The True Orthodox Christians of Romania (1982) Metropolitan Cyprian I (2013)

The True Orthodox Christians of Romania
by Metropolitan Cyprian of Oropos and Fili
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Note to the Reader. It was largely unknown to many, until of late, that there is in Romania, as in Greece, a large group of Orthodox Christians who have stayed, and still remain, faithful to the traditions of Orthodoxy, following the ecclesiastical calendar in their worship of the Living God. This Church of the True Orthodox Christians of Romania holds in Her sacred bosom some one million faithful.

With the help of God, we are in the fortunate position of being able to publish this small offering for the benefit and strengthening of our Orthodox brothers struggling against the curse of ecumenism.

We must confess that we have been greatly benefited by our contacts with the Romanian Orthodox. For this reason, we regard it a spiritual duty to write of our impressions regarding this suffering Church, to which we reverently dedicate our humble work—in eternal memory of those honorable men and women who have given even blood in confessing Her, and whose prayers we invoke in these most difficult days through which we are passing.
The Onset of the Holy Struggle

In Northern Moldavia [1] stands the historic Monastery of Neamt, which was erected by King Stephen the Great.[2] It was at this monastery that Glicherie Tanase embraced the monastic life and was tonsured. He was very shortly ordained a Priest and, until 1924, served as Abbot of the Holy Skete of Prokof. He distinguished himself by his strict adherence to the ideals of Orthodox monasticism, in accordance with the teachings of the famous Father of modern Russian monasticism, the Abbot Paisius Velichkovsky,[3] who had himself been Superior of the Neamt Monastery.

In October of 1924, the New (or Gregorian) Calendar was uncanonically introduced into the Romanian Church by Her “Primate,” Metropolitan Miron Cristea, [4] and was received by almost all with no reaction whatsoever. Only the Monastery of Prokof, under the leadership of its Abbot, Hieromonk Glicherie, refused to recognize the calendar change. For more than a year, nonetheless, he and his monks were allowed to remain in their skete. Finally, they were expelled and a movement began among the Romanian people to safeguard their Holy Traditions and to return to canonicity, by the restoration of the Julian Calendar to the life of the Church.

The Romanian Patriarchate, both in 1926 and 1929, celebrated Pascha with the Latins, constituting an infringement of the Orthodox tradition of centuries.[5] Indeed, on the second occasion that this was done, Patriarch Miron, having the undivided support of the Uniate (Greek-Catholic) prime minister, Julius Maniu,[6] and several others among the clergy, compelled all of the Romanian Metropolises to proceed with the common celebration of Pascha with the Papists, a fact which evoked great commotion in the ranks of the Romanian Church. Metropolitan Gurias of Bessarabia openly criticized Miron and, ignoring the Patriarchal decree, ordered his churches to celebrate with the other autocephalous Orthodox Churches (i.e., with the entire Orthodox world, with the exception of the innovative Church of Finland). Patriarch Miron’s action also scandalized these other Orthodox Churches, many of which reacted in protest.[7] As well, the White Russian clergy of Bucharest took a particularly strong position during those trying days, ignoring the Patriarchal order and celebrating Pascha in accordance with the traditional canonical decrees.

The uncanonical and unOrthodox celebration of Pascha with the Latins deeply grieved the reverent Romanians, many of whom returned to the Old Calendar. Among them were three Hieromonks, as well as two Romanian Priestmonks who had returned to Romania from Mt. Athos. Hieromonk Glicherie, who had taken a leading position in the Old Calendar movement from the beginning, began to build churches in the vicinity of the Neamt Monastery. The first was established in the village of Vanatori. By 1936 he had built about forty large churches, the majority of them in Moldavia.

The zealous Father Glicherie made two trips to Greece. During his first visit, he became a monk of the Great Schema at the Skete of St. John the Baptist on Mt Athos. On his second visit, in 1936, he met several bishops of the True Orthodox Church of Greece, viz., Germanos (formerly Bishop of the State Church diocese of Volos) and Bishop Matthew of Bresthene (Bishop Chrysostomos, former Metropolitan of the State Church in Florina, was away in the East), who decided to consecrate him a bishop. Before Bishop Chrysostomos’ consent to proceed with this was obtained, however, Father Glicherie was expelled from Greece. (The Old Calendar Church of Greece was itself suffering from fairly severe persecutions at this time, accounting for Father Glicherie’s expulsion.)
Persecution and Suffering

During the period of 1935-36, the former Uniate [8] Miron of Romania decided to take Draconian measures against the Old Calendarists in his country. He ordered all of the churches of the True Orthodox Christians razed, and imprisoned any cleric or monastic who refused to submit to his authority. The monks and nuns were incarcerated in two monasteries. where they were treated with unheard of barbarity. Some of them, such as Hieromonk Pambo, founder of the Monastery of Dobru (which was demolished and rebuilt three times), met with a martyr’s end. During the destruction of the Monastery of Cucova, five lay people were thrown into the monastery well and drowned. By such tactics the Patriarch wished to rid himself of the Old Calendarist problem!

Hieromonk Glicherie was arrested in September of 1936 during a large demonstration at Piatra Neamt, where many were killed. He was taken under guard to Bucharest and there condemned to death. He was, however, miraculously saved, in that the Theotokos appeared to the wife of the Minister of Justice and gave her an order to intercede with her husband on Father Glicherie’s behalf. Her husband did not react in the manner of Pilate,[9] but rather commuted Father Glicherie’s death sentence and ordered him imprisoned in a distant monastery.

With the outbreak of World War II in 1939, Father Glicherie was set free and, along with his beloved costruggler, Deacon David Bidascu, fled into the forest. There the two lived in indescribable deprivation and hardship, especially during the winter. In the midst of heavy snows, when their few secret supporters could not get frugal provisions to them, the Fathers were obliged to eat worms! However, Divine Providence protected them from their persecutors and, directed by that same Providence, the birds of the sky would erase traces of the Fathers’ footprints in the snow by flying about and flapping their wings over the snow. And despite the harsh cold, not once did they light a fire, lest the smoke might betray their refuge. (We might note that the cold often approaches thirty degrees below zero during the winter in Romania.) Other ascetics were also hidden in the deserts, among them Father Damaskinos, Father Paisios, et al.

With the end of the war, the work of building churches was begun anew, since all of those formerly built had been demolished. In a short interval of time, between the end of thewar and 1950, almost all of the razed churches, as well as the ruins of the Monastery of Dobru, had been rebuilt. Between 1947 and 1948, the large Monastery of Slatiora (for men) was constructed, along with the monasteries of Bradatel Neamt and Bradatel Suceava (both for women).
The Consecration of Bishops and a New Period

There now remained, for the Old Calendar Church of Romania, the significant problem of the sbortage of priests, there being only three: Hieromonk Glicherie, a survivor of the persecutions, and two priests who had recently left the State (New Calendar) Church.

Thus it was that a representative of the True Orthodox Christians came into contact with the retired New Calendar Bishop, Galaction Cordun, and requested him to assume leadership over the Old Calendarists. Metropolitan Galaction was a man of considerable education. being a graduate of the Academy of St. Petersburg and having held, before his retirement, the post of Synodal Secretary of the State Church of Romania. He was also known for his firmness in respect to Holy Tradition, and had protested the calendar reform.

Metropolitan Galaction accepted the offer of leadership and, on April 13, 1955, made a public confession, in which he announced his return to the Old Calendar. His confession was made known to the Orthodox Patriarchates in Moscow and Sophia and, by a representative of the judiciary, to the Holy Synod of the State Church of Romania, which, under the chairmanship of Patriarch Justinian, deposed him on Great and Holy Thursday, 1955.[10]

Metropolitan Galaction immediately left for Moldavia. where he ordained a number of priests and deacons. Very shortly, however, he was arrested and confined to the Monastery of Caldarusani. Later, having been permitted to live in Bucharest under house arrest, he continued to perform ordinations, under great secrecy and by night, at the Old Calendar Monastery of Copaceni.

Finally, in 1956. Metropolitan Galaction, seeing his strength dissipating and seeing that it was impossible to contact a bishop outside ot Romania [11] (since he was kept under surveillance) or to find a bishop of like mind in Romania, proceeded with the consecration of a bishop on his own, so that the suffering Church of the True Orthodox Christians of Romania might not be once again orphaned.

This unquestionably necessary (albeit technically uncanonical) action was, of course, an exercise of economy. Nonetheless, dogmatically and sacramentally the validity of the consecration was indisputabled. [12]

Since Hieromonk Glicherie was not available (being at the time under confinement), Metropolitan Galaction first consecrated Father Evloghie Ota a Bishop and, afterwards, they both consecrated Father Meftodie to the Episcopacy. Though Father Glicherie was the last to be consecrated, Metropolitan Galaction emphasized that his successor was definitely to be Glicherie, who had from the beginning been the leader of the entire Old Calendar movement, and without whose counsel not a single ordination had been performed. Metropolitan Galaction lived only a few more months, his hardships and ordeals having impaired his health.

The Metropolitan is buried at the Monastery of Slatiora. There is indeed no question that he is a new Confessor of the Faith.

Under the administration of Nicolae Ceaucescu (1965-), the Old Calendar Church has enjoyed greater freedom and toleration, though not official recognition by the State. The Church has made some noteworthy strides, including the construction of a parish church in Bucharest, the establishment of the Monastery of Cucova (1967), the building of a large church at the Monastery of Slatiora (1979), and other such works. Also, in 1968 Bishop Sylvester was consecrated to the Episcopacy and in 1978 Bishop Cozma (Bishops Meftodie and Evloghie reposed in 1977 and 1979 respectively.)
Relations with the True Orthodox Church of Greece

As indicated above, the suffering Church of the True Orthodox Christians of Romania remained in obscurity and almost wholly unknown to the outside world, until the Romanian Priest Basil Patracescu, pastor of the village church of Draguseni (in the district of Neamt), came to our Monastery on the Feast of Pentecost in 1977, at which time we heard more about it.

In August of 1977 it was pleasing to God that, then as an Archimandrite, we visited the Romanian Church and were overwhelmed by the devoutness and good spiritual order among our Romanian brothers. On returning, we reported our impressions to the Old Calendar Greek Church, resulting in a subsequent decision to establish relations between the two local Churches.”

To this end, the Rt. Rev. Bishop Sylvester made a trip to Greece as a representative of the True Orthodox Church of Romania, on whose behalf he signed the historic declaration of intercommunion between the two Churches. Along with this declaration, the validity of the Episcopal orders of the Romanian hierarchy was established. The next day, October 31, 1979, therefore, a concelebration of the Divine Liturgy was held, with the joint participation of the Greek Hierarchy and Bishop Sylvester. [14]

The Greek Old Calendar Church returned this visit by sending an official delegation to Romania in April of 1980, led by Their Eminences, Metropolitan Cyprian of Oropos and Fili and Metropolitan Kalliopios of Pentapolis. The joy and emotional response of our Romanian brothers, as well as the impressions left on the Greek delegation, are difficult to describe. At each church the faithful gathered and waited by the hundreds (and, at times, by the thousands), greeting the visiting delegation with the joyous pealing of church bells, enthusiastically showering the Bishops with flowers as they were led into the various churches on carpets strewn over the ground at the church entrances. The joy of Pascha was everywhere evident. For the first time these heroic Christians had encountered brothers of a like spirit, who knew of their struggles for Orthodoxy. The emotion and enthusiasm reached their zenith at the concelebration of the Liturgy, which tcok place at the Monastery of Slatiora on the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman (April 21, o.s.). Participating were the Greek Prelates and, from the Romanian Church, Bishops Sylvester and Cosma and Metropolitan Glicherie. The latter, owing to the infirmities of old age, had not liturgized for more than a year. The Liturgy, which was held in the large, new monastery church, was attended by over 3,000 faithful. [15] Current Conditions in the Romanian Church

The existing parishes, all large and each including literally hundreds of families, number around [?—Webmaster]. The majority of the churches (made of wood in the traditional Romanian architectural style) are spacious and beautifully adorned with magnificent woodcarved templa (iconostasia) frescoed walls, and colorful, handmade carpets. Most of the churches are located in Northern Moldavia (in the districts of Suceava, last, and Neamt), but in Bucharest and elsewhere, too. Near each parish church is the manse, [16] and often one finds near the church a small monastic sisterhood of women dedicated to service in the church. The faithful are exemplary in their self-sacrifice and great piety. Many travel afoot for tremendous distances in order to attend church services.

The Sunday services in these parishes evoke astonishment: they begin about 6 AM with the Midnight Service, Matins (without the now standard omiasions), the First Hour, a Service of Supplication, the Salutations to the Theotokos, the Third Hour, and the Sixth Hour, followed by the Divine Liturgy. And though the services well exceed six hours, the faithful stand and follow along in silence, with devout attention and reverence (while in Greece the aervices are all tco often shortened in order not to tire the wouldbe congregational). The people evidence true harmony and love. What makes a truly striking impression, however, is their deep dedication to, reverence for, and truat in Metropolitan Glicherie.

There are five monsatic communities, three for women and two for men (in addition, of course, to numerous, smaller monsatic hermitages). About seventy monks live at the large Monastery of the Transfiguration at Slatiora. Metropolitan Glicherie and his two Bishops and every single Hieromonk (without exception) live at Slatiora. The Monastery is very active. Each day many faithful go there to attend the Divine Liturgy or the Service of Anointing (the Anointing Service is held three times a week, daily during the Great Lent), or to confess. The typicon is Athonite and maintains the practice of the unceasing recitation of the Psalter by the older monastics, who take turns reading every four hours. (This practice is also followed by two of the monasteries for women.) The Metropolitan himself is the most austere Abbot. Despite his advanced age (92 years old!), he oversees everything personally with great care. He is an example of monastic perfection for the brothers. He is never absent from services and he keeps a prayerful vigil throughout the night. His cell is as small and as humble as the cells of the other monks. More of his virtuous life we cannot now write, while he is still alive.

The Monastery of the Holy Trinity (for men) at Cucova was torn down to the foundations in 1937 and was rebuilt by the present Abbot, Father Pachomios, in 1967. There are now five monks, who support themselves cultivating vineyards, keeping bees, and growing mushrooms.

The Monastery of Holy Protection (for women) at Bradatel Neamt was founded by the renowned ascetic, Abbess Macariai in 1947, who, by God’s Grace, directs the Monastery to this day, despite her age (she is 85 years old). The Monastery, which is located deep within a forest, has one hundred and forty nuns, who support themselves with agricultural labors and weaving. The majority of the nuns are young.

The Monsatery of the Life-Giving Fountain (for women) in Bradatel Suceava numbers seventy nuns. The Abbess is Mother Epiphania. These nuns are also young in age and support themselves with knitting and various other handicrafs.

The other Monastery for women (that of St. Nicholas) is located in Dobru. It was demolished in the persecutions of 1936 and was later rebuilt by the present Abbess, Mother Seraphima, after the war. There are thirty nuns, who support themselves by raising livestock. This Monastery is also located in an isolated forest.

In all three of the women’s monasteries a hieromonk from the Monastery of Slatiora liturgizes and serves as spiritual father to the nuns, though he does not permanently reside in any of them.

As any observer will attest, the Old Calendar Romanian Church is outstanding in its admirable order as regards matters of administration. This is certainly primarily the result of the excellent direction of the saintly Metropolitan Glicherie. Such direction is of great instructive value to us Greeks and should be taken as an example of the fruits of canonical orderliness. It is likewise noteworthy that the True Orthodox of Romania always behave without resentment and in a loving manner toward their New Calendar brothers, showing neither unwise overzealousness nor enmity—the latter, much to our misfortune, definitely characterizing all too many of the True Orthodox Christians of Greece.

In closing this brief historical note, we pray the All-Holy Spirit, which is the soul of the Mystical Body of the Church of Christ, to grant to the two Sister Churches of the True Orthodox Christians of Greece and Romania His Peace, which passes all understanding, and to strengthen now and evermore their fraternal bonds in Christ, that they might with one mouth and one heart, in God-loving zeal, proclaim the Word of Orthodox Truth unto the salvation of suffering mankind and confess the glory of the All-Laudable Name of our Saviour Jesus Christ, “to Whom belong all honor, glory, and worship, together with His Father. Who is without beginning, and the All-Holy, Good-Creating, and Life-Giving Spirit, both now and ever and unto the ages of ages.”
Endnotes

* The majority of this article is taken from a small book by Metropolitan Cyprian entitled, He Martyrike Ekklesia ton Gnesion Orthodoxon Christianon tes Roumanias (Athens, 1981). The reader’s note, which I have thought worthy of presentation here, is actually the introduction to His Eminence’s book (dated November 17,1980, o.s.). For collecting the materials in general and for his kind review, I owe a special debt of gratitude to Hieromonk Ambrosios, a brother of the Monastery which Bishop Cyprian directs.

1. Moldavia (Moldava) is that section of Romania surrounded by Bessarabia, Bucovina, Transylvania, Vlachia, and Dobrudja.

2. Stephen IV (the Great), ruler of Moldavia from 14671604.

3. Archimandrite Paisius Velichkovsky (17221794). See particularly the translation of his life and works, published by the St. Herman of Alaska Monastery (Platina, California, 1976). Translator’s note.

4. A reformist of very modern spirit, Patriarch Miron (1868 1939) began his Episcopal service as a Uniate hierarch in Transylvania, which had been assaulted by the Uniate movement since the seventeenth century. He played a decisive role in the efforts which resulted in the eventual recognition of the Church of Romania as an autocephalous Church by the Ecumenical Patriarchate in 1926.

5. The Romanian people, embittered by their experience under the yoke of Roman Catholicism imposed upon them by Uniatism, reacted to this move with a fervor which the former Uniate Patriarch had not expected. His actions violated the Paschal canon established in the fourth century, to which Orthodox remained totally faithful prior to the onslaught of Uniatism and ecumenism. Translator’s note.

6. Julius Maniu, leader of the “National Agrarian Movement,” served as Prime Minister from November 9, 1928 to October 6, 1930.

7. Even in the Parliament there were some stormy protests regarding this issue.

8. It is worthwhile commenting.on the incredible deception and ungodly goals of the Uniates in their efforts to sway the Romanian faithful towards Papism. Moldavia was the center of the first intense Uniate efforts in 1583, when a Jesuit propagandist began his mission of uniting the Orthodox to Rome. By 1688, under the influence of Kinx Sigmund III of Poland, Moldavia was ready to unite with the Latins. The intervention of various Orthodox Patriarchs, however, temporarily put an end to the papist aims. Nonetheless, the Uniates had, by the seventeenth century, gained great power and numbers. Even as late as 1944, the Uniates in Transylvania numbered over one and one half million, with two Bishops and a Metropolitan. Their ranks are now almost wholly depleted and the Old Calendarists of Moldavia, especially, remain acutely aware of the martyrdom, barabarism, and cunning political intrigue that accompanied the Uniate efforts in Romania—an awareness that belies the now popular (and distorted) histories of the Uniate “missions” in Eastern Europe.

Romania should serve as a good lesson for us modern Orthodox. When we are now assaulted by Roman Catholic attempts to draw Orthodox Christians into the net of the Roman Pontiff, we should remember that, while this Unia is proclaimed in the name of love,” many of our Orthodox forefathers saw such a Unia accomplished by murder and by the sword. This should tell us something of the “love” to which Rome today calls us. And knowing this, we can better understand how many Orthodox in Romania violently cast out the Uniates after World War II, knowing full well the meaning of a “love” which allows one to keep the externals of the Faith, while it drains the essence of that Faith slowly away—by force if necessary. (This, of course, without advocating or condoning any violence whatever—yet, at the same time, without judging those who suffered for the Faith and zealously defended it at all costs and by all means.) Translatort’s note.

9. When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day because of him (St. Matthew 27:19). The wife of Pilat called Procula, or Procle, became a Christian and is honored as a Saint by the Orthodox Church on October 27.

10. Details regarding these actions by the Synod can be found in the official periodical of the Romanian Patriarchate, “Biserica Orthodoxa Romana,” 1966, pp. 214216.

11. The evermemorable Shepherd of the True Orthodox Church of Greece, Metropolitan Chrysostomos (Kabourides) had reposed on Sept. 7, 1966 (o.s.).

12. One should not draw parallels between Metropolitan Galaction’s use of economy, in this most extreme circumstance, and the actions of the Greek Old Calendar Bishop Matthew (Karpathakes— + May 1, 1960), who uncanonically consecrated a bishop by himself, despite the fact that three other Old Calendar Bishops were still living. He created a schism in the Old Calendar movement in Greece and still has a faction of followers who, for the most part, are unfortunately noted for their extreme views. (Their canonical irregularities, as regards Bishop Matthew’s consecrations, have been subsequently rectified. This action too, however, should not be compared to the recognition of Metropolitan Galaction’s consecrations by the Old Calendar Church of Greece, which did not grant such recognition by virtue of correcting a canonical irregularity, but in consequence of its understanding of the extreme circumstances under which justifiable economy was exercised by the Romanian Metropolitan. Translator’s note.

13. See, regarding this, the periodical, “Agias Cyprianos” (a publication of the Holy Monastery of Sts. Cyprian and Justina in Fili, Greece). no. 106, Sept 1977, p. 172.

14. Ibid., no. 131, Nov. 1979, p. 277.

15. See the official publication of the Synod of Bishops of the True Orthodox Church of Greece. “Phylakes Orthodoxias,” no. 15. May 1980. pp. 4446: and no. 16, June-July 1980. pp. 60, 5264. Also see “Agios Cyprianas” (op. rit.), no. 137, May 1980. p. 31-2.

16. The Church follows a very strict rule, by which all parish priests must be married priests.

From The Orthodox Word (Platina, CA: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1982), Vol. 18, No. 1 (102), pp. 5-15. Reprinted with permission from the translator.


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