Romanian Orthodox Church

(Biserica Ortodoxă Română)
Christian teaching in the territory of today's Romania goes back to the apostle St Andrew, the "First-Called" who preached in Scythia Minor, the region between the Danube and the west coast of the Black Sea. Therefore, Romanian Christianity may be considered for good reasons to be "of apostolic origin". Many Christians in Scythia Minor died a martyr's death during the persecutions under the Roman emperor Diocletian. The names of several of them are known and their relics are still kept today in Romanian churches. In the 14th century Wallachia and Moldovia emerged as independent political units south and east of the Carpathians, and the Metropolitan Sees of these states were recognized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate in 1359 and 1401. Following the independence of Romania in 1877, the Orthodox Church in Romania was granted autocephaly in 1885. The union of Transylvania, Bessarabia and Bukovina with the old Romania, by which the Romanian unitary state was created, brought about a series of changes in the life of the church. After 1918, especially in Transylvania, the state took over many of the attributions of the church (for example, in the field of education), so that its role was limited mainly to spiritual issues. In 1925 the holy synod decided to set up the Romanian Orthodox Church and to raise the metropolitan to the rank of patriarch.

The holy synod is the highest authority of the Romanian Orthodox Church. It is made up of the hierarchs in function (metropolitans, archbishops, bishops, assistant bishops). The standing synod functions between the sessions of the holy synod; it includes the patriarch, the metropolitans in function and the secretary of the holy synod. The representative central body of the Romanian Orthodox Church for all administrative issues as well as for matters that are not dealt with by the holy synod is the church national assembly, formed by the holy synod members and three representatives of each diocese or archdiocese (a clergy and two lay persons), appointed by the respective diocesan assemblies. The supreme administrative body, both of the holy synod and of the church national assembly is the church national council, composed of three clergy and six lay persons elected by the church national assembly, as well as of the administrative counsellors as permanent members. His Beatitude the Patriarch is the president of these bodies of the Romanian Orthodox Church. The Romanian Patriarchate is made up of five metropolitan sees with 10 archdioceses and 14 dioceses in the country, and three metropolitan sees outside Romania (Bessarabia, Central and Northern Europe, Western and Southern Europe), one archdiocese (USA and Canada) and two dioceses (Hungary and Serbia-Montenegro).

Monastic life has always been an important feature of the spiritual life of the Romanian Orthodox Church. The golden epoch of Romanian monasticism was from the 15th to the 18th century. During the communist period thousands of monks and nuns were expelled and their monasteries closed. Today there are 386 monasteries, with 2,886 monks and 5,225 nuns. The church has 38 theological seminaries, 19 schools of religious singers, and 11 faculties of theology. Thousands of students are registered in these institutions. More than 10,000 teachers teach religion in the public schools. The church provides religious assistance in hospitals, in the armed forces, in prisons and social centres. It runs 39 institutions for children, 12 for the elderly, 40 social canteens and bakeries, six centres for families in need and two health centres. The biblical and mission institute of the church and the diocesan publishing houses produce many religious, theological, historical and cultural books. Magazines and other periodicals are published by the dioceses as well as by the Patriarchate.