Life story of the Romanian bishop who was baptised at the age of 8: How he travelled from Bessarabia to Italy

The youngest Romanian bishop Atanasie of Bogdania turned 38 last Friday and on Saturday he celebrated his name day on the feast of Sts Athanasius and Cyril.

In this context, Bp Atanasie spoke about the story of his life in an interview published by the Romanian Orthodox Diocese of Italy.

Born in Chisinau during the atheist communist regime, Bp Atanasie of Bogdania was baptised at the age of eight together with his brother and father. He first became a telecommunications engineer in France, and then he received the monastic tonsure in Italy, becoming a close disciple of Metropolitan Iosif of Western and Southern Europe and of Bishop Siluan of Italy.

His Grace’s father was a university professor and his mother worked at a publishing house, which hindered them to manifest their faith publicly. His parents’ religious marriage took place only after 1990.

‘After the fall of communism, my father gladly went to the first church he encountered, a place of worship that was recently opened although the vast majority of churches had been closed, and he asked the priest to officiate the marriage service. The priest, being an experienced minister, asked him: “Are you baptized?”, “No!”, “How about the children?”, “No the children are not baptized!”

“In this context all three were baptized: me, my brother, the current deacon Mircea, and my father. Shortly after, my parents married religiously,” His Grace remembered.

“So, the first conscious meeting with God took place even when I received the Mystery of Baptism, probably at the age of 8. I remember the gestures the priest made, the hymns at the chant stand, the emotion of the people who surrounded us, that hymn ” those of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ,” all these impressed me.”

Bishop Atanasie said that Metropolitan Iosif and Bishop Siluan ‘modelled’ him.

“At that time, I was young. At the age of 18 I arrived in France and with other colleagues from the INSA Lyon Faculty we went together to monasteries, churches and youth meetings organized by the parishes. The great openness, the natural way in which the hierarchs behaved, the way they approached people, opened in me this predisposition to Theology.”

He studied theology and then took different offices at the Romanian Orthodox Diocese of Italy: diocesan secretary, administrative counsellor, exarch of monasteries, and diocesan vicar.

On February 15, 2018, the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church elected him as assistant bishop to the Diocese of Italy. His ordination to the Episcopate took place in Rome on May 1, 2018.

His Grace defined his ministry in Italy as one ‘in a family’ and said he enjoys the close relationship between clergy and believers.

“I try to spend as much time as possible in the territory, that’s why I feel close to the priests, with whom I have a very good relationship. To many I was a sponsor for ordination, with some I was formed, others were formed by me and I think we are a real family.”

“That is what I would like in the future: to be a family, together to bear the achievements, but also the hardships. I would like us to be as responsible as we have been so far, that is, to work together for our salvation.”

Although a bishop since 2018, His Grace has served for ten years at the administrative centre of the Diocese of Italy.

“In the ten years of activity there have been many material achievements, but the greatest accomplishment is that our churches are full, people love and seek the Church. That is why our responsibility is very, very big. But in the family, all are lived together, both good and bad, to the glory of God. ”

The interview was conducted by Fr. Ioan Haba, Counselor at the Communication and Image Department of the Romanian Orthodox Diocese of Italy.

Photography courtesy of the Basilica.ro Archive

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