Romania: Orthodox Theological Education, 1948 to the Present

By Bria, Ion | The Catholic World, January-February 1994 | Go to article overview

Romania: Orthodox Theological Education, 1948 to the Present


Bria, Ion, The Catholic World


The situation of theology--a general term for the teaching of theology, the theological institutions, faculties and seminaries, the research studies and publications in the field of theology, professors and teachers--is totally conditioned by the situation of the church and of the country itself. It is not a rhetoric analogy, but an institutional one, because of the intrinsic character of the link between theological institutions and the church and state structure.

Three years after the revolution in Romania it is impossible to make a sound analysis and comprehensive description. General interpretation of the situation in the country is still based on the emotional reactions and contradictory reports from within the country and outside. But a fresh breath of freedom (libertate) is perceptible. Feelings of frustration of those who were actors in the revolution, inability of the new leaders to define a new model of society, the lack of readiness of the rural people for a major transition, and the superficial commitment of the intelligentsia--all of these are mixed in an ambiguous ethos. The "motherland"--so lauded in poetry, but condemned to be a land of suffering and misery under previous regimes--becomes now a capitalistic bazaar, a mixture of symbols and values, a country economically dependent on outside assistance, sometimes under conditions which are morally unacceptable.

There is one positive sign, however. While many intellectuals and minority groups behave as if their future interest lies elsewhere (because of which Romania has lost international attention), the faithful and priests do not hesitate to commit themselves to changing the country. They are preparing for the day of complete deliverance; they are looking for a time of grace. Rescued from the power of darkness, they know that the demons, of communism are still prowling around "like a roaring lion," looking for someone to devour.

Church Status: 1948-1989

During the period 1948-1989 the status of theology (institutions, curricula, teaching staff) in Romania was dictated by the Law of Cults (1949), and promulgated by the Department of Religious Affairs, one of the most oppressive powers in the atheistic propaganda system. In 1949 the main legal act was the integration of the two institutes of theology in Bucharest and Sibiu into the structure of church organization, under the responsibility of the Synod and of the local bishops (only for the several theological seminaries). Given the different accents in this ecclesiastical dependency, the period can be divided into two parts: 1948-1977, under the influence of Patriarch Justinian, and 1977-1989, in which Patriarch Justin played a leading role. Each part has advantages and inconveniences as the two patriarchs, like statesmen, had different qualities and deficiencies.

Immediately after 1949 the two institutes of theology inherited a group of excellent professors rescued from the old faculties (Bucharest, Chisinau, Iasi, Sibiu, Arad, Suceava, Cernauti), under which the quality of the teaching reached a high level, and the prestige of the theological institution inside and outside the country was excellent.

As part of the church administration, both faculties and seminaries oriented their work towards "ministerial formation," seeking through studies a direct preparation for parish ministry. Because of the shortage of priests, even the graduates of seminaries (a five year course) were accepted to be ordained priests. The patriarch Justinian had a great interest in training future priests in the theological faculties. In fact, all Orthodox priests in Romania (nine to ten thousand) are graduates of the faculty which is now a requirement for ordination. Part of the same sacerdotal orientation was the obligation for the professors to be ordained, and to have a close link with a parish community.

This orientation has some consequences: the curriculum of theological studies was adapted, and the disciplines of practical and pastoral theology gained in interest. …

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