Re: Romanian patriarchate proud to show off their new convert...
Posted by Ian M on June 19, 2021, 12:37 pm, in reply to "Romanian patriarchate proud to show off their new convert..."
How the church & its members behaved in the 20th century: |
The 1930s - Patriarch Miron Cristea's premiership
See also: Relationship between the Romanian Orthodox Church and the Iron Guard
The rise of Nazi Germany exposed Romania to the Reich's theological ideas. This mixture of nationalism, racism and theological thought found fertile ground in a Romanian Orthodox Church that was already no stranger to antisemitism. It became particularly popular in the second half of the 1930s in the writings of theologians such as Nichifor Crainic, Nicolae Neaga or Liviu Stan.
In 1936, Crainic published a seminal text titled Rasă și religiune (Race and Religion). While rejecting the Nazi idea of a superior Germanic race, as well as the fascination with Germanic paganism, Crainic argued that some races are indeed superior based on their accomplishment of the Christian essence. Crainic also denied the Jews the moral right to use the books of the Old Testament since, according to him, those prophesies had been fulfilled by the coming off Christ who had abolished the Jewish religion.
The deaths of prominent Iron Guard members Ion Moța and Vasile Marin on the same day, January 13, 1937, at Majadahonda during the Spanish Civil War while fighting on the Nationalist faction led to the organization of massive processions in Romania, particularly in Bucharest where they were interred. Hundreds of Orthodox priests participated and Metropolitans Nicolae Bălan of Transylvania and Visarion Puiu of Bukovina held special services. Shortly after the funeral Orthodox theologian Gheorghe Racoveanu and priest Grigore Cristescu founded the theological journal Predania (The Tradinion). The first issue featured a glorification of Moța and Marin and their sacrifice and reflected the Guard's obsession for martyrdom. Intended as a bi-monthly Predania printed a total of twelve issues before being banned by the authorities. It stood out for its profoundly anti-ecumenical editorial line, publishing attacks against Catholics, Protestants, Evangelicals.
Also in the aftermath of Moța and Marin's grandiose funeral, the Holy Synod issued a condemnation of Freemasonry. Moreover, following the lead of Metropolitan Bălan who wrote the anti-Masonic manifest, the Synod issued a "Christian point of view" against political secularism stating that the Church was in its right to choose which party was worthy of support, based on its moral principles. Iron Guard leader Codreanu saluted the Synod's position and instructed that the Synod's proclamation should be read by Guard members in their respective nests (i.e. chapters).
In 1937 the Goga-Cuza government was the first to adopt and enact antisemitic legislation in the Kingdom of Romania, stripping over two hundred thousand Jews of their citizenship. That very same year, the head of the Romanian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Cristea made an infamous speech in which he described the Jews as parasites who suck the bone marrow of the Romanian people and who should leave the country. The Orthodox church directly or indirectly supported far-right parties and antisemitic intellectuals in their anti-Jewish rhetoric. At the time many Orthodox priests had become active in far-right politics, thus in the 1937 parliamentary elections 33 out of 103 Iron Guard candidates were orthodox priests. In 1938 an Orthodox priest named Alexandru Răzmeriţă, elaborated a plan for the total elimination of Jews in the cities and their deportation to forced labor camps in the countryside.
Overall, the church became increasingly involved in politics and, after King Carol II assumed emergency powers, Patriarch Miron Cristea became prime-minister in February 1938. In March 1938, the Holy Synod banned the conversion of Jews who were unable to prove their Romanian citizenship. Cristea continued the policies of the Goga-Cuza government but also advocated more radical antisemitic measures including deportation and exclusion from employment. Cristea referred to this last measure as "Romanianization". The church newspaper Apostolul was instrumental in propagating Cristea's antisemitic ideas throughout his premiership but church press as a whole became flooded with antisemitic materials. Miron Cristea died in March 1939. Soon after, the Holy Synod voted to uphold regulations adopted under Cristea banning the baptism of Jews who were not Romanian citizens.
Cristea's death led to elections being held in order to select a new Patriarch. Metropolitans Visarion Puiu and the highly influential Nicolae Bălan publicly declared their refusal to enter the race. Both of these bishops held pro-German, pro-Iron-Guard and antisemitic views and it is reasonable to assume that King Carol II's opposition was instrumental in their refusal. Thus, the patriarchal office passed to a reluctant Nicodim Munteanu.
The 1940s - World War II
King Carol II abdicated on September 6, 1940. An openly pro-German coalition of the military headed by marshal Ion Antonescu and the Iron Guard took over. Patriarch Nicodim Munteanu's reaction was cautious and his September 1940 address was unenthusiastic. Munteanu, like Cristea before him, feared the anti-establishment nature of the Guard. But the Iron Guard was highly influential on the Church's grassroots. In January 1941, seeking full control of the country, the Iron Guard attempted a violent insurrection known as the Legionary Rebellion. The putsch failed and out of the 9000 people arrested, 422 were Orthodox priests.
Some particularly violent episodes during the insurrection directly involved the Orthodox clergy. Students and staff of the Theological Academy in Sibiu, led by Professor Spiridon Cândea and assisted by Iron Guard militiamen rounded up Jews in the courtyard of the Academy and forced them to hand over their valuables at gunpoint. Monks from the Antim Monastery in Bucharest, led by their abbot, armed themselves and, using explosives, blew up a Synagogue on Antim Street. The numerous Jewish inhabitants of the neighborhood hid in terror.
After Antonescu and the Army crushed the insurrection, the Holy Synod was quick to condemn the Legionary Rebellion and publicly paint it as a diabolical temptation that had led the Iron Guard to undermine the state and the Conducător. Many of the clergymen who had participated in the Rebellion were, however, shielded by their bishops and continued parish work in remote villages. Romania's participation in World War II on the Axis side after June 1941 would provide them with opportunities for rehabilitation.
By the early 1940s, Orthodox theologians such as Nichifor Crainic already had a lengthy record of producing propaganda supporting the concept of Judeo-Bolshevism. After 1941 the idea became commonplace in central church newspapers such as Apostolul or BOR. A particularly infamous article was signed by Patriarch Nicodim himself and published in BOR in April 1942. It referred to the danger of domestic enemies whom he identified as mostly being Jewish. In 1943 BOR published a 13 page laudatory review of Nichifor Crainic's infamous antismetic book Transfigurarea Românismului (The Transfiguration of Romanianism). Antisemitism was also present in regional journals, a leading example being Dumitru Stăniloae's Telegraful român (The Romanian Telegraph). Orthodox chaplains in the Romanian army cultivated the Judeo-Bolshevik myth.
A particular case was Romanian-occupied Transnistria. On August 15, 1941, The Holy Synod established a mission, rather than a new bishopric, in Romanian-occupied territories across the Dniester. The assumption was that Soviet atheist rule had destroyed the Russian Orthodox church and the Romanian Orthodox Chruch took it upon itself to "re-evangelize" the locals. The main architect of the enterprise was Archimandrite Iuliu Scriban. In 1942 the Mission evolved into an Exarchate and was taken over by Visarion Puiu. Many of the missionaries were former affiliates of the Iron Guard, some were seeking rehabilitation after the 1941 insurrection. Abuse against the Jewish population was wide-spread and numerous reports of Orthodox priests partaking and profiting from the abuse exist. In 1944, Visarion Puiu fled to the West. In Romania he was tried and convicted in absentia after the war. Many priests active in Trannsnistria also faced prosecution after the war, although it's worth noting that communist prosecutors were mostly looking for connections to the Iron Guard, rather then explicitly investigating persecution of Jews.
Historical evidence regarding the Romanian Orthodox Church's role in World War II is overwhelmingly incriminating but there are a few exceptions. Tit Simedrea, metropolitan of Bukovina is one two high-ranking bishops known to have interceded in favor of the Jewish population, the other being the metropolitan Nicolae Bălan of Transylvania. Evidence also surfaced the Simedrea personally sheltered a Jewish family in the metropolitanate compound.  Priest Gheorghe Petre was recognized as Righteous Among the Nations for having saved Jews in Kryve Ozero. Petre was arrested in 1943 and court-martialed but was released in 1944 for lack of evidence.
After King Michael's Coup on August 23, 1944, Romania switched sides. The coup had been backed by the communists; the Church, known for its long-term record of anti-Soviet and anti-communist rhetoric now found itself in an awkward position. Patriarch Nicodim was quick to write a pastoral letter denouncing the previous dictatorship, blaming the Germans for the events that had taken place in Romania during the 30s and during the war and praising "the powerful neighbor from the East" with whom Romania had, supposedly, always had "the best political, cultural, and religious relations."
Starting in 1944, and even more after Petru Groza became Prime-minister with Soviet support in 1945, the Church tried to adapt to the new political situation. In August 1945 a letter of the Holy Synod was published in BOR. Again, it blamed the Germans for the horrors of the war and claimed that the Orthodox Church had always promoted democracy. The Romania Army was also praised for having joined forces with "the brave Soviet armies in the war against the true adversaries of our country." Finally, the Orthodox faithful were asked to fully support the new government. Later that year BOR published two relatively long articles authored by Bishop Antim Nica and, respectively, by Teodor Manolache. Both articles delt with the Holocaust and painted the Romanian Orthodox Church as a savior of Jews.
[continues with the church's about-face collaboration with Ceausescu's communist regime...]
Ah, but 'the atmosphere, the holy relics, and the deep sense of age and depth'... Yes Paul, churches are often impressive places, built with stupendous amounts of wealth. How did that come about? Who paid for it? What is the intended effect on the populace & congregations, many of whom remain in grinding poverty? I can't believe he has never considered these basic questions...
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