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Toward a new method in history of ideas and interreligious dialogue: case study: Romanian political and spiritual life (1859-1918).

In a century of freedom, inspired by the French Revolution, the structural change of Romanian society in its internal substance must be understood as an evolutional process of our historical existence, granting to the state the substantial role in creating new legislative, economical, social, political and religious structures. The present article takes initiative of a natural examination, in the wish to contribute to understanding the spirituality characterizing this period. The purpose of the article is to offer to those who study the problems of institutional relations between the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church the possibility to come back to a single Church, suggesting as working hypothesis a new scenario: analyzing the relations between Rome and Byzance starting from the Orient's necessities. The analyzes has a clear structure materialized in three objectifs.

I. The analyze starts with a part dedicated to the Romanian Orthodox Church. The introductory part of this analyzes the evolution of religious institutions and endeavors to present the changes in the doctrine, organization and cult of Orthodox Church: the first church reforms of A. I. Cuza, the status of monarchism and the status of Romanian monasteries in the 19th century, organization standards of sacred monasteries, modification of legislation and administrative structure of Romanian Orthodox Church after the enforcement of the law on secularization of monastery properties.

The double election of Alexandru Ioan Cuza had as consequence the establishment of a new political order in the Romanian Principalities, that were facing not only an unification process of their structures, but also the inexorable necessity to establish the new, modern state. On the 3rd of May 1859 the government lead by Mihail Koganiceanu was established, and the archimandrite Melchisedec Stefanescu was appointed as head of the Cults Department (30th of April 1860); he had to help Kogalniceanu in solving the difficult problem of secularization of monastery properties.

The issue of secularization of monastery properties represents an old process between the country and Greek monks, process which started before Matei Basarab. The church establishments from the Holy Places, to which the Romanian monasteries were sacred, had the duty to watch their existence and maintenance, fulfilling all the obligations stipulated by their founders: maintenance of hospitals or asylums, schools, granting charities, so on, and for fulfilling all these requirements, they should have received a part of monastery incomes. Despite this, due to "the indifference and greed of Greek monks and especially of despotical hegumens, the monasteries were in a lamentable status". The lamentable status of the Orthodox Church from Turkey and the deep veneration that Romanians had for patriarchs and for famous monasteries from Orient, especially for those from the mount Athos and Sinai, but also for Holy Places from Orient, stimulated the Romanian rulers, metropolitan bishops and founders of churches not only to make gifts and establishments in those places, but also to devote some monasteries from Romanian Lands.

On the 12/24th of December 1863, Mihail Kogalniceanu, in his quality of President of the Council of Ministers presented an evaluation (1), demanding, in the same time, the approval in order to present to the Assembly of Deputies the "Draft law for the secularization of monastery properties ". On the 13/35 December 1863, at the Government's proposal, the assembly approved the secularization of monastery properties with 93 votes against 3 (according to this law, over a quarter of the national teritorry devoted to the Holy Places was recovered).

The proclamation of the Constitution from 1866 represented an essential step on the road of completion of modern organization od the Romanian society, because not only a historical period of Romanians was elaborated, but, by firmly stating the national sovereignty and aspiration for independency, by the tone on which it was written, by some stipulations (2) and especially by ignoring the Ottoman suzerainty and the warranty of great powers, it was brought out as a fundamental statute of a free country.

Thus, in the year 1867 a new draft organic law was made for the Romanian Orthodox Church for which in the year 1869 the consent of the Hegumenic Patriarch Gregory the 6th (1867-1871). The lack of synod canonical authority in the Romanian Orthodox Church that was supposed to regulate the dogmatic and disciplinary issues determined the Romanian Government, through the report no. 12693 from 1872, drafted by Christian Tell, the Ministry of Cults and Public Education, to propose to the Legislative Bodies a law for the election of metropolitan bishops and eparchy bishops and the establishment of the Holy Synode of the Romanian Orthodox Church.

This project was voted by the Chamber of Deputies (4th of December 1872) and by the Senate (11th of December 1872) and ammended on the 14/16th of December 1872, under the name of Organic law for the election of metropolitan bishops and eparchy bishops and the establishment of the Holy Synode of the Romanian Autocephalic Orthodox Church.

The document from the 9th of May 1877 and the proclamation of Romania as Kingdom on the 14/26th of March 1881 also favoured the acknowledgement of our church's autocephaly in the year 1885, autocephaly which, although declared in the country through several prior laws, did not obtain yet the recognition of the Constatinople Patriarchy. On the 25th of April 1885, the Hegumenic Patriarch of Constantinople sent an encyclical letter, accompanied by Tomos and the respective correspondence to the other oriental apostolic patriarchates and to the Autocephalic Orthodox, bringing to their knowledge the fact that the Hegumenic Patriarchy formally acknowledged the Romanian Orthodox Church "autocephalic and independent in all and for all".

The law on the laic clergy and the seminars was amended in May 18933 and stipulated new provisions in the following fields: salaries of clergy, maintenance of churches, establishment of parishes, appointment and training of clergy, administrative and disciplinary control in Church.

Also, the aspects related to the cultural emancipation, meaning the institutionalization of theological education (establishment of theological seminars and of the first theoloy faculties in Iasi and Bucuresti), church literature and press were established.

II. The second part is dedicated to the organization of Catholic Church in Romania between 1859-1918. It approaches in great detail the evolution of structural and functional components of the Catholic Church. The analysis starts with presenting short data related to the presence of Catholicism starting with the 13th century that can be used as general orientation and necessary introduction, ground which, historically and geographically, is limited to the Romanian territory.

At the middle of the 19th century, the South-East of Europe became a land of rivalries between the Turkish domination and the Russian religious protectorate. The Russian-Turkish war, preceded by the occupation of the Romanian Principalities (1853) and the conflict between the main European powers: France, England, Austria and Italy religiously disunited and separated from the economic and political point of view the whole European continent. Russia's defeat and the installation of peace (Paris, 1853), re-establihed the geopolitical balance in the region. The Treaty of Paris from March 1856 maintained the suzerainty of the Ottoman Empire, but the Russian pro tectorate had been replaced by the collective warranty of all powers.

On the 27th of April 1883, through the apostolic letter Praecipuum munus, Pope Leon the 13th separated the Apostolic Vicarship of Vallachia of the Nicopolis ad Istrum Bishopry, and the Monseigneur Ignazio Paoli was appointed residential bishop. In the same time, by granting the representation degree through the denomination of Bucharest Archbishopric, the Bucharest Archdiocese will be directly subordinated to the Holy See, through the De Propaganda Fide Congregation. On the 27th of June 1884, through the Papal Bull Quae in christiani nominis incrementum ("Those that exist for the Christian progress" ), the Pope Leon the 13th established the end of the Apostolic Vicarship of Moldova and the establishment of the Catholic Bishoprich of Iasi and the appointment of Nicolae Iosif Camilli as Bishop of Iasi.

A special interest was given to the cultural conflict between the rigid Catholic concept and the anti-clergy intransigent forces of the 19th century, including here the complex process of mobilization of masses which involved all the areas of social life: schools, universities, press, family (the issue of mixed marriages), national symbols, so on.

An important aspect of the culture of dialogue is dedicated to aspects related to the cultural emancipation, meaning the institutionalization of theological education. The Catholic educational system was influenced by Western models, but during its evolution it acquired a specific, original shape, in compliance with the cultural and social requirements of this period. The period 1859-1918 will establish a unique Romanian model of education according to the religious freedom established through the Constitution from 1866. We took into account the historical coordinates of the Catholic education at the level of universal and local church.

The Romanian Catholic books written in Romania during 1859-1918 were texts with liturgical-pastoral character (catechisms, brochures for professors and vicarage schools, Christian education books, so on) written by missionaries. The majority of these writings were translations or compilations of Italian or Latin religious books (some of which being transcribed in Latin alphabete, others in the Cyrillic alphabete (4)). Some religious texts are known only through documents, others, less numerous, were kept in archives.

III. The third aspect of this analyzes is dedicated to the the institutional relations between the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church in Romania 1859-1918. It starts with the presentation of theological instruments of the institutional relations between the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church, because the discussion on the unity of the Church comes before the study of the institutional relations between the two Churches.

The institutional dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Roman-Catholic Church at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century is a process involving an ecclesiology with a higher number of common elements than in other ecclesiologies, but also with aspects trant need further clarification and with "insurmountable obstacles", such as the existence of the Pope's primacy and Pope's infallibility.

Thus, we cannot speak about the institutional relations between the Orthodox Church and the Roman-Catholic Church without seeing the similar and different points between from the perspective become "traditional" for the unity of the Church.

In this dynamics of the crisis of religious subject in the modern period, the ecclesiastic orientations in the politics of the Holy See towards the Orient Churches (1859-1918) deserves a special interest, because the popedom's schedule without precedent in the history of papacy brought new hopes for Catholics and stimulated the Orthodox to unify with Rome.

An important aspect is related to the legislation in the field of institutional relations between the Romanian Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church in Romania 1859-1918 reveals a new view on the society and state, marking, as follows, the evolution of relations between the public authorities and confessional institutions (freedom of cults in the view of the 1866 Constitution, The rights and freedoms of cults in the view of Berlin Treaty (1878), The regulation for the church relations of the Romanian Orthodox clergy with heterodox believers or of other communion and with the believers who live in the Kingdom of Romania (1881).

The evolution of Romania took place during two centuries, starting with the end of the 18th century until the second half of the 20th century, with the end of the Second World War, being emphasized by two important periods: the first period emphasizes the transition of Romanian Principalities from Byzantine-Orthodox tradition of South-East origin to the innovative dynamism of Western origin, and the second period emphasizes the shaping of modern Romania. The separation moment between the two periods is the year 1866, in the same time with the adoption of the Constitution that will serve as fundamental law to the new state and the assertion of the Sigmaringen dinasty, branch of the Hohenzollern.

The legal provisions of art. 21 from the 1866 Constitution were completed with the provisions of articles 43 and 44 from the Berlin Treaty (13 June 1878). In its meeting from the 12th of June 1881, the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church adopted the Regulation for the church relations of the Romanian Orthodox clergy with heterodox believers or of other communion and with the believers who live in the Kingdom of Romania.

The end of the chapter is dedicated to features of institutional relations between the Romanian Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church and aims to analyze the perspective offered by the main attitudes and conflicts:

1. The project of establishment of a "national" Catholic Church in the Romanian Principalities (establishment of direct diplomatic contacts between the Holy See and the Unified Principalities, lacking the sovereignty and independence privileges that contributed to obtaining the status of international subject of law).

2. The issue of introduction of the Gregorian calendar. Another initiative of the Cuza government at the beginning of the year 1864 regarded the introduction of the Gregorian Calendar out of the need to make the connection with the Easter from Western Europe (5). This initiative regarding the change of calendar had been mentioned since October of the previous year in the discussions between the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the country, Mihail Kogalniceanu and the Monseigneur Plyum. Ion Heliade Radulescu fought against this proposal; he considered that this measure was againts canons and church tradition. Ion Heliade Radulescu was joined by members of hierarchy and many intellectuals. In these conditions, the church concil gathered at the Metropolitan Seat, after large debates, decided to decline the proposal of the government, stating that the difference between the Julian Calendar and the Gregorian Calendar must be understood in the spirit of the Synod I of Niceea that mentioned the close connection between the Julian and the Gregorian Calendars as the establishment of holidays, especially Easter. Thus, the church year starts with the 1st of September, established by the Hegumenic Synod I fheld at Niceea in 325, synod which established the main dogmas of our belief, deciding the introduction of the Julian calendar for the church and the rules of determining the date of Holy Easter: thus, this great Christian holiday does not have to be feasted earlier or later than in the second day of the spring equinox.

3. The disputes linked to the mixed marriages (thus, the mixed marriage represented a factor of tensions and controversies between the State and the Church, especially between the State and the Catholic Church in the countries with confessional pluralism and where the Catholic Church could not claim to impose its own laws. We refer especially to mixed marriages between Catholics and persons of Orthodox, Protestant or Lutheran belief, which the Magister of the Ctaholic Church only accepted under certain circumstances).

4. "The issue of succession to the throne" and its stakes (in the 19th century, a special case in the relations between the Catholic church and the other Christian churches is the one of marriage between a Catholic part and a non-Catholic part, celebrated according to the legal provisions of the celebration place, and in Romania, the 1866 constitutional provisions excluded any religious incompatibility between Orthodoxy and Catholicism, through the unconditional acceptance to found a Romanian Orthodox Dynasty). The guarantee offered by the constitutional text of the dominant character of the Orthodox Church was justified through several reasons: the great majority of Romanians were of Orthodox religion, the equity required that the Orthodox Church will receive a sign of encouragement and retribution for the fights and miseries from the past and, in the same time, is was a state interest, meaning the consolidation of the national Church, fully identified with the state's interests (6). The "dominant" formula does not ensure, exceptionally, a favorite status or a special legal condition for the Romanian Orthodox Church, but only a honorary spiritual priority towards other cults, due to a state of facts: the overwhelming number of believers. Thus, we have to make a special distinction between the Orthodox Church, representing a majority, statistically speaking, and the Catholic Church, with a minority condition.

5. The issue of establishment of a Roman-Catholic Archbishopric in Bucharest and the diplomatic negotiations between Romania and the Holy See for the creation of a Catholic hierarchy. Until the First World War, in the whole specialty literature, except the Orthodox Church, all the other cults were named "foreign cults" , and the Roman-Catholic cult was considered to be the first, from the first mentions linked to the presence of missionaries (Benedictine monks) hired to spread Roman Christianity.

6. The position of the Romanian Orthodox Church towards the establishment of the Roman-Catholic Archbishopric was expressed within the spring session of the Holy Synod from the year 1883, in the paper of the bishop Melchisedec, Papacy and the present state of the Orthodox Church in the Romanian Kingdom. The report had two parts: The historic of Catholicism in Romania. II. The present state of our Orthodox Church in the Kingdom of Romania.

The report was focused on the close connection between the Church and the nation existent within the Orthodox Church, founded on the principle granting to the Orthodox Church the character of national church.

As a conclusion, if we resume the main aspects that characterize the institutional relations between the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church in Romania (1859-1918), be are able to formulate the following argument that can become decisive for the future of institutional dialogue:

If Western Europe offered during the 19th century the image of a Catholicism that established a main difference at the level of relations with the society, the existence of a Magister whose authority is acklowledged by believers from every country, the East of the continent, a Europe or Orthodoxy, was characterized through the fidelity towards the Christian religion, fact that maintained confessional identity in the face of Islamism. The fracture between the Orthodoxism and the Catholicism does not mean, in essence, the establishment of two churches, but, to quote a Bulgakov remark, a flaw in the unique body, which continued to produce the fruits of holiness on each side.


(1) Ioan M. Bujoreanu, Collection of old and new laws promulgated until the end of 1870, New Publishing House of the Romanian Laboratory, Bucharest, 1873, pp. 1796-1797.

(2) In compliance with art. 23 from the 1866 Constitution: "The Orthodox religion of the East is the dominant religion of the Romanian state. The Orthodox Church is and remains independent towards any foreign authority, maintaining though the unity with the Hegumenic Church of the East, in which concerns the dogma".

(3) Chiru C. Costescu, op. cit., pp. 214-250. The Law was amended through: the Law from 28 February 1896; Law from 5 April 1900, published in the Official Journal no. 73 from 2 July 1900; Law from 2 August 1907; Law from 25 February 1906, published in the Official Journal no. 262 from 26 February 1906; Law from 26 March 1909, published in the Official Journal no. 289 from 27 March 1909 and through the Law amended by the Royal Decree no. 1642 from 7th of May 1910 and published in the Official Journal no. 37 from 18 May 1910.

(4) Emil Dumea, Romanian Catholic books and magazines in Moldova, Sapientia Publishing House, Iasi, 2002, p. 10.

(5) History of Romanian Church, vol. II, p. 505.

(6) Ibidem, pp. 112-113. Please refer to Dumitru Popescu, Orthodoxy and the present day, Biblical and Mission of the Romanian Orthodox Church Institute Publishing House, Bucharest, 1996; C. Yannaras, Orthodoxy and West, Byzantine Publishing House, Bucharest, 1995.
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Author:Olimid, Anca Parmena
Publication:Revista de Stiinte Politice
Date:Jan 1, 2009
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