Protestantism and Orthodoxy in Romania during and after the communist era

Term Paper (Advanced seminar) 2012 12 Pages

Theology - Historic Theology, Ecclesiastical History


Table of Content

1. Protestantism and Orthodoxy in RomaniaP.2during and after the communist era

2. Orthodoxy in Romania during the communist era

3. Protestantism in Romania
3.1 Different forms of Protestantism
3.2 Traditionalhistoric Protestants during the communist era
3.3 Neo Protestants during the communist era

4. Religion in Romania at the end and after the communist era

5. Conclusion

1. Protestantism and Orthodoxy in Romania during and after the communist era:

Not only historically speaking but also from a religious point of view the communist era is an interesting and highly influential period of time for Eastern Europe and the rest of the world. This age has significantly changed the relationship between church and state in Eastern Europe and Russia from a balanced condition to a rather hostile and combating relation. The reason for this is not only the unconditional adoption of the Marxist ideal of atheism, but primarily a struggle of powers. In the communist era, Religion was perceived as a disturbing factor regarding the political system and the communist government felt questioned and weakened by the influence and authority of the ecclesial institution. Hence, one of the main aims was to weaken and minimize the churches’ impact on society.

However, there are two questions that arise within the analysis of the relationship between church and state during the communist era. The first question is culturally related and queries the equality of the relation in every Eastern European country and Russia. However, since it would be far too complex to answer the inquiry whether every Eastern European government treated the churches the same way or at least similarly, in this essay I am going to focus on a specific Eastern European country. Hence, I am going to analyze the situation in a country which is especially exemplary for the effects of the communist regime, namely Romania. The second question related to this analysis is whether the relationship between state and church can be defined holistically by referring to the term “church” in general. Was the relationship between the state and the Romanian Orthodox Church as the national church similar to the relation between the state and smaller churches? Since Sabrina Petra Ramet pointed out, the “[…] Protestant churches were more ‘troublesome’ for the communists than the Orthodox Church or Catholic Church.”[1]. Therefore I consider it most interesting to compare the ecclesial situations of the Orthodox Church and the Protestant churches in Romania during the communist era and under the communist regime.

2. Orthodoxy in Romania during the communist era:

In 1923, the Roman Constitution declared the Roman Orthodox Church as the national church because Christian Orthodoxy has almost been the only religion in Romania. Still nowadays it is predominant with a number of 18.8 million members which corresponds to 86% of the Romanian population. However, especially during the 20th century there were times when Orthodoxy did not enjoy a great popularity and unconditional support like this. For instance, this was the case during the communist era. The impacts of this regime were exemplary strong in Romania and the consequences can still be seen nowadays. The sense of national identity was destroyed by this system and therefore the religious identity suffered from it as well.[2]

During the communist era, religion was seen as a capitalist component and therefore the communist government conceived the plan to separate, weaken and occupy the churches.[3] They did so by misusing the Romanian Orthodox Church on the one hand as an intermediary between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Western churches and on the other hand as a monitoring body for the Romanian population. This was an easy undertaking because about 80% of the Romanian population considered the church as the most trustworthy institution.[4] This collaboration of churchmen implied that they were not only forced to cooperate with the state, but they also had to work as informers for the government.[5]

The question that arises while considering this abusive power game is why a powerful and influential institution like the Romanian Orthodox Church endured this form of suppression. The main reason, why the Orthodox Church and its churchmen did not struggle against this oppression and even downplayed the critical situation is that the communist government was in a beneficial position.[6] They knew about some churchmen’s past as Iron Guard members and blackmailed them with this detail. Also, the government bribed them with large sums of money they needed for the maintaining of their parishes. Consequently, they even began to see advantages of this interaction like protection of the state’s assets and a potential privileged rank among the other denominations. Ultimately, there was no option of escaping from this collaboration. Once they got into this, they were trapped because they were afraid of a lesser moral authority in society if their cooperation became public.[7]

However, in case the Orthodox Church did not cooperate with the communist government after all, there were serious consequences they had had to fear. The parishes were severely persecuted, their members and churchmen were either imprisoned or send into exile,[8] their priest training was prohibited and they were highly controlled by the Department of Cults.[9] Also, the Orthodox suffered from destruction of churches and monasteries[10] as well as from a decrease of members and the loss of their key role in society.[11] Albeit, these possible punishments were only the tip of the iceberg considering the daily discrimination and oppression members of the Orthodox Church had to face in communist Romania. Apparently without any specific reason, their property was taken away, their religious activities and social work was restricted and religious education was banished from public schools.[12] In 1965, the discrimination reached its highpoint when the Romanian Orthodox Church lost its status as the national church and when all charitable and missionary activities were prohibited. By that point of time, the church was completely converted into a political organ with the aim to fulfill socioeconomic goals.[13]

In 1977, the situation and living conditions changed to the benefit of the faithful again: monasteries were no longer closed down, churchmen were released from prison and some of the destructed churches were restored. Ceauşescu officially even accepted baptism, marriages and burial services again. However, all these progresses only appeared because of tactical reasons, namely to gain independence from Moscow, to sympathize with the West and to receive financial support from them. Consequently, until 1989 and the end of the communist era, the ecclesiastic conditions within the Roman Orthodox Church were still shaped by a predominant up and down and left their marks in the Romanian society until nowadays.[14]


[1] Ramet, 1992: 3.

[2] Stan/Turcescu, 2010: 145-146.

[3] Stan/Turcescu, 2011: 136.

[4] Leustean, 2008: 425.

[5] Stan/Turcescu, 2010: 145-146.

[6] Perica, 2002: 23.

[7] Stan/Turcescu, 2010: 149-150.

[8] Stan/Turcescu, 2010: 151.

[9] Stan/Turcescu, 2011: 136.

[10] Leustean, 2008: 425.

[11] Aleksov, 2010: 177.

[12] Stan/Turcescu, 2010: 158.

[13] Stan/Turcescu, 2011: 137.

[14] Stan/Turcescu, 2011: 138.


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Trinity College Dublin – Irish School of Ecumenics
orthodox church protestant churches communist example romania




Title: Protestantism and Orthodoxy in Romania during and after the communist era