Michael Bourdeaux – Keston College and Romania – Lecture notes – 3

9. 1977 “Call for Truth” from Ton, Pavel Nicolescu and four others. Latter now emerged as leader and set up Romanian Christian Committee for the defence of Freedom of Religion and Conscience (ALCR). 24 demands. 27 signed, including one Orthodox. Ton did not – said would detract from pastoral work. Huge scandal in Caransebes – fully documented. 1979 Nicolescu emigrated.

10. Suppression of Eastern Rite – story of Cardinal Alexandru Todea. Interrogated by Securitate in 1979, he said, “You have no power to fight me. I risk nothing, because I have nothing to lose – not work, not money, not even my freedom. After 1989 began new life…

11. The end – read first part of obituary of Patriarch Teoctist (died in 2007, obituary published in The Guardian. One of Nicolae Ceauşescu’s last acts was to send in his troops to massacre demonstrators on the steps of the Orthodox cathedral in Timişoara.  On my first day back at work in January 1990 after the Christmas break I received – as happened regularly – the English-language version of the official publication of the journal of the Romanian Patriarchate, designed partly to promote pro-regime propaganda abroad.  The surprise came when I opened it and found also a copy of the telegram which Patriarch Teoctist had sent to Ceauşescu in support of the massacre.  But Ceauşescu was already dead, executed on Christmas Day, news which stunned the world.  Patriarch Teoctist, who has died, aged 92, had just penned one of his most fulsome tributes, praising him for his “brilliant activity… wise guidance… daring thinking”, and claiming that the Romanian people were living “in a Golden Age, properly and righteously bearing [Ceauşescu’s] name”.

12. Two weeks later, 18 January 1990, the Patriarch, who had been in office for three years, retired to a monastery in shame, having admitted his collaboration with the fallen regime.  The actual words, as printed in the English-language version of Romanian Orthodox Church News, were that he had requested “to be put on the retired list.  The Holy Synod approved the request by the Patriarch.”  There was not a single word of tribute to him printed in that issue, yet the subsequent number reports his reinstatement on 4 April, as “resolved with unanimous approval by the Holy Synod”.  The claim was now made that this had been only a temporary withdrawal “for health reasons” and that he was being reinstated because he “has recovered and accepted to resume his activity as archpastor.”  But despite all this, Patriarch Teoctist survived to play a positive role over his last years. I met him here in this city when he invited me to a ceremonial lunch in 1978. I shall not forget the splendour of the occasion. So Keston’s last word on Romania – just published – is by Mariana Alina Urs, in our latest Newsletter. She calls Patriarch Teoctist a “man of compromise”, but goes on: Archival evidence points to the fact that he was vulnerable to blackmail as he may have been a supporter of the Iron Guard in his youth. Despite this, after 1989 Teoctist became very popular among the people, who helped him to maintain unity and trust in the Church.” Alina brilliantly underlines the ambiguity lying at the heart of much of the relationship between church and state during the communist period and Keston – I believe to the best of its ability – reported on this.

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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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