Starting with the Great Union centenary, Romanians will be able to pay tribute to the national heroes in the National Cathedral of Bucharest, which is to be consecrated by Patriarch Daniel of Romania next year in the month of November. The Cathedral will be dedicated to the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord, a national day when Romanian heroes of all times and places are commemorated.
After the 1918 Great Union, Patriarch Miron Cristea, at that time holding the primatial metropolitan see, had the initiative to build up a Cathedral in the capital city of Romania as gratitude to God for achieving a unified Romania. The name of the Romanian People’s Salvation Cathedral has been used ever since. Thus, immediately after he was enthroned as patriarch, Miron Cristea had an audience with King Ferdinand and asked him “to proceed to the preparations for the People’s Salvation Church”.
In King Ferdinand’s royal address to the Holy Synod of the Romanian Church, on 10 May 1920, he makes public the decision to build a monumental church in Bucharest as a memorial for the Romanian Army’s victory gained in the war for territorial integrity. When referring to the Church, he says “This hymn (i.e. With us is God) must resound in the Church of Salvation that we owe to build up in the capital of all Romanians as a sign of thanksgiving for the help of the Most High and as a symbol of spiritual unity of the whole nation and eternal memory of those deceased for achieving a unified Romania”.
In his address entitled “The New Patriarchal Cathedral – the Romanian People’s Salvation Cathedral: architecture, structure, cultural and cultural utility”, His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel explains the significance and symbolism of the name of the representative church building.
The Romanian People’s Salvation Cathedral signifies the church built as a sign of gratitude for the liberation (salvation) of the Romanian nation from foreign domination and the acquisition of state independence.
The name of the Cathedral was suggested after Romanians experienced the War of Independence (1877). Then, after experiencing WWI and the 1918 Great Union, this name was, in fact, a manifestation of gratitude or thanksgiving brought to God for the deliverance of the Romanian nation from oppression and alienation. Salvation in the expression “People’s Salvation Cathedral” does not refer to the ontological salvation of man in Christ, because this type of salvation is independent of the place where an Orthodox church is located.
The State Secretary for Religious Affairs, Victor Opaschi, in a recent interview with Q Magazine, pointed to the close tie between the National Cathedral and the Great Union centenary.
The Romanian People’s Salvation Cathedral in Bucharest is a church promised to the Romanians, and delayed, for almost 140 years not only by the Orthodox Church but also by the State. The National Cathedral stands under the double sign of state Independence and the unification. Symbolically, the achievement of this project in the Centenary’s horizon is the direct expression of the regaining of religious freedom in a Romania that had so much to suffer during communism, Victor Opaschi said.
The need to build a representative Orthodox Cathedral in Bucharest was stated after the Independence War of 1877. Thus, in the summer of 1884, King Carol I promulgated the Law of the Cathedral Church in Bucharest, which has never been repealed ever since, but was implemented only after 126 years. Thus, on 2 September 2010, the building permit was issued, and on 20 December 2010, the first building works at the new Cathedral begun.
The site of the new Cathedral was previously blessed on 29 November 2007, on the eve of the feast of St Andrew the Apostle, Protector of Romania, by His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel, in the presence of the members of the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church; yet, for three years (2008-2010), the stages of the designing contest has been organized.
Considering that appropriate cathedrals were built in every capital city of predominantly Orthodox countries (Athens – 1862, Sofia – 1912, Moscow – 2000, Belgrade – 2004, Tbilisi – 2004) and that almost every provincial Romanian capital has its cathedral, it was also necessary to build a representative National Cathedral in the capital city of Romania, both for practical liturgical reasons, and as a symbol of the Romanian people’s faith, freedom and dignity. One should note that King Ferdinand reaffirmed this endeavour on 10 May 1920, shortly after the Great Union of 1918, the centenary of which we shall celebrate in 2018.