Michael Bourdeaux – Keston College and Romania – Lecture notes – 1

1. 9th visit – June 1990 – just passing through – but already rich experience after 10 months of denuded shops in Moscow. Longer in 1977 – taking American tourists by bus on wonderful route from Bulgaria – Bucharest, Sinaia, Brasov, Cluj, Oradea and into Hungary.

2. Last two weeks of August 1978. Sadness in my life. Invite “to come on holiday with your children” via Fr Lucian Gafton (d.1996) from Patriarch Justin (elected 1977). Graciousness, universal kindness – but another side: “Let’s take a closer look at this man”. Convoy – Sinaia, Paltinis, Iasi, Suceavita, Black Sea. 3 cars in Moldavia! “Dorin” who couldn’t see watchtowers. Last night – answered desperate plea from Fr. Gheorghe Calciu-Dumitreasa to visit him and wife. He knew his time at liberty was up. Arrested 10 March 1979. Part of what I wrote for The Guardian when he died in December 2006:

Was ever a hunted man more in control of himself, more visibly spreading love and calmness among those around him?  Such was the spiritual control of Fr. Gheorghe Calciu-Dumitreasa on August 28, 1978, when I met him secretly in Bucharest.  He exuded confidence: confidence that he would shortly be imprisoned; confidence that his recent actions expressed a compulsion to do and say what his faith dictated in the most difficult of circumstances.  On that day Fr. Calciu (as he was universally called) could look back on eleven years of study, semi-secret ordination as a priest of the Romanian Orthodox Church and teaching at the theological seminary in Bucharest, preceded by sixteen years of deprivation, barely surviving the horrors of a succession of some of communism’s most brutal prisons.  On that August day, too, he knowingly faced further imprisonment – a sentence, as it would turn out, of a further ten years for sharpening the social conscience of his students and confirming their moral obligation to stand firm against the imposition of state atheism. Converted in prison; refused permission to train for priesthood. Secret ordination at 48. Lent sermons 1978 in seminary (students locked in rooms, but general public came): “Seven words to young people”. Addressed those “whose souls have been damaged by a materialistic philosophy and a total lack of spiritual endeavour.” Called on Ceausescu to reverse policy of destroying historic churches to make way for his monstrous palace. He began one of his sermons: “The time has come, young man, for you to hear a voice which has been calling you. It’s a voice you have never heard before – or perhaps you have heard I, but never understood or obeyed. It is the voice of Jesus.” Who could fail to be alerted and take notice?  No trial. Patriarch Justin called on him to repent – disgrace. Again he nearly died. 1984 released five years early, after strongest representation by President Reagan, but continuing house arrest until emigration to USA 1985. World mission. Visited Keston and then addressed Annual Meeting 1987. Stunning occasion. Romanian Church in America never recognised his defrocking, so continued ministry there and was able to revisit Romania several times after collapse of communist.

3, We tried to keep balance – not just report on persecution: so 3rd-ever edition of Religion in Communist Lands –article on formal position of Romanian Orthodox Church (Miranda Villiers). Future Patriarch Justinian harboured Gheorghiu-Dej when on run. 13m adherents, 65% of total population; 8,600 parishes with 9,400 priests. Collaboration with State – yes – but gained as well as lost from this. Ceausescu’s father buried with full rites in country church. 1971 118 new priests; 1400 theological students. 105 monasteries and convents, lively: 540 monks and 1443 nuns. Joined World Council of Churches 1961 – relations with Anglican Church strong.

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1.    9th visit – June 1990 – just passing through – but already rich experience after 10 months of denuded shops in Moscow. Longer in 1977 – taking American tourists by bus on wonderful route from Bulgaria – Bucharest, Sinaia, Brasov, Cluj, Oradea and into Hungary.

2.    Last two weeks of August 1978. Sadness in my life. Invite “to come on holiday with your children” via Fr Lucian Gafton (d.1996) from Patriarch Justin (elected 1977). Graciousness, universal kindness – but another side: “Let’s take a closer look at this man”. Convoy – Sinaia, Paltinis, Iasi, Suceavita, Black Sea. 3 cars in Moldavia! “Dorin” who couldn’t see watchtowers. Last night – answered desperate plea from Fr. Gheorghe Calciu-Dumitreasa to visit him and wife. He knew his time at liberty was up. Arrested 10 March 1979. Part of what I wrote for The Guardian when he died in December 2006:

Was ever a hunted man more in control of himself, more visibly spreading love and calmness among those around him?  Such was the spiritual control of Fr. Gheorghe Calciu-Dumitreasa on August 28, 1978, when I met him secretly in Bucharest.  He exuded confidence: confidence that he would shortly be imprisoned; confidence that his recent actions expressed a compulsion to do and say what his faith dictated in the most difficult of circumstances.  On that day Fr. Calciu (as he was universally called) could look back on eleven years of study, semi-secret ordination as a priest of the Romanian Orthodox Church and teaching at the theological seminary in Bucharest, preceded by sixteen years of deprivation, barely surviving the horrors of a succession of some of communism’s most brutal prisons.  On that August day, too, he knowingly faced further imprisonment – a sentence, as it would turn out, of a further ten years for sharpening the social conscience of his students and confirming their moral obligation to stand firm against the imposition of state atheism. Converted in prison; refused permission to train for priesthood. Secret ordination at 48. Lent sermons 1978 in seminary (students locked in rooms, but general public came): “Seven words to young people”. Addressed those “whose souls have been damaged by a materialistic philosophy and a total lack of spiritual endeavour.” Called on Ceausescu to reverse policy of destroying historic churches to make way for his monstrous palace. He began one of his sermons: “The time has come, young man, for you to hear a voice which has been calling you. It’s a voice you have never heard before – or perhaps you have heard I, but never understood or obeyed. It is the voice of Jesus.” Who could fail to be alerted and take notice?  No trial. Patriarch Justin called on him to repent – disgrace. Again he nearly died. 1984 released five years early, after strongest representation by President Reagan, but continuing house arrest until emigration to USA 1985. World mission. Visited Keston and then addressed Annual Meeting 1987. Stunning occasion. Romanian Church in America never recognised his defrocking, so continued ministry there and was able to revisit Romania several times after collapse of communist.

3.     We tried to keep balance – not just report on persecution: so 3rd-ever edition of Religion in Communist Lands –article on formal position of Romanian Orthodox Church (Miranda Villiers). Future Patriarch Justinian harboured Gheorghiu-Dej when on run. 13m adherents, 65% of total population; 8,600 parishes with 9,400 priests. Collaboration with State – yes – but gained as well as lost from this. Ceausescu’s father buried with full rites in country church. 1971 118 new preists; 1400 theological students. 105 monasteries and convents, lively: 540 monks and 1443 nuns. Joined World Council of Churches 1961 – relations with Anglican Church strong.

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Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

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