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Orthodox World: Romanian Orthodox Church Elects New Patriarch

by Editors

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Metropolitan Daniel, one of the young - est bishops in the Church, known for his ecumenical stance and desire to modern ize the Church was elected Wednesday the new Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church. Daniel, 56, had been seen by many as the leading choice as a replacement for Patriarch Teoctist, who died in July at the age of 92.

Daniel defeated a more traditionalist candidate, Metropolitan Bartolomeu Anania, 95-66, in a second round of voting by the Electoral Church College.

Church bells rang at the patriarchal palace to herald the election of the new head of the Romanian Orthodox Church, to which more than 80 percent of Romanians belong.

I have “a desire to serve the Church as did Teoctist, who left us a rich and luminous inheritance that we must keep, nurture and cultivate,” Daniel said. He called on Romanians who “love the Church and country to help us. We need your advice, we need your encouragement and we need your cooperation,” he said.

Daniel was one of the founding members of a group proposing renewal for the Orthodox Church. But the group was disbanded in 1990 after Daniel was elected Metropolitan of Iasi, a traditional stepping stone to becoming Patriarch. He has held that position ever since.

“He is middle-aged, a monk, a theologian and a professor. He speaks foreign languages and is a good manager. He is a discreet person and one of the youngest bishops ever,” said Dan Ciachir, a commentator on Orthodox affairs.

Ciachir said these were the first Orthodox Church elections not to have been dictated by politicians. Under Communism, the government wielded large influence over who was elected Patriarch. Before that, Romania's royal family dictated who was chosen.

Born in 1951 in western Romania, Daniel spent 12 years in Western Europe studying theology and was a teacher at an Ecumenical Institute at Bossey, Switzerland — a rare privilege for Romanians, who often were prevented from traveling abroad. His links to Romania's Securitate secret police, like those of many other top Orthodox clergy, have never been clarified.

Daniel defeated Metropolitan Bartolomeu Anania, 86, an influential traditionalist known for his criticism of political corruption and television's influence in modern life.

Although Anania is popular among intellectuals, some believed his election could reverse a dialogue with the Catholic Church, noting that he lives in Transylvania, where there are large numbers of Eastern Rite Catholics. Daniel also defeated little-known Bishop Ioan of Covasna and Harghita, a region of Romania where most residents are ethnic Hungarians, and not Orthodox. Ioan was eliminated in a first round of voting.

A spokesman for Romania's Eastern Rite Catholics, who number 350,000 and have often been at odds with the predominant Orthodox Church over the return of church property confiscated by the Communists in 1948, praised the result.

“Daniel is a good option, he is more open to dialogue and knows how to speak to the Eastern Rite Catholics. He is more moderate, and we are hopeful because he is not an ultraconservative,” Father Teodor Lazar, a spokesman for the Eastern Rite Catholics told the Associated Press by telephone.

An estimated 87 percent Romania’s 22 million inhabitants are Orthodox, and the Church has enjoyed a revival since Communism fell in 1989.

The previous Patriarch, Teoctist, had led the Church from 1986 until his death. He was praised for inviting late Pope John Paul II to Romania — the first papal visit to an Orthodox country in 950 years. But Teoctist was criticized for being too close to the Communists, and he did not favor opening the Securitate communist secret police files. Since his death, there have been tense discussions over whether high-level clerics were Securitate collaborators. The Church has criticized the debate, and has suggested priests need not publicly reveal their pasts.

Courtesy of the

October 2007 issue of The Word magazine.

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