission within broader society, beyond church walls. This is to be achieved by founding three national Orthodox media networks encompassing radio, television and printed media, and by building a new Patriarchal Cathedral.
Through TRINITAS, our radio and television network and through the LUMINA (‘THE LIGHT’) newspaper, the Romanian Orthodox Church has turned modern media communication into a living missionary work, which unites freedom with responsibility.
For many Romanians, the hopeful words heard in these programmes or read in our newspaper articles or on the website of the BASILICA centre are among the few radiant and positive messages they will hear each day in a tumultuous society in which shocking and aggressive sensationalism often supplants the peaceful and profound spiritual element in human life.
As for the building of the Cathedral of National Salvation, we have often explained that this was as much a practical necessity as it was to serve as a national spiritual symbol. Collectively we, the Holy Synod, the clergy and the faithful were bequeathed this project by our worthy ancestors, and over the past 10 years, have seen how this ideal has acquired a real and concrete shape. This is largely through the consistent generosity of hierarchs, of clergy and of laity from various dioceses, of central and local State authorities, as well as that of a number of sponsors and benefactors who share a great love for the Church and for their nation.
Alongside this effort of building the National Cathedral, another sizeable spiritual endeavour is underway: the building of a Church of souls, represented by the Liturgical, pastoral, educational, cultural and missionary activity.
Over the past decade, our Church has been especially blessed by the canonization of a great number of new Romanian saints (30). This multitude of wonderful saints which has arisen out of our nation and of our Orthodox Church reveals to us how the holiness of Christ’s Gospel has borne fruit in a faithful nation in the form of rays and faces of light sanctifying time and nurturing the communion between generations. For it is in the saints of the Church that ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever’ (Hebrews 13:8).
Another great blessing was the Sanctification of the Holy Myrrh, which took place in 2010 – the festive year of the Orthodox Creed and of Romanian autocephaly. This is the 21st time that the Holy Myrrh has been sanctified in the Romanian Orthodox Church after autocephaly was granted in 1885 by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and other autocephalous Churches. It was the first time for the present Patriarchal ministry.
New churches have sprung up within new parishes, medical and philanthropic centres have been established through the sacrifice and generosity of the faithful, a particularly challenging thing in this period of economic crisis; monuments of our patrimony have been restored. All of this is evidence that the Holy Liturgy and other services of the Church truly do bring people together in the communion of love of the Holy Trinity, sustaining them in their various building and missionary endeavours.
On the administrative level, stricter organisational regulations have been implemented to ensure that parishes respond more adequately to the needs of the faithful in both cities and in the villages in the new social context. On 28 November 2007, for the first time in 60 years, the Holy Synod approved new Statutes for the Organisation and Functioning of the Romanian Orthodox Church, officially recognised through the Government’s Resolution No. 50 of 22 January 2008.
The Romanian Patriarchate today continues to be a protector and promoter of perennial and traditional cultural values, in line with the century-old tradition according to which the Romanian Orthodox Church was the foundational institution for the formation of Romanian language and culture (‘The spiritual mother of the Romanian nation’, as Eminescu once put it).
The publishing and printing houses of the Romanian Patriarchate carry out a vast array of activities: the printing of Holy Scriptures in large numbers, service books and Christian educational books, the printing of patristic writings, of the four main Church journals, monographs for monasteries or deaneries, Romanian Church art albums as well as the publication of many books for children. More specifically, fruits of these intensive labours have included The Encyclopaedia of Romanian Orthodoxy, the Philokalia in 12 volumes, translated into Romanian with commentaries, The Complete Works of Father Dumitru Staniloae, The History of Romanian Monasticism in 3 volumes, produced in co-operation with the Romanian Academy, syntheses of Romanian history and culture devoted to the Brâncoveanu era and to Romanian Christianity in general.
All these constitute real landmarks in the cultural work of the Church this past decade. We are now working on The History of the Romanian Orthodox Parishes, in 12 volumes, from which the younger generation will be able to understand more profoundly the role of Church spirituality, culture, and philanthropy in the life of the Romanian people.
‘Brotherly communion and co-operation in the life of the Church and in its social mission’ was the essence of the speech you gave on your enthronement as Patriarch. What have been some positive contributing factors, and what obstacles have you encountered in achieving the objectives formulated back then?
The Holy Apostle Paul names Christians co-workers with God (1 Corinthians 3:9). Therefore, this co-working of humans with God is cultivated in the Church, as the Church is the icon and receiver of the communion and co-working of the Holy Trinity. The life of the Church of Christ represents first and foremost all the mystery of spiritual growing and fruit-bearing in Christ. ‘I am the vine – says Christ the Lord – you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me, you can do nothing. (…) ‘You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit-fruit that will last’ (John 15:5, 15:16). The Apostle thus brings to the fore the mystery of spiritual fruit-bearing as mystery of the Church’s mission to the world. We can then say that the joy of brotherly communion favours or inspires a stronger co-working in the pastoral and missionary activity of the Church! Throughout these ten years we have benefited from God’s blessing and help, from the brotherly cooperation and communion of many people, hierarchs, clergy, monastics, and laity, who have all contributed to the cultivation and to the bringing to fruition of the gifts received from God by the Church.
When we talk about positive factors in the work of the Church, we always say that three spiritual states are essentially necessary: pure thought (or honest intention), strong faith and fervent prayer.
When these states are attained, God sends the right people and helps us to find the necessary means to successfully complete the work He has blessed.
Sometimes unforeseen difficulties and trials, which defy our best human predictions, are allowed by God to strengthen our spiritual maturity and our steadfastness in faith.
In serving the Church, we always need to remain watchful of this unseen but real spiritual war, and to keep fighting by using the spiritual tools at hand against not just the temptations or trials brought by the world, but also our own weaknesses and inadequacies, in the spirit of humility and harbouring the certainty that the love of the Resurrected Christ will help us triumph over all trials, according to His promise: ‘In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world’ (John 16:33).
Every year the Holy Synod has announced themes honouring particular historical figures or a historical landmark and has organised commemorative events, thereby, it would seem, connecting past and present. Why is it that the Church evokes these great personalities and events of the past and how are these relevant in the life of society today?
Establishing a special commemorative theme for each year has become common practice for the Holy Synod. This has the purpose of both consolidating and focusing Church activities in all the dioceses throughout the Romanian Patriarchate. In 2007 we had the initiative of proclaiming 2008 as Jubilee Year of the Holy Scripture and the Holy Liturgy, and this is a practice we have continued within subsequent years. The idea sprung from the realisation that serious milestones are greatly needed in mission today and similarly that our missionary work and activities require a renewal of spiritual perspectives. Essential for us also is a liturgical and cultural remembrance of some of the great personalities in the history of the Romanian Church and nation.
We have seen how these jubilee and commemorative years, devoted to saints or events in the life of the Church, have inspired a more effective cooperation in the pastoral and missionary life of the Church and a greater degree of brotherly communion in the philanthropic and liturgical service. They have also inspired a greater participation of the lay faithful – from various professional backgrounds – in the life and mission of the Church.
Our jubilee years have always followed themes inspired by the teachings of the Orthodox faith (Holy Scripture, Fathers of the Church, Orthodox Creed, Holy Mysteries, Holy Icons) but have also promoted spiritual values beneficial for society as a whole (the religious education of Orthodox youth, care for the sick, the mission of the parish and the monastery in today’s social context, the unity of faith and nation etc.).
Remembering the towering personalities and significant historical events of our past instills in us a sense of gratitude, and also encourages us to better know the extraordinary virtues of our ancestors, to cherish these values and to employ them for today’s generation. The Holy Emperors Constantine and Helen, the Cappadocian Saints, the holy Brâncoveanu Martyrs and the Holy Hierarch and Martyr Anthimos of Iberia, Father Dumitru Staniloae, Patriarch Justinian and all the defenders of Orthodoxy throughout the communist regime – all of these figures are fountains of light and a profound source of spiritual strength for the life and work of the Church today.
Alongside its liturgical and pastoral ministry, over the past 10 years, the Church has very visibly intensified its social-philanthropic work. Can we talk about a redefining of the Church’s mission in society or about a renewal of the traditional partnership with State institutions and with the civil society?
The social-philanthropic activity of the Church represents both a spiritual vocation and a practical necessity. The social work of the Church springs from the Gospel of Christ’s merciful love for all people and from the Holy Liturgy of the Church, in which we celebrate Christ’s compassionate and sacrificial love for the salvation of humankind. This explains why, throughout the centuries, so many philanthropic institutions and centres for social assistance have been established or patronised by the Church often with the support of Christian emperors, kings and rulers, but also with the support of countless giving and generous people from all walks of life.
After 1990, religious confessions were granted the freedom to carry out more widespread activity within Romanian society. Today, the presence of priests in Romanian hospitals, prisons, and military units, as well as the multitude of charitable Church organisations present in our society, clearly demonstrate how the ancient philanthropic tradition of the Church has translated into a contemporary world.
The Romanian Orthodox Church has established and directly organised close to 1,000 social philanthropic units, programmes and projects (orphanages, kindergartens and schools, hospitals and medical centres, food kitchens, centres for the victims of domestic violence etc.). Most of these initiatives are affiliated with the Romanian Patriarchate’s ‘Filantropia’ Federation. Moreover, the Romanian State ‘recognises the spiritual, educational, socially charitable and cultural role, as well as that of social partnership’ of the Church, according to Article 7 in the Law of Religious Denominations (No 489/2006).
Therefore, it has been possible for us to implement actively this idea of social assistance as spiritual philanthropy in cooperation with the medical and social-charitable institutions, which currently operate within the public system. The Archdiocese of Bucharest is a case in point. In recent years, philanthropic activity has burgeoned here – and yet, there remains a serious need for still more charitable action that would help those who are struggling. To this end, not only are such virtues as altruism and enthusiasm necessary, but also concrete institutional cooperation with the state social care system as well as with NGOs. Essentially, what we are discussing here is an organic continuation of the collaboration between State, society, and Church for the benefit of people today.
The swift and unpredictable changes in our globalised world, the political and economic crises – all have an impact on the spiritual lives of people. How does the Church respond to the existential problems of modern man?
The Church has a sacred duty to remain fully faithful to the scriptural message received from the Lord Christ through the Holy Apostles. This is a great responsibility, which cannot be fulfilled without the help of the Holy Spirit, i.e. without fervent prayer and without confessing the true faith and performing good deeds in communion.
Indeed, the real-life context of the Church’s mission today is characterised by multiple and rapid changes and mutations, which demand from us a great deal of attention as well as an increase of our pastoral and missionary methods and tools.
In an environment of growing secularisation and even of hostility against religion, we are called to acknowledge our duty to confess Christ’s love for humanity in its entirety. We also need to recognise the challenge of receiving His message in a society prone simply to ‘tolerate’ the presence of the Church, as a mere player in the reconciliation process in case of conflict, or as an institution of human charity and solidarity without reference to salvation or eternal life.
In every circumstance, we must fulfil our vocation to be servants of the Gospel of Christ’s love, even if we are frequently faced with the hostility of a secularised society, defined by religious indifference.
We also have the sacred calling to be defenders of life, identity and dignity of the human person, even when we encounter the icy breath of desacralisation in a globalised society, which at once ‘flattens down’ identities, and at the same time seeks, with an obvious bias, to marginalise the Church’s role and presence in society. The ministry of the Church is and will always be a great and holy labour, although the difficulties of this work are manifold and ever renewed. These numerous challenges, however, urge us to inch ever closer – through prayer, repentance and deeds of loving mercy – to Christ the Head of the Church, to the Holy Trinity and to God’s saints, in order to experience the joy of Christ’s Resurrection that springs from the Cross, that is, from God’s humble self-giving to humanity.
Youth Education is a part of the Church’s mission in society. How do the young people of today differ themselves from those of 20 or 40 years ago? What are the directions or requirements in adapting the Church’s language and its pastoral tools in accordance to the new behavioural and cultural paradigms?
Getting to know the real situation of Christian youth today as well as acquiring a deeper understanding of their spiritual vocation are top priorities for the Church’s missionary work.
The crisis of ideals and of the spiritual orientation of human life which so dramatically course through the modern world, represent a serious challenge for the Church and an urgent calling to direct more attention to the problems and aspirations of today’s youth. The difficulties encountered by young people in our contemporary society are numerous: material poverty, unemployment, uncertainty regarding the future, a lack of communication with their parents, drugs, depression etc. In the face of all of these problems the Church is called to devote particular care to the young, defending their innocence, honesty, courage, their drive towards renewal and all the other values of this God-blessed age, in order to cultivate human dignity and a healthy life, and ultimately to enable their quest for salvation and eternal life.
From a practical perspective, there is a dire need for an intensified and comprehensive pastoral and missionary work, which would allow schoolchildren and students to be heard, would provide guidance and support for young married couples, for young people who are overworked and/or inadequately remunerated and for the unemployed youth. A ministry that would offer these people the much-needed pastoral and social assistance and provide the necessary support to better integrate them in society and to enable them, in turn, to contribute to its development.
We are called today to support the impoverished youth whose circumstances force them to abandon their studies, to help the young people who have to migrate to other countries in order to find jobs and a better material life. We are called to show greater brotherly and parental love to young orphans, especially to those who have been abandoned by their families. We are called to work together to strengthen parents’ love towards their children and children’s love towards their parents, to cultivate friendship, pure love and respect between young people, having true faith and a righteous life as guiding lights for their souls – a way of life we as Romanian Christians have inherited, from our fathers and forefathers across the centuries.
The Church, school, and family must work in close cooperation in order to achieve a holistic education, both scientific and spiritual, professional and moral, an education which would allow our children and young people to grow in love of God and of their neighbour, so that they may benefit society as a whole.
Both the religion classes taught in the public education system, and the educational programmes developed by Church bodies should be supported through a combined, collaborative effort in order to guide the youth and to cultivate their trust, to teach them to love the perennial spiritual values, which transcend the ‘fashion of the day’.
The national catechesis programme ‘Christ conveyed to children’ and the educational project ‘Choose school!’ are ways in which the Romanian Orthodox Church, throughout these years, has cultivated the joy of faith and of brotherly communion, both in Romania and abroad. The annual meetings of Orthodox youth from all over the world in Baia Mare (2014), Cluj-Napoca (2015), Bucharest (2016) and Iași (2017), youth camps, pilgrimages, scholarships, the provision of school supplies and clothing are means by which the Church has joined the family and the school in edifying the younger generations.
In order to promote the dialogue with today’s society and to enable in particular a better communication between the members of the Church, you established in 2007 the BASILICA Press Centre of the Romanian Patriarchate. You also encourage the use of modern technologies in the cultural and pastoral mission of the Church. What is the benefit of this pastoral-missionary and cultural-social direction for the Romanian Orthodox faithful, both in Romania and abroad?
Today media communication is a natural component in the life of all people and of all social systems. The Church cannot, therefore, neglect these realities. Based on previous positive experience acquired during my ministry in Iasi, one of my foremost priorities as Patriarch of Romania was to establish, on 27 October 2007, the BASILICA Press Centre, with its five branches: Radio TRINITAS, TRINITAS TV, LUMINA publishing, the BASILICA News Agency and the Communication and Public Relations Office.
Thus on this tenth anniversary of patriarchal service, we also celebrate the ten-year anniversary of the foundation of the BASILICA Press Centre of the Romanian Patriarchate. For this reason, we bring thanks to God for the help and blessing received in sustaining the rich activity of this institution, an activity carried out with passion and joy but also with significant efforts and expenses, for which we thank all the dioceses supporting the Patriarchate in this missionary endeavour.
Currently, the radio and television stations of the Romanian Patriarchate broadcast on a daily basis throughout the entire country. The LUMINA newspaper, the only nationwide Orthodox Christian daily in our country and in the whole world, can also be read online. The news broadcast by the BASILICA agency as well as the statements or viewpoints expressed through the press office are vehicles for the Church’s image as well as testimonies about the nature of Church life. Through modern means of communication, we wish to bring to the fore the light in people, to present images of light-filled faces which bring hope.
The components of the BASILICA Press Centre are – along with the varied methods of media communication employed throughout the eparchies of our Church – missionary tools for catechesis and continuing education in the spirit of Christian and Romanian values, a communicational ministry for the multitudes of ailing and lonely people.
In particular, the Church’s channels of communication work as an agent for community cohesion between members of the ecclesial communities in our country. They similarly represent for those Romanians who work or study abroad a means of cultivating their Orthodox faith in the golden garment of the Romanian language, the language of their parents, however far they may find themselves from their motherland.
You have devoted a special attention to organising new Church administrative structures (dioceses, parishes, representations etc.) for Orthodox Romanians in the diaspora. What are the positive effects of these pastoral, missionary and cultural initiatives?
The migration of populations has become a global phenomenon from which our compatriots have not been exempted. Statistics already revealed since as early as 2007 – when Romania joined the European Union – that over two million Romanian citizens were residing in Western European countries, on the North-American continent or in other parts of the world.
Under these circumstances, the pastoral care of the Church for her spiritual sons and daughters, who left the communities where they had received the Holy Sacrament of Baptism, needed to extend on an administrative level, through the organisation of adequate Church structures. The 29 national eparchies have been joined today by another 14 eparchies overseas.
The previously existing dioceses and the new ones we established in 2007 have all developed in the meantime and now carry out a rich liturgical and pastoral ministry for the Romanian faithful who have emigrated. They witness the Orthodox faith in a multi-cultural, multi-denominational context, which is characterised by secular ideologies and trends.
The increase of organised Church communities is accompanied, particularly in Western Europe (Italy, Spain, France, Germany), where the Romanian diaspora is bigger, by an institutional consolidation: new churches are being built, new monasteries are being established, as well as cultural and educational centres and units for social and medical assistance.
Aside from the dioceses in Western Europe, we also have, as of this year (2017), a Romanian Orthodox Metropolis in the United States of America with its headquarters in Chicago, as well as a Romanian Orthodox Diocese of Canada, with its headquarters near Montreal. Romanian Orthodoxy is also represented on an episcopal level in Australia and New Zealand. It gives us great joy to see that, largely, the Romanian faithful, although far from their country, make great efforts to maintain their ancestral Orthodox faith, their Romanian identity, and culture.
In today’s Romanian diaspora, the Church becomes the place where Romanians maintain their true spiritual identity. The fact that they are missing their home, their Romanian traditions and customs, the common witness of the true faith brings Romanians in the diaspora to the church, which celebrates in their mother tongue, where they find an expression of their ethnic and confessional identity, but also of their communion with the Romanians back home and everywhere in the world.
You have participated in several Synaxes of the Primates of the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches, as well as in the assembly of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church (Crete, 2016). What are the perspectives derived from the exercise of synodality, with regard to serving the unity, the communion and the co-responsibility of universal Orthodoxy?
Orthodox unity worldwide is vital in the globalised, unstable world of today. The Orthodox must not isolate themselves one from the other, while people circulate, communicate and relate among themselves on a global scale. The cultivation of Orthodox unity is, therefore, a common duty for all 14 Autocephalous Orthodox Churches, both at the level of hierarchy and that of communities of the faithful.
Orthodoxy has received and maintained God’s gift of unity – the unity based on true faith as expressed in the communion of nations, which are culturally different. This is a blessing but also a big responsibility for us all. Because of the phenomena of migration and of fast media communication, the Orthodox faithful belonging to different nations and to different cultural and linguistic traditions interact nowadays much more than they used to in the past. They do this by venerating the common saints on the great feast days, by witnessing the light brought every year from the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, through international pilgrimages, through the media, the social networks, and they feel the need for unity or communion with all those who confess the same Orthodox faith.
Hence, the practice of synodality on a global level and the periodic meetings of the hierarchs representing the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches has become a pastoral and missionary necessity. In this sense, the Holy and Great Council on the island of Crete (16-26 June 2016) constituted a major spiritual event of Orthodoxy, although it was marked by the absence of four sister Orthodox Churches.
As it has been repeatedly stated, the documents approved by this Synod do not formulate new dogmas or canons but reaffirm the continuity in the Orthodox faith of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. However, the approved texts can be further explicated, refined or developed by a future Holy and Great Council of the whole Orthodoxy. Our belief, which we expressed in Crete and appears mentioned in some of the documents, is that Orthodox Synodal assemblies on an international level need to take place regularly, every 5 or 10 years. International Orthodox brotherhood should also be manifested through an increasing number of programmes and projects run jointly by sister Orthodox Churches, not just at an academic level, but mostly through enterprises of actual brotherly solidarity and mutual support in contexts of crisis or of missionary cooperation.
Your Beatitude’s second decade of Patriarchal service commences with the Centennial of the Great Union (1918-2018) and with the consecration of the Cathedral of National Salvation (the National Cathedral), a symbol of Romanian Orthodox Christianity and a solemn glorification of all the heroes of the Romanian nation. How necessary is the cultivation today of Romanian spiritual values through a national and international dialogue?
The achievement of the grand ideals of national unity and dignity of all Romanians, like the Great Union of 1918, was also made possible through the special contribution of the Romanian Church, which was always by the side of the people through her efforts of cultivating a national consciousness and of affirming the aspiration towards national unity and independence.
This year (2017), we have commemorated the Romanian soldiers who fought heroically in Mărăști, Mărășești and Oituz, as we mark 100 years since the Great War of 1917. As the Great Union of 1918 was built on these soldiers’ sacrifice, we have celebrated remembrance services at their tombs and monuments in various parts of the country. The sacrificial heroes of 1917, together with all those who gave their lives on other battlefields, in gulags and prisons for the freedom, unity and dignity of the Romanian nation, call us to solemnly honour them in unison, before one monument of all Romanian heroes of all time, where the communion between all generations can be expressed through prayer and gratitude.
This monument is the Cathedral of National Salvation or the National Cathedral, which has its main feast days the Ascension of the Lord and the Heroes’ Remembrance Day, a foundation that unites the love of God of a faithful and sacrificial nation, so much tried throughout history, with the gratitude, which we eternally owe to our Nation’s Heroes.
Through God’s mercy and with the help of the Mother of God, the National Cathedral will be consecrated on 30 October 2018, on the feast day of the Holy Apostle Andrew, the protector of Romania, as a practical liturgical necessity and a symbol of Romanian spirituality.
The achievement of this ideal, first expressed as early as 1877-1878, after the Independence War, by Mihai Eminescu and Ioan Slavici, helps us understand that respecting, cultivating and promoting the values of national spirituality and identity are ongoing duties for all Romanians, since the identity landmarks of a nation are fundamental components of its dignity, in dialogue with the other nations of the world.
(Interviewer: Revd. Nicolae Dascălu, English translation: Dr. Razvan Porumb)
HERALD OF ORTHODOXY, no 7-9, July-September 2017, pages 6-15
Foto credit: Robert Nicolae / Basilica.ro