ROMANIAN GREEK-CATHOLIC CHURCH HISTORY


[Church before the Union] [The Union from 1700] [The communist persecution]
[The martyrs bishops] [The Church today]


The Church before the Union

The romanian people, being a mixture of Dacians and Romans, is of latin origin. Beginning with the 9th and the 10th century, the Bulgarians were christened and a strong process of slavonisation started, reaching the romanian people too. The 8th Ecumenical Synod (879-880) subordinated the romanian bishoprics to the Patriarchate of Constantinople. By doing so, all the connections with Rome were broken.

In time, our priests had to be ordained in Bulgaria. They had to return and to celebrate in Slavonic language, using the Slavonic-Byzantine rite. This "ill-fated process of history" was a vicious one for the cultural, religious and moral development of the romanian people. A serbian monk brought the printing press into our country, but for 130 years, none of the printed books was in romanian. It was a threatening situation for our people: loosing its latin origins and becoming a slavic people.

There was another problem in Transylvania in that time: the Calvinism, that spread very quickly, and tried to subdue the romanian orthodoxy.

The Union from 1700

On this general background, the religious union of the majority of Romanians from Transylvania with the Church of Rome took place, in 1700. This religious union was stated through three basic documents: "The Declaration of the Union", issued by the Synod in February, 1697 and signed by the Metropolitan Bishop Teofil and his 12 archpriests; "The Book of Testimony", signed by the Bishop Atanasie Anghel of Transylvania, and 38 archpriestst, gathered in Alba-Iulia in October 7, 1698; "The Leaflet of the Union", signed by the same Bishop and 54 archpriests representing 1582 priests. These documents made the foundation of the Romania Greek-Catholic Church (B.R.U.), the Church that tied back the relationship with the Church of Rome.

The Union from 1700 was a union in faith and not in rite, the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church remaining an Oriental Church. That is why we were called "orthodoxes united with Rome". This Union was important from the religious, spiritual, cultural, social and political point of view. The first result after the union was the fact that the liturgical language became the romanian. Then appeared the first books printed in romanian. The romanian school system developed, "Scoala ardeleana", that had a great contribution in the development of our culture. There were founded a lot of Romanian schools under the leadership of the Church. Politically, we have to mention the Union of the Romanian States in one state, in December 1, 1918, "The Declaration of Union" being read by the Greek-Catholic Bishop Iuliu Hossu, who became cardinal "in pectore" and who died as martyr under the communist system.

The communist persecutions

On august 23, 1944, Romania was invaded by the Soviet Army and in March 6, 1945 the Communist Government was installed. One of the goals of the new government was to abolish the Greek-Catholic Church, considered dangerous for the communist plans. They started a campaign of disparagement of Holy Father, and the connections with Vatican were broken.

The government framed up that the Greek-Catholic Church "came back" in the Orthodox Church. They started to threaten the Greek-Catholic priests and bishops that they would be put in jail or killed if they didn't sign their "return" to the Orthodox Church. The communist prisons were full of priests, monks and lay people who didn't sign the "return" to the Orthodox Church. All the Bishops of the Greek-Catholic Church were put in prisons.

On the December 1, 1948, through a decree of the Great National Assembly, The Greek-Catholic Church was abolished because everybody "returned" to orthodoxy. All its possessions were took by the Orthodox Church. Today a very few of these possessions were given back.

The martyr bishops

The communist persecution killed seven Greek-Catholic Bishops. Six of them were bishops when they were arrested (October 1948): Valeriu Traian Frentiu, Iuliu Hossu, Alexandru Rusu, Ioan Balan, Ioan Suciu and Vasile Aftenie, and one of them was ordained bishop in prison: Tit Liviu Chinezu. All of them died in prison or in forced residences, after long periods of sufferings.

The first martyr was Vasile Aftenie (1899-1950), who was tortured in the basement of Ministry of Internal Affairs, and died there. In the prison of Sighetul Marmatiei died Valeriu Traian Frentiu (1875-1952), Ioan Suciu (1907-1953), Tit Liviu Chinezu (1904-1955). The bodies of those who died there were buried in a field, so that we don't know for sure where their graves are. Alexandru Rusu (1884-1963) died in the prison of Gherla.

Ioan Balan (1880-1959) and Iuliu Hossu (1885-1970) died, after prison and forced residence, in a hospital in Bucharest.

The Greek-Catholic Church started the process of canonization of these seven Bishops three years ago. They are the symbol of all the martyrs of the Greek-Catholic Church, and with the will of God they will be the first saints of the Greek-Catholic Church.

The Church today

After 1989, the Greek-Catholic Church was officially recognized again. Without churches and with a great deficiency of priests because of the 50 years of persecution, our Church started its restauration. Today our Church has six Bishoprics:

  1. Archbishopric of Alba-Iulia and Fagaras, with the residence in Blaj, pastorated by Lucian MURESAN, who is the Metropolitan Bishop of our Church;
  2. The Bishopric of Oradea, with the residence in Oradea, pastorated by Bishop Virgil BERCEA; The Bishopric of Cluj-Gherla, with residence in Cluj-Napoca, pastorated by Archbishop George GUTIU, assisted by Bishop Florentin CRIHALMEANU, Auxiliary Bishop;
  3. The Bishopric of Maramures, with the residence in Baia Mare, pastorated by Bishop Ioan SISESTEAN;
  4. The Bishopric of Lugoj, with the residence in Lugoj, pastorated by Bishop Alexandru MESIAN.
Our Church also has a Cardinal, His Excellency Alexandru TODEA.

Some statistics from the beginning of 1999 showed that our Church has around 700 priests, 850 parishes and 830,000 believers. Although if the number of priests seems to be enough, 60% of them are over the age of 60. The number of active priests is quite small, and a lot of priests have to take care of two or three parishes.


[Church before the Union] [The Union from 1700] [The communist persecution]
[The martyrs bishops] [The Church today]


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