The Synodal Act of the Romanian Orthodox Church of November 23, 1882

This past April 25, the Romanian Orthodox Church celebrated the 135th anniversary of the reception of its Tomos of Autocephaly from the Patriarchate of Constantinople. This commemoration, however, once again places into sharp relief the contrast between the historical memory of the Orthodox churches of the Balkans and the Middle East and that of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. As Patriarch Daniel of Romania explained in a speech in January of this year, “The Constantinople Patriarchate has no supremacy over the Romanian Church, Romanians did not receive the baptism or the Christian teaching from Constantinople, nor their first bishops. The Christianity of Romanians is older than the very existence of Constantinople.” In the same speech Patriarch Daniel discusses the Synodal Act of 1882, signed by all the Romanian bishops of that time, “which supported with historical and theological arguments the need for the recognition of the autocephaly of the Romanian Orthodox Church.We offer below the first complete English translation of this important document:

Synodal Act

The Holy Synod of the Holy autocephalous Romanian Orthodox Church, hearing the Synodal Letter of His High Holiness Kyr Kyr Joachim, Archbishop of Constantinople and Ecumenical Patriarch, a letter addressed to “His Grace the Metropolitan of Ungro-Vlachia, Most Reverend Exarch of the Borderlands, and locum tenens of Caesarea of Cappadocia,” as well as “to all the honorable hierarchs of the God-protected region (realm) of Romania (κράτει τῆς Ρουμανίας),” whom it calls “brothers and concelebrants of His Modesty,” was informed of its content, which is the following:

1) His High Holiness Kyr Joachim, the Ecumenical Patriarch, says that he was informed from the newspapers that last March 25, in the cathedral church of the Metropolis of Bucharest, the Sanctification of Holy Chrism took place and that through this the Romanian hierarchs demonstrated their total ignorance of the canonical spiritual supremacy (ἀρχή) of the patriarchal, apostolic and ecumenical see; that this development is against the rule that has been followed since antiquity in this region (κλίματι); that through this action the Romanian hierarchs, rather than being guardians of the rules kept in the church, have provided a model (τύπον) of disorderliness (ἀταξίας), which receives through the letter the merited rebuke. This rebuke consists of the following assertions: a) that order (τάξις) is one of the most salvific, necessary and universal things in the world and that without it and without prudence nothing in the world can be conserved; for that which is done otherwise is neither stable nor has the necessary conditions for enduring. It cites the words of the Apostle to the Corinthians, that everything be done with a blessing and according to order. This order, which should be preserved in all things, must be preserved all the more strongly in spiritual matters. b) The Romanian hierarchs, by the act of consecrating chrism, have committed disorder, trampling upon the stable order of a very old ecclesiastical custom. That the Romanian hierarchs, according to the teaching of the Apostle Peter, should be an example and model for their flock: “shepherd the flock of God that is among you… being examples to the flock.” Likewise the words of the Apostle Paul: “avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife.” c) The letter takes another argument for the rebuke from Apostolic Canon 34, which prescribes that “the bishops of every nation must acknowledge him who is first among them and account him as their head, and do nothing of consequence without his consent.” That this canon has this meaning, that the Romanian hierarchs should not dare to make Holy Chrism, which would be a novelty; since they should keep the old custom of receiving Holy Chrism from the Patriarchate of Constantinople, under whose ecclesiastical jurisdiction Romania has been placed ever since the Fourth Ecumenical Council, which was held in Chalcedon in the year 451 of Christ and which decided that the bishops of the dioceses of Pontus, Asia and Thrace as well as the bishops of their dioceses which are located among barbarians should depend on the patriarchal see of Constantinople. Among these barbarian peoples to which missionary bishops were sent in the fifth century from Constantinople and from other eparchies of the Eastern Roman Empire, the patriarch’s synodal letter includes our Romania and by this explication he believes that he establishes his ecclesiastical supremacy. d) That His High Holiness, hearing the Apostolic voice which says, “take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God,” has not overlooked to show us, for the audacious act of consecrating the Holy Chrism, to be an act of departure from ecclesiastical order and at the same time a bad example of insubordination and disobedience for the flock.

2) The patriarchal and synodal letter moreover says that rumors have spread there that in our church other innovations have also been introduced, such as: sprinkling and pouring upon the head during Holy Baptism instead of immersion; ecclesiastical funerals for suicides; the Gregorian calendar; patriarchal dignity and other novelties, which it sums up simply with the words, “and other such things.” But he then adds that he considers them to be mere rumors and he requests clarifying information about the existence of some such innovations in the Romanian Church. The letter closes by invoking the grace and mercy of God upon us.

The letter bears the date of July 10, 1882 and is signed by His High Holiness Patriarch Joachim and 11 hierarchs who are members of the the patriarchal synod.

Reading and hearing this patriarchal admonition with great attention, we felt a spiritual pleasure in our hearts, seeing that His High Holiness recalls to us many words from the Holy Scriptures and the canons, which are the norm for the administration of our Holy Eastern Orthodox Church, of which we should never lose sight in the spiritual administration of our dioceses. We also recite such words once more with great pleasure: a) The words of the Holy Apostle Paul in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, chapter 14, verse 40, where the Apostle prescribes the good order that should prevail in the temple during divine services, where he concludes his rules with these words: “Let all things be done decently and in order.” b) The words of the Holy Apostle Peter from his First Epistle, chapter 5, verse 1: ” Shepherd the flock of God which is among you… being examples to the flock.” These words, with which Saint Peter gives apostolic advice to the shepherds of the church, in their entirety are as follows: The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” c) The words of the Holy Apostle Paul to Timothy, Bishop of Ephesus: τάς νεοτερικάς ἐπιθυμίας φεύγε should be read in their entirety so that we may be well-versed and bear in mind their salvific content. The words of 2 Timothy 2:22-26 are as follows:
“Flee also youthful lusts (τάς νεοτερικάς ἐπιθυμίας φεύγε = Juvenilia autem desideria fuge); but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.”

We thank His High patriarchal Holiness heartily that he brings to our attention these holy words from the scriptures, giving us occasion to ponder them, to study them profoundly and to realize them in our life.

Besides these citations from the New Testament, His Holiness’s letter recalls to us two further canons, namely: a) Canon 34 of the Holy Apostles, from which these words from the beginning are cited: “The bishops of every nation must acknowledge him who is first among them and account him as their head, and do nothing of consequence without his consent.” The rest of the text is as follows: “but each may do those things only which concern his own parish, and the country places which belong to it. But neither let him who is the first do anything without the consent of all; for so there will be unanimity, and God will be glorified through the Lord in the Holy Spirit.” Therefore, the meaning of this text is that every Orthodox Christian nation or people has its bishops; among these bishops is one at the head of all; each administers his diocese according to the rules established by the church. When a case arises that is not foreseen by the ecclesiastical rules, the respective bishop consults with the one who is first, or the archbishop, about the manner in which to proceed in the respective case. But the archbishop or head of the bishops, in cases not foreseen by the ecclesiastical rules, should do nothing arbitrary, but rather should consult the bishops of the nation, and it should be done in this way with everything that they decide; for in this manner good understanding and unanimity will be preserved in ecclesiastical discipline. That this canon should be understood in this way, we will cite the explication given by the Russian canonist Archimandrite Ioan in his book entitled пыт курса церковного законоведения, a book which serves as a manual in Russian seminaries for the study of canon law.

In volume I, page 177 of this work, we read the following about this canon: “From this canon (XXXIV Apost.) before everything it is seen that the delimitation of local boundaries in the administration of the Christian Church, the boundaries called eparchies (dioceses) already began in the time of the Apostles. The apostolic canon for every people (ἔθνος = nation) that constitutes a particular or local church is represented by a number of bishops, each of whom directs part of the flock (παροικία) entrusted to him, which consists of a number of cities or villages (χώρα), while all these bishops have over them a primate bishop as a head, who is first among them (ἐν αὐτοις πρώτος). With respect to the apostolic era and the times closest to it,  the first followers of the apostles were undoubtedly chosen to be the primate bishops or the first in the local churches, put in place by the apostles themselves, especially in the most important places in the countries and provinces then known: Jacob in Jerusalem, Timothy in Ephesus, then the capital of Asia Minor, Titus in Crete, etc. Nevertheless, while calling the primate bishops the heads of their churches, the apostolic canon gives the understanding here not of their having unbounded power with total independence, but rather only a principal primacy, priority of vote in ecclesiastical affairs; for the subordinate bishops are not permitted to do anything that has particular importance without the knowledge and consent of the head, just as the chief bishop himself is inspired not to do anything without the common consent and agreement of all the bishops. Such actions, which go beyond the partial authority of any bishop, require the vote and decision of the principal representatives of the church– for example, the definitions of the dogmas of the faith, the composition of canons and laws for the church, the selection of bishops, judgment over them, and other such things.  According to the canon, each eparchial or diocesan bishop, has primacy and authority only in that which pertains to his eparchy and the places that belong to it. The canons of the following types have confirmed this apostolic institution (First Ecumenical Council i and vi; Second Ecumenical Council ii; Council of Antioch ix, etc.). Likewise, it can be observed that the apostolic canons only speak of a partial headship, in local churches, but do not show any universal head over the entire church– they never so much as suppose it, for not only does it portray the administration of the churches as being divided, each under its own head, but also each such head is decided by the common vote of all the local bishops” (Volume I, pp. 177-179).

The Orthodox Church of the Kingdom of Romania, whose inhabitants are of the Romanian nation, is constituted in accordance with this apostolic canon. Romania is divided into eight eparchies or dioceses, among them: two archbishrics and metropoles and six bishoprics, namely: the Metropolis of Ungrovlachia or of Muntenia, the Metropolis of Moldavia; the bishoprics of Râmnicu and New Severin, Roman, Buzău, Huși, Argeș, and of the Lower Danube. In accordance with the apostolic canon, the Archbishop and Metropolitan of Ungro-Vlachia, as the one residing in the capital of the kingdom, is the first among the Romanian hierarchs and has the prerogatives of precedence for which, alongside the title of Archbishop and Metropolitan of Ungro-Vlachia, he also bears that of “Primate of Romania and President of the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church.” He is regarded and titled thus in the Kingdom of Romania, both by clergy and laity. The Romanian first hierarch is addressed by this title wherever he has ecclesiastical business, whether to the particular administration of the Metropolis of Ungro-Vlachia or to the general administration of the Romanian Orthodox Church. Moreover, also in accordance with the with the apostolic canon in question, in their current questions of ecclesiastical administration, our eparchial hierarchs are guided by the rules established above by the church and by the traditional practice followed by their predecessors, while in cases that are not foreseen by prior practice, they seek a solution from the Holy Synod, where all the hierarchs of the land meet together: metropolitans, bishops and hierarchs, 16 in number, and that which is decided becomes a rule for all, both for metropolitans and for bishops. The synod meets twice per year according to the definition of the canons: spring and autumn. It is in this way that Apostolic Canon 34 is understood and explained in Romania, where it enters into the legislation of the country; for it is in its spirit and in the spirit of the other conciliar canons that our organic law is made, for the constitution of the Romanian Orthodox Church of the Kingdom of Romania.

b) The patriarchal letter also cites a fragment from Canon 28 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council, asserting that the Romanian Church was placed by that council under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Here is how the letter speaks in this place: “under whose (sc. of the patriarchal see) jurisdiction the 630 Holy Fathers, who constituted the Fourth Holy Ecumenical Council in Chalcedon in Bithynia, ordained should be subjected: ‘the bishops of the provinces of Pontus, Asia and Thrace, as well as the bishops of the aforementioned provinces among the barbarians.'”

We reproduce here this citation from the canon according to the Pedalion: “only the metropolitans of the Pontic, Asian and Thracian dioceses shall be ordained by the most holy Church of Constantinople aforesaid, and likewise the bishops of the aforesaid dioceses which are situated in the barbarian lands; that is to say, that each metropolitan of the aforesaid dioceses, together with the bishops of the province, shall ordain the bishops of the province, just as is prescribed by the divine canons. But the metropolitans of the aforesaid dioceses, as has been said, are to be ordained by the Archbishop of Constantinople, after the elections have first been conducted in accordance with custom, and have been reported to him.” Thus the canon determined that the metropolitains who would be chosen in the provinces of Pontus, Asia and Thrace would present themselves for the confirmation of the patriarch. This would likewise also be followed with the bishops of the barbarian populations that belong to those provinces. But what are those barbarian populations to which the Ecumenical Council of the year 451 after Christ alludes? With regard to this, the Pedalion, or the book of ecclesiastical canons published by the Patriarchate of Constantinople at the beginning of this century, of which we also have a translation in Romanian, answers us in the commentary to this canon that the barbarian populations of the fifth century whose metropolitans and bishops the Council of Chalcedon places under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople are: the Alans and the Russians. Therefore, Canon 28 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council cannot have anything to do with the Kingdom of Romania of the year 1882 of our Savior.

Here is how the Russian canonist mentioned above, Archimandrite Ioan, explains Canon 28 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council: “The council again added in its canon that under the same Patriarch of Constantinople should also be placed the bishops of the most important other peoples (that are outside the Roman Empire) which, according to ecclesiastical governance are numbered with the provinces mentioned in the canon (ἐτι δὲ καὶ ἔν Βαρβαρικοὶς Επισκοποι τῶν προειριμένων διοικήσεων). That is, the bishops of those places and peoples which received the teaching of the faith and baptism from Orthodox Byzantium, from which they also received their first bishops” (Volume II, pp. 315-316). And according to this explanation, the Patriarchate of Constantinople has no supremacy over the Romanian Church, since the Romanians neither received baptism and Christian doctrine nor their first bishops from Constantinople. The Romanians already came into Dacia with the first seeds of Christianity in the second century after Christ. The seeds of Christianity brought to Dacia developed here through the people’s own powers, such that in the third century, according to the testimony of Tertullian, Dacia was full of Christians and the bishops of Dacia participated in the First Ecumenical Council. Therefore, not one of the subsequent writers who have written about the different Christian peoples of Eastern Europe, as well as about Bulgaria and Russia, about Hungary and Poland, mention anything about a christianization prior to the Romanians, since they were already Christians since the early centuries of Christianity. We observe once more that neither by the canon of the Fourth Ecumenical Council nor by another of any ecumenical or local council is the Romanian Church placed under that of Constantinople.

In the Roman Empire it was also customary for the political administration as well as that of the church to have various centers in the most important cities of the empire. These centers were determined as much by imperial law as by conciliar canons. From these centers, administrative and organizational direction was issued in the respective regions. In the sixth century, the Emperor Justinian installed such a center in the city of his birth, Justiniana Prima, and among the provinces incorporated to that center was Dacia, where the Romanians lived. This imperial law, contained in Novel IX of Justinian, is the oldest public act recognized in the history of the Romanians regarding the jurisdiction of their church. Over the course of many centuries, they have kept this jurisdiction. With time, in the location of Justiniana Prima, Ochrid took root for the South Slavs and the Romanians preserved these old bonds that they had had with the church of Justiniana Prima. In that period, the Romanians formed an empire with the South Slavs, which they had to maintain with ceaseless struggles and bloodshed against the Byzantine Empire’s pretensions of conquest, until the Romano-Slav empire fell prey to the conquests. As the ecclesiastical law, we had Slavic literature in the Romanian Church until the 17th century. The Romanians gathered their strength and, after many struggles and much bloodshed, during the 13th century they formed two Romanian states in present-day Romania, one in Muntenia and another in Moldavia, independent of any foreign supremacy. These states once more preserved for a time their ecclesiastical bonds with Ochrid. These bonds consisted of the fact that, in case of need, the Romanians sought advice from there about certain ecclesiastical questions on which their religious conscience placed special importance.

At the end of the 14th century, there emerged for the first time the tendency of the Patriarchate of Constantinople to extend its jurisdiction over the Romanian Principalities. In Moldavia, vacancies that occurred in the country’s episcopal sees were filled according to its ancient custom.

Later, however, with the assent of the princes and boyars, the patriarchate sent to Muntenia two metropolitans, one for Greater Wallachia, the other for Lesser Wallachia. It also wanted to do the same in Moldavia, but there the metropolitan sent by the patriarchate was not accepted. It excommunicated the entire country, which continued to administer itself ecclesiastically according to the ancient custom of its metropolitans and bishops, recognized by the Church of Ochrid. The Byzantine imperial court intervened and resolved the issue in a friendly manner, forcing the patriarchate not to involve itself in the internal affairs of the Church of Moldavia and not to sent its metropolitans there, but rather to recognize those of the country and to put itself in ecclesiastical relations with them, while it persuaded the prince of the country, Alexander the Good, to put himself in ecclesiastical relations with the patriarchate, which is the center of all Orthodoxy. From here began our ecclesiastical relations with the Patriarchate of Constantinople. They were never regulated by any ecclesiastical canon or political law, but rather were always friendly relations, voluntary, moral bonds with the center of Orthodoxy. This state of affairs did not last long. After the Council of Florence, where the patriarch and emperor of Constantinople united with the Church of Rome to the detriment of Orthodoxy, the Romanian Church of both countries once again ceased the hardly close ties with the Patriarchate of Constantinople and once more bonded with the Church of Ochrid, with which it again placed itself in communion, as one that was in a peaceful place, removed from political disturbances and with which it had traditional sympathies. This state of affairs continued until the end of the 16th century. The Patriarchate of Constantinople, having fallen under Turkish domination, started to seek material, moral and political support from the Orthodox states, Russia and Romania. Visits began to the Romanian states, Muntenia and Moldavia, as well as collections of money to sustain the patriarchate, which was in the greatest danger. The first patriarchal visit to Muntenia was received coldly, but in Moldavia it was received with sympathy and Patriarch Jeremiah was given the greatest hospitality and material aid. The Church of Ochrid, having fallen under the Turkish yoke, thus also fell ecclesiastically under the Patriarchate of Constantinople. And for this reason, the churches of the Romanian lands, once more, of their own free will and according to the request of the patriarchate, placed themselves in spiritual relations with it, preserving their internal autocephaly. By the power of these friendly relations and common Orthodoxy, the princes and boyars, as well as the Romanian clergy, respected the patriarchs, joyfully received their advice in dogmatic, moral and disciplinary matters, which served for the edification of the nation. Our princes, with their political influence at the Sublime Porte, protected the patriarchs and the affairs of the Orthodox Church. They assisted them with the material means for paying their countless debts. One patriarch, persecuted by Turkish, Armenian and Jewish loan-sharks, to the point that he could no longer live in Constantinople, came to the Romanian lands for help and, wailing to Vasilie Voda about his sad position, pulled a noose out of his pocket and, showing it to the prince said, “Hang me, Your Excellency, a Christian prince, or else the pagans will hang me!” The prince had pity on this desperate situation and gave him a great sum of money. Many patriarchs dethroned by sultans and viziers found shelter in the Romanian lands until they could be rehabilitated or until their death. Here, even in their retreat, they were honored by all and received as martyrs for the cause of the Orthodox Church, persecuted by unbelievers. The reverence went to the point that they were invited to preside at the divans of our country alongside our princes. Not only the Patriarch of Constantinople, but also those of Jerusalem, Antioch and Alexandria, and even various monks from the monasteries of the East in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries walked about through the Romanian Principalities, begging for alms and assistance from the princes, boyars, clergy and people. Among other forms of assistance, Romanian alms went to the point that even Romanian monasteries with their properties were given to the administration of these monks of the Orthodox East, believing that they, as holy men, would administer these monasteries so well that, after holding them well and in good order, better than the Romanian monks, they would produce a surplus of income which they would send as alms to their unfortunate respective monasteries of the Orthodox East.

After the patriarchs started to get along well with the Turks, however, they sought to introduce an absolute domination into the Orthodox Church. They dissolved the autocephalous churches of Bulgaria and Serbia and they crushed the independence of the Patriarchates of Jerusalem, Antioch and Alexandria, reducing them to the role of metropolitans subject to their jurisdiction. They attempted to do this also to the Romanian Church more than once. Here, however, the Romanian states preserved political autonomy and so they also knew how to defend ecclesiastical autocephaly though their own powers from any arbitrary attempt by the patriarchate, such as: the nomination of metropolitans and bishops and the internal administration and legislation of the church. More than once did they hold councils or national gatherings and protested against any attempt to infringe recklessly upon the rights of the autocephalous church. These infringements by the patriarchate against our autocephalous rights date especially from the time of the rule of the Phanariots. The history of our struggles with Phanariot monks is a drama full of spiritual suffering for any Christian heart. On the one side: simplicity, religious devotion to the point of abnegation, credulity, sorrow over the suffering of their brethren from the East, enormous sacrifices for them; and on the other side: ingratitude, the desire for domination, for absolutism and for their own private interest. In a word: the exploitation of a nation of millions of believers, not for their moral, religious and material benefit, but for other foreign interests, even opposed to that nation. With the rule of the Phanariots, Greek hegumens were empowered over the Romanian monasteries. Favored by the Phanariot lords and the political influence of the patriarchate, they made themselves masters over a large part of the territory of Romania with the rights of the Romanian monasteries. They banished the Romanian monks and replaced them with their families and, entering into the hegumenate, they left even endowed foundations in a state of total dilapidation. They gathered the money from the income for themselves and for members of their family. After they enriched themselves sufficiently, the hegumens would return to the East, where they won great ecclesiastical positions while their relatives became bankers in Constantinople and the other great cities of the East. Some sent their relatives to study in the schools of Europe with Romanian money and then obtained great dignities from them in Turkey. But these Phanariot monks did nothing good for Romania: not one school for the cultivation of the clergy and the people, not one hospital for the sick, not one cultivated Romanian man formed through their initiative with the money they had at their disposal, not one Romanian book for the cultivation of the language, not one charitable institution; they even left endowed foundations in a state of total destitution. In the place of good things, they left only evils: the corruption of morals, the diminishment of religious feeling among the clergy and people, simony, robbery among the clergy and people, to the point that the conscience revolted, reading in Romanian writings from the beginning of this century about the the corruption of the Phanariot clergy, brought here by Phanariot lords and protected by the Patriarchate of Constantinople. In those times of sorrowful memory, the patriarchate, relying on the Phanariot lords, made the same infringements in the sphere of our ecclesiastical autocephaly. The lords placed heavy burdens on the country, which especially impoverished the inhabitants; there was great murmuring. There were great gatherings of boyars and clergy. So-called soborniceşti charters were made to eliminate these burdens. They were bound with great curses by the metropolitans and bishops, which were read in the churches. Terrible anathemas were proclaimed against anyone who would dare introduce them. The Phanariot lords waited until the people calmed down, then addressed the patriarchate and they gained the removal of the anathema placed by the Romanian Church. Other times, the metropolitans of the country by the power of canon law prevented marriages between close relatives. Those involved ran to the patriarchate and succeeded in bringing back from there permission, humiliating the dignity of the Romanian hierarchy. One benefit, however negative, that the Romanians received from the Phanariot monks and their involvement in our ecclesiastical affairs: the conviction that Romanians should not wait for any good for the country from foreign monks; for these monks, who may have begun with some good, always ended with evil for our country. Romanians should do good for themselves and their nation, by their own powers, and in the ecclesiastical domain– by the national church’s own powers. Only counting on them and on God and not expecting anything good from elsewhere, but rather standing strong in a position of defense from all sides.

The Romanians have been doing this for a long time. The era of our national, political and ecclesiastical rebirth dates from 1821, when the Phanariot lords and Phanariot clergy departed. Our church is the Romanian Orthodox Church, which divine providence has recently made the church of a free and independent kingdom: the Kingdom of Romania.

If, in hard times of affliction and darkness she has known how, together with the entire nation, to preserve and defend her autocephaly, she will do this today with equal vigor, when the nation, whose church she is, sees in her a great shield of defense in difficult times, a haven amidst the storms of life, and a sure guide along the path of salvation.

Nevertheless, the patriarchate has not ceased, from one era to the next, manifesting under different forms its regret that it has not been able to conquer and subjugate this church of the Romanian nation, which is strong through faith. The patriarchate has disapproved of all our our movements of national rebirth and has fought them with all the weapons it believed to have at its disposal. During our movement of 1848, the patriarchate deposed Metropolitan Neofit because he placed himself at the forefront of the nation in that movement. The country was troubled and worried about its political existence and because of this was overlooked and considered to be only an expedient in internal and external political struggles. When the unionist movement began in Romania, the patriarchate believed that it could threaten the Romanian metropolitans with excommunication if they adhered to the union and cooperated to realize it. The metropolitans, however, as in the past, continued to cooperate for the realization of this great national act. Under Domnitor Cuza, the country’s monasteries were taken out of the hands of Phanariot monks, an act by which the final remnants of Phanariot domination were wiped out and an estranged portion of Romanian estates and revenues were liberated and returned to the country, to be used only for development and national cultivation. The patriarchate sounded the alarm throughout the world, it seemed, and does not cease to complain to all the powers against an imagined injustice committed by Romania; though in reality it was a great good done by Romania. When, under the same gentleman, among other laws for the organization of the country, certain laws were made regarding the Romanian Church, these laws in fact did not find an echo in the hearts of the Romanians and were imposed by the Domnitor‘s government, as political expedients, as the affair was explained subsequently. There were, however, murmurs in the country about them. The patriarchate protested against them to the Domnitor, but its protest was dismissed. The Domnitor‘s government responded to the patriarch, combating his interference in the internal affairs of the country and the Romanian Church.

Under Domnitor Carol I, the organic ecclesiastical law, made under Cuza Voda, which had roused great dissatisfaction in the country, was transformed, taking as its basis the ecclesiastical canons and the traditional practices of the country, which gladdened all spirits in the country. Included in it is the manner of selecting metropolitans and bishops, the composition of the Holy Synod and its prerogatives in ecclesiastical affairs: the administration of the eparchies, etc. Our church has conducted itself according to this law for almost ten years now and it is in itself in no way a continuation and application of previous practices. Until today, the patriarchate pretends not to know anything about our ecclesiastical organization and position and at every favorable occasion comes to us with its pretenses of interfering in our internal ecclesiastical affairs. In all its letters to the Metropolitan Primate of Romania and president of the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church, the patriarchate uses the titles “most holy Metropolitan of Ungro-Vlachia, most honorable Exarch of the Borderlands and Locum Tenens of Caesarea of Cappodocia,” which for most of us have not had and do not have any meaning or practical application, apart from demonstrating the intention of insulting our national sensibility by not using our legal titles. On this occasion we also recall that at present our country is not merely a region, domain (κράτος, κλίμα), but the God-protected Kingdom of Romania.

This is, in short, the history of the autocephaly of the Romanian Church which– on the one hand, has been held and practiced by Romanians without interruption as a dignity inherent to an autonomous nation, defended with zeal and piety by all past generations over many centuries– and on the other hand was fought and argued against by the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which has nothing in its favor apart from some regrettable cases from the domination of the Phanariots or reminiscences from that time. It gives the conciliar canons a different sense, placing us among the barbarians of the fifth century who lived next to Thrace and Pontus. Even if we had been among these barbarians in the fifth century, the patriarchate would still not have the right to dominate us ecclesiastically today. The peoples who are barbarian in their infancy with time come to be cultivated by civilization, take their place among the civilized nations and are treated as they are, not as they were hundreds and thousands of years ago. On the basis of this canon and others, the patriarchate could claim ecclesiastical domination over Russia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Serbia and even present-day Greece, since all these were at one time ecclesiastically administered according to provisions received from Constantinople.

Closing this chapter, the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church, on the basis of our Romanian history, on the basis of our modern legislation, on the basis of the dignity of the Romanian state, declares loudly and strongly that the Romanian Orthodox Church was and is autocephalous within the territory of Romania and no foreign ecclesiastical authority has the right to impose anything on us. We have no need for our ecclesiastical autocephaly to be recognized again by anyone. It is an incontrovertible historical fact for us and for those who love us and wish to be in friendly relations with our church and state. Thus we stand and thus we shall stand so long as we have breath in us and no one will budge us from this position.

At the same time, we declare that, defending our ecclesiastical autocephaly from any outside pressure, we do not wish to depart from the wholeness of the Orthodox Church. We preserve the same ecclesiastical doctrines, the same discipline, the same divine ritual that we inherited from our fathers and which are common to the Orthodox churches of all countries. We recognize in the Patriarchate of Constantinople a moral center, from which should proceed direction in all questions of general interest to the entire Orthodox Church with regard to dogma and ritual discipline. The patriarchate can, in case of need, also consult us about such matters. In such matters we can also consult it. The patriarch is regarded by us as the first hierarch of the Orthodox Church and our metropolitans commemorate him at the holy services, entreating God for him, peace, health, honor, and length of days and guidance for the Church on the right path. We will receive from that ecclesiastical center with love even spiritual advice of use to our nation and church. We wish, however, for our ecclesiastical correspondence to be in the forms customary for us and required by reciprocal dignity.

Ending now those things that needed to be said about the autocephaly of the Romanian Church and our relations with the patriarchate, let us once again return to the patriarchal letter with which we are occupied, in particular the question of Holy Chrism.

His High Holiness Patriarch Joachim rebukes the Romanian hierarchs for the act of consecrating chrism, saying that by this act they trampled on his spiritual supremacy over the Romanian Orthodox Church, that this act was contrary to the order followed among us of old, that by this act the Romanian hierarchs offered the world a model of disorder. There then follows the biblical and canonical texts that we analyzed above and which, as we have seen, bear no relation either to Romanian ecclesiastical autocephaly or to the act of consecrating the chrism. Let us explain ourselves sincerely and with deep understanding of the issue on a historical, dogmatic and canonical basis.

In the Pedalion, we find a single canon in which the act of consecrating chrism is discussed, enjoining that it not be done by presbyters: “let not the consecration of chrism be done by the priest” (Council of Carthage, Canon 6). Commenting on this canon, the Russian canonist Archimandrite Ioan says, “The consecration of chrism (χρίσματος ποίησις) in this canon is understood especially as the sacramental consecration. That is, the sanctification of the chrism. The basis for forbidding presbyters from consecrating chrism is laid out in the apostolic canons of the Church, where baptism and the other sacraments are performed by presbyters, but the laying of hands on those baptized to transmit the gifts of the Holy Spirit belongs to the Apostles themselves and constitutes a special right of theirs, from the grace and authority transmitted to them by Jesus Christ (Acts 8:14-17). After the apostles, the same laying-on of hands was taken up by the bishops through the succession of their authority from the apostles. Thus ecclesiastical writers of the early centuries testify that when performing a baptism, presbyters led those baptized to the bishops, who laid hands on them and declared them worthy of holy communion. For this reason and after the use of holy chrism and anointing in place of the laying-on of hands was established everywhere, the right of precedence in anointing and the exclusive right to consecrate or sanctify chrism was likewise reserved for the episcopal dignity. But the performance of the sacrament of unction was also left to the presbyters. The Orthodox Church has never exclusively reserved this latter act for bishops (as the Church of Rome does) and has never taken it away from the presbyters. In the book of the apostolic institutions we read, ‘you bishop, or you priest, among the first anoint with oil, then baptize with water and finally seal with chrism'” (vol. II, pp. 129-130). Thus, from here it results that the canon forbids presbyters from performing the consecration of chrism and reserves it for the bishops. The Pedalion of the patriarchate, says explaining this canon forbids presbyters from doing three things: consecrating virgins, reconciling sinners to the Church, and especially making holy chrism, all of which should be done by a hierarch. Then, in a footnote, we read something further about the making of holy chrism:

“The preparation of holy myron is called a mystery by Dionysius the Areopagite, according to Chapter 4 of his Ecclesiastical Hierarchy. Today it is very seldom in so many years that this Mystery is celebrated once in the Great Church of the Patriarchate of Constantinople: we do not know for what reason, whereas in the God-protected Empire of Russia, we hear that it is performed every two years on Great and Holy Thursday. Note, however, that no priest can perform this rite, according to the canon, but only bishops, who, to be sure, can prepare the mystery by themselves, but, for the sake of showing obedience and submission, they perform it gathered at the patriarchal see in the cathedral church.”

From here it follows that according to the canons, any Orthodox bishop can perform the consecration of chrism; but the practice was introduced that in any land with an autocephalous church the consecration of chrism is only done in the principle church, by patriarchs and metropolitans. Thus in the East it is done at the Patriarchate of Constantinople, at that of Jerusalem, at that of Antioch, Alexandria, Crete; in Russia, at the metropoles of Petersburg, Moscow and Kiev; in Austria at the metropoles of Karlovci, Sibiu and Chernovtsi. The principal logic is that the expenses required by the ingredients from which the holy chrism is made cannot be incurred by any bishop in particular, but only by the principal churches which represent the centers of ecclesiastical unity in any land with an autocephalous church.

If we return to the history of the Romanian Church of the past, we find tangible proof of the autocephaly of our church which, with regard to holy chrism, had full liberty to obtain it according to its own will and its belief. The question of chrism never became for us an object of theological discussion or of canonical jurisdiction, until the present. Otherwise, it would have been interrupted long ago, like many others, in the power of our ecclesiastical autocephaly. Of old, the holy chrism was sometimes consecrated in Romania. That is, our princes, on the occasion of visits by the patriarchs of the East– those of Constantinople, Jerusalem, Antioch and Alexandria– requested that they perform the consecration of chrism together with the metropoltians and bishops of the country. Elderly people say that in Moldavia silver vessels for the consecration of chrism were kept until recently in the Monastery of the Three Hierarchs in Iasi, from which they disappeared with other donated treasures and historical documents when the Greek hegumens withdrew from the country. Other times, the patriarchs of the East on the occasion of various needs of theirs sent holy chrism to the metropolitans as a gift; other times, our metropolitans procured for themselves holy chrism from one or another of the patriarchs of the East, according to the close friendly relations that were between them. In later times, the holy chrism was sometimes received from Constantinople and sometimes from Kiev. With chrism being procured in so many ways, in case of need the metropolitans augmented it with pure olive oil in order to obtain more time. This is permitted by ecclesiastical practice. This practice is also mentioned in the Pedalion in the commentary on Canon 6 that we cited above about the consecration of chrism. At the beginning of the 17th century, the Patriarch of Alexandria Meletios Pigas sent holy chrism to the Metropolitan of Moldavia Georgie Moghila, telling him in the letter, “increase it according to the known rule.”

Alongside this canonical and historical basis, we have also taken the dogmatic aspect of the question into consideration. Holy chrism is one of the sacraments of the Church, through which baptism is sealed. The seal of the Holy Spirit is placed upon new members of the Church– that is, the one being baptized. Through baptism he was made a son of God and fellow-heir with Christ. Through anointing with holy chrism, all his members are sealed and declared to be instruments of the Holy Spirit, which should abide in the Christian’s soul, directing his life and movements according to the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ. The seed planted in the soul of the new member of the Church through the sacrament of baptism and chrismation, or anointing with holy chrism, should grow in his life though the care of the Church, of which he has become a member. That is, through catechism, preaching, the administration of the other holy sacraments, the deposit of which is the Church. Both baptism and chrismation, without great care from the Church in the development of Christian life, remain like a seed cast on uncultivated ground– fruitless. The Church, however, must have at its disposal all means of sanctifying and perfecting the faithful. It should have at hand all means for performing and administering the sacraments and for perfection in Christian life. As one of these means is holy chrism, as the seal of baptism, the symbol of the transmission of the Holy Spirit, it is absolutely necessary that it be produced in any locality where an autocephalous church is organized. To seek this means of sanctification from the churches of other lands would mean that this church does not possess all the fullness of the means of salvation and sanctification, that if it cannot produce holy chrism, it can neither transmit the Holy Spirit to those baptized by it nor perfect them through catechism and preaching but rather looks to other churches as the ones to put its baptized into communion with the Holy Spirit. Consequently, it should bring from there catechists and preachers to preserve and develop the gifts of the Holy Spirit transmitted through chrism. In this way, the consecration of holy chrism is an indispensable attribute for an autocephalous church. Without this attribute, this church is lacking one of the principle means of salvation– the transmission of the Holy Spirit. To seek chrism from the churches of other lands means not having consciousness and faith that the Holy Spirit comes down from God: “Every perfect gift is from above, coming down from You the Father of lights,” says the holy Church. Thus our church also believes that the Holy Spirit comes down upon her just as He does upon those other churches and she seeks Him and looks for Him from above, from the Father of lights and Giver of every perfect gift.

As for the rebuke that His High Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch directs toward us for this action, we regard him, with the feeling of meekness proper to our church, as a member of our ecumenical Orthodox Church with whom we wish to be in peace and harmonious spiritual bonds, calling to mind the words of the Holy Apostle Paul to Timothy, that “a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient” (2 Timothy 2:24).

2) The patriarchal letter says that rumors have spread there that certain innovations have been introduced in the Romanian church, such as: sprinkling and pouring upon the head during Holy Baptism instead of immersion; ecclesiastical funerals for suicides; the Gregorian calendar; patriarchal dignity and other novelties, and it requests that information be provided about such novelties. His Holiness’ concern for the preservation of good order and Orthodox ecclesiastical discipline pleases us and we applaud him heartily. But the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church has no knowledge of such innovations, but rather in the Romanian Orthodox Church the respective canonical prescriptions have been preserved untouched.

Bucharest, at the Session of November 23, 1882

Romanian original here.


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