His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel stressed that the Church has promoted the unity, freedom and dignity of the Romanian people during a joint session held by the Romanian Patriarchate and the Romanian Academy at the Patriarchate’s Palace last Thursday.
Addressing those present, the Patriarch of Romania pointed out the involvement of the Church leaders in the achievement of the 1859 Union of the Romanian Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia.
The Union meant ‘the crowning of an entire process of national awakening and crystallization of the idea of nation, a process in which the Church made an essential contribution,’ His Beatitude said Jan. 23.
‘The Union of the Romanian Principalities was supported by numerous representatives of the Church: through her hierarchs and through the most enlightened priests and monks, through abbots, seminary professors, deans, theologians etc.’
The patriarch recalled that the most important supporters of the Union included Metropolitans Nifon Rusailă of Wallachia and Sofronie Miclescu of Moldova, as well as Archimandrites Melchisedec Stefannescu and Neofit Scriban.
‘The Union of the Romanian Principalities also implied the unitary organization of the church structures in all the Romanian provinces, under the leadership of the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church, confirmed by Alexandru Ioan Cuza through the 1864 Law.’
‘At the same time,’ Patriarch Daniel said, ‘Prince Alexandru Ioan Cuza, together with the hierarchs of the Holy Synod of the Church in the Romanian Principalities, made several requests to the Ecumenical Patriarchate to obtain the recognition of the autocephaly of the Romanian Orthodox Church.’
‘On December 3, 1864, the Organic Decree for the establishment of a central synodal authority for the affairs of the Romanian religion was promulgated, which stipulated, in the first article, that “the Romanian Orthodox Church is and remains independent of any foreign church authority, as far as organization and discipline are concerned,” the patriarch said quoting the Official Journal of Romania from 6/19 December 1864.
‘It was the first step towards autocephaly. For the first time in the history of the Romanian Principalities, a text of law officially provided the independence of the Romanian Orthodox Church,’ Patriarch Daniel explained.
‘On February 11, 1866, as is known, Prince Alexandru Ioan Cuza was forced to leave his throne. But the struggle for the attainment of autocephaly of the Romanian Orthodox Church continued and it was clearly expressed in Article 21 of the Romanian State Constitution, promulgated on June 30, 1866, by Prince Carol I (1866-1914), stating that “the Romanian Orthodox Church is and remains independent of any foreign hierarchy, however, maintaining its unity with the Ecumenical Church of the East regarding dogmas” and it has “a central synodal authority for regulating canonical and disciplinary matters”.’
“On December 14, 1872, the Organic Law of the Romanian Orthodox Church was promulgated, which provided the autocephaly of the Romanian Orthodox Church and which provided to establish the Holy Synod, meant to preserve the dogmatic and canonical unity with the Eastern Church, as well as the administrative and disciplinary unity of the national Church,” His Beatitude highlighted.
‘At the same time, the law conferred on the Metropolitan of Wallachia the honorary title of Primate Metropolitan of Romania, being also of fact and law the chairman of the Holy Synod. This law was then followed by a series of regulations designed to ensure the position of independence of our Church.’
After Romania gained its state independence in 1877 and was declared a Kingdom in 1881, ‘the prestige of the Romanian Orthodox Church increased, making necessary the formal recognition of its autocephaly, long denied by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.’
‘On November 23, 1882, the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of the Kingdom of Romania assumed a “Synodal Act”, vested with the signatures of all the hierarchs of the country and with the seal of the Synod, which supported with historical and theological arguments the need for the recognition of the autocephaly of the Romanian Orthodox Church.’
Patriarch Daniel explained that this Synodal Act reviewed the relations between the Christian Church on the Romanian land and the Ecumenical Patriarchate, mentioning the establishment of the metropolises in the Romanian Principalities and underscoring how Romanians have always defended their church autonomy against the arbitrary attempts of Constantinople.
“The Constantinople Patriarchate has no supremacy over the Romanian Church, Romanians did not receive the baptism or the Christian teaching from Constantinople, nor their first bishops. The Christianity of Romanians is older than the very existence of Constantinople,” a city inaugurated in 330 by Emperor Constantine the Great.
‘However, only after 26 years after the Union of the Romanian Principalities, on April 25, 1885, the Ecumenical Patriarch Joachim IV (1884-1886), who was more open to negotiations with the church hierarchy and the authorities of the Romanian state, sent to Bucharest the Tomos of Autocephaly of the Romanian Orthodox Church.’
‘The Tomos notes that the recognition of the autocephaly of the Romanian Orthodox Church also means the recognition of its canonical authority, equal to the canonical authority of the other sister Churches. Therefore, the Synod of the Autocephalous Romanian Orthodox Church is called “Fellow Synod in Christ”.’
‘The supreme authority responsible for the administration or management of an autocephalous Church is its Holy Synod, presided over by an archbishop, metropolitan or patriarch.’
‘The Holy Synod of this Church is not subordinate to another ecclesial authority, but, the Holy Synod of an autocephalous Church must exercise this total freedom of church leadership, having the awareness of direct responsibility before Christ, the Head of the Church and the Eternal High Priest, as stated in the Tomos.’
‘Therefore, we can say that the independence or autocephaly of the Romanian Orthodox Church to any outside church authority has existed since ancient times, as other Orthodox Churches had a de facto autocephaly in certain historical epochs, but this autocephaly was not officially recognized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.’
‘In the 19th century, the autocephaly was first officially proclaimed by a decree of the state authority on December 3, 1864, then by the church authority in 1872, when the Holy Canonical Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church was established.’
‘Therefore, the Ecumenical Patriarchate was placed before a fait accompli, and the act of recognition of the autocephaly of April 25, 1885, was a formal act, a recognition of a factual state that had existed for a long time. In Transylvania, the autocephaly of the Romanian Orthodox Church has been expressed by the Organic Statute of Metropolitan Andrew Şaguna in 1868.’
‘Thus, the Church of Orthodox Romanians from the Romanian Principalities has enjoyed, from the beginning of the political organization of the Romanian states, administrative freedom equal to autocephaly.’
‘Based on the natural geographical, ethnic and historical-political conditions in which they operated, the Metropolises of the Romanian Principalities were, in fact, autocephalous churches, established on a national basis, but maintaining dogmatic, canonical and religious ties with the Ecumenical Patriarchate and all the other Sister Orthodox Churches.’
His Beatitude concluded his speech by recalling that this year we mark 135 years since the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople recognized ‘after long and difficult discussions’ the autocephaly of the Romanian Orthodox Church, and 95 years since the bestowal of the rank of Patriarchate in 1925.
‘In conclusion, the official recognition of the autocephaly of the Romanian Orthodox Church was possible only after the Union of the Romanian Principalities in 1859, the Independence of Romania in 1877 and the proclamation of Romania as Kingdom in 1881, while the elevation of the Romanian Orthodox Church to the rank of Patriarchate in 1925 was possible only after the Great Union of all Romanians in 1918.’
‘Through all these efforts of the Romanian State and of our Church, the freedom, unity and dignity of the Romanian people were affirmed,’ Patriarch Daniel highlighted.
Photography courtesy of Basilica.ro / Mircea Florescu
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