Romanian Orthodox Christians get new leader


The Romanian Orthodox Church has elected a "modern" sixth patriarch. The vote, which took place amid a swirl of rumours and accusations, followed a 40-day mourning period for Patriarch Teoctist, who died in July.

By Gelu Trandafir for Southeast European Times in Bucharest - 14/09/07


Metropolitan Daniel (centre) was elected as the sixth patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church. [Gabriel Petrescu]

Metropolitan Daniel was elected as the sixth patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church on Wednesday (September 12th), with 95 votes of the total 161 from the Church Electoral College. Daniel will succeed Teoctist, who died in July. The elections were held after the stipulated 40 days of mourning.

Daniel, who has been the metropolitan of Moldova and Bucovina in northeast Romania for the past 17 years, is considered by many as a "moderniser". The election was considered to be mainly between Daniel and the Metropolitan of Cluj, Bartholomew, who received 65 votes. Bartholomew, 86, is viewed as "the traditionalist scholar".

The weeks leading up to the vote, however, were marked by rumours and gossip. The Moldavian Metropolitan was accused by some radical monastic circles of being a freemason supporting "ecumenism, the greatest heresy of our times" and even harbouring a plan "to sell the Orthodoxy to Catholics".

Renewed allegations of collaboration with former Communists and the Securitate plagued the main candidates. The Council for the Study of Securitate Archives has yet to release its findings about links some important clergymen had with the secret police.

In his public first statement after the election, Daniel pledged "to continue the tradition". "A patriarch cannot change the direction established by the Synode," he said. "The patriarch does not work alone, but with the Synode, with monks and nuns, with the faithful, with the Romanian society in general." Daniel -- who will be installed as patriarch on September 30th -- called for "the advice, support and co-operation from all those who love the church and the country". He also touched on the "plentiful heritage" of Patriarch Teoctist, who passed away at age 92 on July 30th.

As metropolitan, Daniel, 56, earned a reputation for his business-like style. His church has become one of the wealthiest of the metropolitan churches, although the Moldavian region is one of the poorest of Romania. Daniel funded a large number publications, printing houses and social charities, stressing the need for social involvement by the church. He also created one of the largest private radio networks in Romania -- Christian Radio Trinitas -- which competes with commercial broadcasters.

Daniel has secured good relations with Catholics and Protestants. The new Romanian Patriarch is a close friend of Vienna's Archibishop Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, a friendship that was forged in the 1980s, when Daniel was a lecturer at the Ecumenical Institute in Bossey, Switzerland.

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Last week, he hosted the 3rd European Ecumenical Assembly, a meeting attended by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, Metropolitan Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church, Cardinal Kasper and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, among others.

In a speech to the group, Daniel pledged to bring "a more intense Christian testimony" in Europe, since Romania, with the world's largest Orthodox Church after Russia, has become a member of the EU. His views were echoed by Kirill, who emphasised the need "to give back a soul to Europe" and by Cardinal Kasper who asked the European Christians "to eventually wake up".

At the meeting, Barroso discussed "a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious Europe". The EU resisted calls to mention God and the Christian roots of European civilisation in its Constitutional Treaty and the current revised Reform Treaty.

Bartholomew, the Cluj metropolitan, notably did not attend the Assembly.

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