Romanian Catholic Church (Eastern Catholic)
ROMANIAN CATHOLIC CHURCH (EASTERN CATHOLIC)
Officially known as "The Romanian Church United with Rome." Although there had been small but unstable unions of the Romanian Orthodox with the Church of Rome, such as the brief union brought about by Ioanitza Asan in 1204, a stable union between part of the Romanians and the See of Rome was realized only at the end of the 17th century, when the Romanians of Transylvania embraced the holy union together with their bishops, Theophilus (1697) and Athanasius (1698–1713). Various historical and social circumstances determined this union. After the withdrawal of the Turks from central-eastern Europe, Transylvania fell under the domination of Catholic Austria in 1688. The Jesuit Fathers, who had been expelled at the time of the Protestant supremacy, returned to their houses in Cluj and Alba Julia and thus approached the local Romanian bishop. The economic and social conditions of the Romanians of Transylvania were very poor. They were overburdened with taxes for war expenditures, deprived of civil and social rights while their Orthodox faith was spurned, and humiliated by Protestant proselytism. In order to avoid this situation, they saw no solution other than that of turning toward communion with the Apostolic See, hoping that, by the new union, they and especially the clergy would enjoy the rights and privileges that were reserved by the constitution of the Transylvanian principality to the four privileged religions (Catholic, Lutheran, Calvinist, and Unitarian). Emperor Leopold I, by a decree issued on April 14, 1698, promised that the privileges of the four religions would be granted to those who joined one of them. The outcome was that, in the general synods of 1697 under Bishop Theophilus and of 1698 under Bishop Athanasius, the clergy decided in favor of communion with the Roman Church. The synod of Sept. 5, 1700, in which about 2,000 members of the clergy and laity took part definitively, ratified the union and accepted the four dogmatic points of the Council of florence: primacy, unleavened bread as a legitimate matter for the Holy Eucharist, existence of purgatory, and the doctrine of the filioque. In liturgical and disciplinary areas they kept their own (Romanian) rite. In particular they were authorized to elect their own bishop-metropolitan as did the Romanian orthodox church and to keep the Romanian vernacular as the liturgical language.
Opposition to the union came from the Transylvanian landlords who suffered heavy economic losses by the emancipation of the Orthodox priests and peasants. But the fiercest opposition came from the hierarchy of the Orthodox Church of Serbia, especially from the archbishop of Karlovitz, who wanted to keep the Romanian Orthodox Christians of Transylvania under his jurisdiction. Notwithstanding all these difficulties, the holy union did not perish but, thanks to the zeal and courageous activity of its bishops, became stronger.
Organization. The Catholic Romanians in 1700 numbered 200,000. To organize these faithful into an ecclesiastical diocese, Pope Innocent XIII in 1721 established the first Romanian Catholic Diocese of Fagarąs, which later was transferred to Blaj, where it is today. Bishop Innocent Micu-Klein (1728–51) strove heroically to gain for his people political, social, and cultural rights. He was forced to abandon his see and finally abdicated. Both he and his successor, Petru Pavel Aron (1752–64), raised the intellectual level of their people by opening secondary schools and a diocesan seminary and by maintaining a printing press that published liturgical, theological, and historical books. Thus the clergy and people were well organized through solid instruction received through schools and published literature. This fostered in the people a militant patriotism that yearned for the day of liberation from their Hungarian masters and complete reunion with their fellow Romanians. When the Austrian-Hungarian Empire was dissolved in 1918, the Romanians Catholics found themselves nationally united with the Romanian Orthodox but religiously a minority. Yet in spite of opposition from the Orthodox, the Romanian Catholic Church grew steadily.
Canonical Structure. The Romanian Catholic Church was once one of the most prosperous and well organized of the Eastern Catholic Churches. Its discipline and canonical structure are regulated by the decrees of three provincial councils held at Blaj in 1872, 1882, and 1900. The First Council of Blaj treated in ten chapters: the Catholic faith and the union that had as its basis the union of Florence (1439) and the unionistic synod at Alba Julia (1700); the Church, including the primacy of the Roman pontiff, the rights and duties of metropolitans, bishops, priests and cathedral chapters, rural deans, protopopes protopriests, and pastors; ecumenical, provincial, and diocesan synods; ecclesiastical benefices and their conferment; the Sacraments; divine worship and the liturgy; life and discipline of the clergy; the Order of Saint Basil; schools of various types; and ecclesiastical processes and tribunals. The Second Council of Blaj treated in six chapters: the Catholic faith, reproducing the formula prescribed by Urban VIII and Benedict XIV; statutes of the metropolitan chapter approved with the bull of erection of the province; religious orders of men and women; a detailed instruction on the procedure to be followed in matrimonial cases, as well as procedural norms for civil and penal processes; and norms on the administration of schools and ecclesiastical goods. The Third Council of Blaj reaffirmed the rights and integrity of the Province of Alba Julia and Făgăraş, considered as autonomous and independent, subject only to the Roman Apostolic See; the council also established norms concerning divine worship, insisting on the modern Romanian language as the approved liturgical language, and other norms regarding liturgical ceremonies, sacred buildings, and sacred vestments. The Holy See approved these enactments.
Romanian Catholic Church in the Communist and Post-Communist Years. The fate of the Romanian Byzantine Catholic Church in Romania under Communism was much worse than it was for the Romanian Latin Catholics. The government staged a mock Greek Catholic synod that abolished the union with Rome on Oct. 12, 1948. On Dec. 1, 1948, the government issued a decree that formally dissolved the Greek Catholic Church and confiscated all its property, turning most of its 2,588 churches within 1,794 parishes over to the Romanian Orthodox Church. All six Greek Catholic bishops were arrested on the night of Dec. 29 to 30, 1948. Five of them died in prison. The sixth, Bishop Juliu Hossu of Cluj-Gherla, was released from prison in 1964, but placed under house arrest at Caldarusani Orthodox monastery near Bucharest, where he died in 1970. In 1973 Pope Paul VI announced that he had created Hossu a cardinal in pectore in 1969.
A Greek Catholic hierarchy continued, however, in the underground. Before he was expelled from the country in 1950, the last papal representative, the American Archbishop Gerald Patrick O'Hara, had secretly ordained five Greek Catholic Bishops. However, the government Securitate broke into the nunciature, obtained a list of these bishops and later imprisoned all of them. Some were released in 1964 and three were still alive in 1989.
Until 1989 the Communist authorities held the absurd contention that the Greek Catholic Church had freely and spontaneously asked for reunion with the Orthodox Church, and that it had simply ceased to exist. The Romanian Orthodox Church officially supported this position. In fact, the brutal suppression of the Greek Catholic Church was strongly resisted and even occasioned heroic defiance of the regime.
Although a few Greek Catholics attended Latin liturgies, most of them continued to frequent their former parishes where, although they had officially become Orthodox, little had changed. However, there were a few clandestine priests with secular jobs who met secretly with small groups to celebrate the sacraments, mostly in private homes, throughout the persecutions. The existence of these groups was known to the Securitate, but in the later years they were tolerated as long as they stayed out of public view. The underground bishops even succeeded in training and ordaining a few men to the priesthood. In the late 1970s the surviving bishops made repeated requests to President Ceauşescu for the reinstatement of their church, and in 1980 they even appealed to the Madrid Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe.
This situation changed only after the downfall of the Ceauşescu regime. A few days after the revolt, on Jan. 2, 1990, the new Romanian government abrogated the 1948 decree that had outlawed the Greek Catholic Church. The three surviving underground bishops, Ioan Ploscaru, Ioan Chertes, and Alexandru Todea, emerged from hiding, and 540 priests also came forward, about 100 of them elderly.
On March 14, 1990, Pope John Paul II reconstituted the Greek Catholic hierarchy by naming bishops to all five dioceses. Todea was named metropolitan archbishop of Făgăraş and Alba Iulia (he was created a cardinal in June 1991), and Ploscaru Bishop of Lugoj. Chertes, an elderly man in retirement, was given the personal title of archbishop. He died on Jan. 31, 1992. In official documents the Greek Catholic Church now calls itself "The Romanian Church United With Rome."
The Congregation for the Eastern Churches sponsored a meeting of the bishops and other representatives of the Romanian Greek Catholic Church in Rome from Jan. 17 to 22, 1994. A final document was adopted treating the organization of the eparchies, the formation of the clergy, the liturgy, catechetics, religious life, and ecumenical relations. The participants unanimously called for the speedy canonization of those martyred for the faith during the persecutions. On July 20, 1994, Pope John Paul II accepted the resignation of 82-year-old Cardinal Todea and appointed Bishop Lucian Mureşan of Maramureş to succeed him as Greek Catholic metropolitan.
The rebirth of the Greek Catholic Church was accompanied by a confrontation with the Romanian Orthodox Church. This was due to the fact that although the government abolished the 1948 decree dissolving the church and promised to return its former property now in state hands, it did not resolve the issue of ownership of churches given to the Orthodox Church.
The Greek Catholic Church insisted that all the property confiscated in 1948 be returned as a matter of justice, a position they called restitutio in integrum. However, the Romanian Orthodox Church held that since the demographic situation had changed substantially since 1948, any redistribution of churches must allow for the pastoral needs of both communities, based on the results of a census and the deliberations of a joint commission. The hardening of positions created an impasse, such that by March 1993 the Greek Catholic Church had regained only 66 of its former churches. The situation was complicated by the Greek Catholic rejection of the results of the 1992 census, according to which only 1% of the population (228,377) belonged to this church. The 1948 figure had been 1,560,000. Statistics published in the 1993 Annuario Pontificio indicate a total of 1,842,486, while some Greek Catholic sources claim almost 3,000,000 members.
An atmosphere of mistrust and mutual recrimination exists between the two churches. The Orthodox portray the Greek Catholics as less than fully patriotic and recall the traditional identity between the Romanian people and the Orthodox Church. Some even draw a connection between the existence of the Greek Catholic Church and a sinister effort to "magyarize" the Romanian population of Transylvania. For their part, the Greek Catholics accuse the Orthodox of willful collaboration with the Communists, of wholesale corruption, and of perpetuating the Stalinist oppression of their church. The Greek Catholic hierarchy has also expressed fierce opposition to the work of the international commission for dialogue between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches that has attempted to overcome the misunderstandings that arose in the wake of the re-emergence of the Byzantine Catholic Churches in Eastern Europe.
Because of these tensions, the Catholic Church in Romania has been reluctant to engage in ecumenical projects that include the Orthodox. In late 1990, a Romanian Council of Churches was created, but neither the Latin nor Greek Catholic Churches took part in the initiative.
The Greek Catholic Church has set up seminaries in Cluj, Baia Mare, and Oradea, and there are now Greek Catholic theological institutes in Cluj, Oradea, and the historic center of the church at Blaj. The cathedral at Blaj along with the episcopal residence and seminary complex was regained in October 1990.
The Romanian Catholic Church suffered greatly under communist rule. It was forcibly dissolved in 1948, its bishops arrested and jailed, and its property handed over to the Orthodox Church of Romania. It survived underground, emerging only after the fall of the Ceauşescu regime. The 1948 dissolution of the Romanian Catholic Church was set aside on Jan. 2, 1980, and the underground church was able to emerge into public life. The hierarchy of the Romanian Catholic Church was reestablished on March 14, 1990. The 1990s was a period of conflict between the Romanian Catholic and Orthodox Churches over return of churches and other properties that were seized in 1948.
Bibliography: d. attwater, The Christian Churches of the East, v.1 Churches in Communion with Rome (Milwaukee 1961). e. ivÁnka, "Romanian Catholics of the Byzantine Rite," The Eastern Churches Quarterly 8 (1949–50) 153–62. i. ratiu, "The Communist Attack on the Catholic and Orthodox Churches in Romania," ibid. 163–97. r. robertson, The Eastern Christian Churches: A Brief Survey, (6th ed. Rome 1999).