Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

The Greek-Catholic Church in Romania Facing the Challenges of the Post-Modern Society

Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

The Greek-Catholic Church in Romania Facing the Challenges of the Post-Modern Society

Article excerpt

With this study1, we aim to analyze the current situation of one of the traditional churches in Romania, focusing on the particular case of the Greek-Catholic Church, in the first decades of the 21st century, facing the challenges raised by the contemporary, post-modern world, having as methodological basis, an inter-disciplinary perspective which combines historical research with a series of conclusions formulated by the sociology of religion. The sociology of religion studies religion in its social context, analyzing its effects on the society, but also the influence had by the society and its evolution over the religious life2. Applying this definition to a real social context, we will refer to the evolution of the Romanian Uniate Church in the last decades, to the effects of the changes in the present society over the spiritual life of its believers, to the modification of its profile of identity; and finally, we shall try to formulate some practical suggestions regarding the ways in which the church could better adapt to the current situation, starting from the ideas presented by some of the leading world researchers of the sociology of religion.

The Greek-Catholic Church in Romania after 1990

We shall start our analysis with some observations referring to the current situation of the Greek-Catholic Church in Romania:

- The Greek-Catholic Church reorganized itself after the fall of communism, in the very last days of 1989, having nowadays an institutional structure with 5 dioceses, spread mostly in Transylvania, Banat, Maramures, Crisana - very few centers can be found in the other regions of the country, except Bucharest. From the ecclesiological point of view, the Greek-Catholic Church is a local church, part of the Catholic Church, with a special rank - Major Archbishopric, thus having a special status and prestige. From this perspective, the Greek-Catholic Church benefits from an enlarged autonomy inside the Catholic Church. This could lead to a state of isolation inside the Catholic world as a whole, or inside the Eastern Catholic one in particular.

- The Greek-Catholic Church is facing a special situation: as a result of the Communist persecution, the number of its believers is very much reduced as compared to the decades before 1948; thus, its character as a minority church is more emphasized today, in a country with a very large Orthodox majority: in the 1930 census, 13.108.227 people were Orthodox, 1.427.391 were Greek-Catholic, and 1.234.151 were Roman-Catholic3; whereas in the 2002 census, 18.817.975 people were Orthodox, 191.556 were Greek-Catholics and 1.026.429 were Roman-Catholics4.

- The Greek-Catholic Church has to manage a very tense relationship with the Romanian Orthodox Church, and in some situations also with the Romanian state5, as issues related to the properties and the churches held before 1948 has led to numerous conflicts especially in the 1990s. Local conflicts continue to emerge because of problems related to the building of churches, to the alternative celebrations of the liturgies, to the cemeteries, possible conversions, land etc.

A special situation has been constituted by the profile of identity of the Greek-Catholic believers after 1990. The phenomenon of people "returning" to the Uniate Church registered a more intense wave in the first years after 1989, but slowed down rapidly, reaching currently a state of stability, a stagnation in the process of "conversions". According to the present situation, this phenomenon could be considered stopped for at least one decade and a half. From the point of view of age, the solid core of the Uniate community consisted for years of those people who survived the Communist persecution, who loved the Greek-Catholic spirituality without restrictions before 1948, those who knew or saw personally the martyr bishops of the church or the members of the clergy who suffered in prisons or acted in illegality. The solidarity around the phenomenon of persecution was an important and coagulant element of the Greek-Catholic community after 1990. …

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