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What is the Romanian Orthodox Church?

Romanian Orthodox Church

The Romanian Orthodox Church is an autocephalous (or self-governing) church within Eastern Orthodoxy. Being independent, the Romanian Orthodox Church has its own patriarchate (ecclesiastical jurisdiction). The Romanian Orthodox Church is headquartered in Bucharest, Romania. According to the World Council of Churches, the Romanian Orthodox Church has almost 19 million members worldwide.

The vast majority of Romanians belong to the Romanian Orthodox Church. Other countries with Romanian Orthodox dioceses include Moldova, Hungary, Serbia-Montenegro, New Zealand, Australia, France, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Canada, and the U.S.

The Romanian Orthodox Church traces its history back to apostle Andrew, who they say preached in the region between the Danube River and the west coast of the Black Sea. Romania gained its political independence in 1877, and the Eastern Orthodox Church granted the Orthodox Church in Romania self-governance in 1885. During the communist era, the Soviets suppressed the Romanian Orthodox Church, taking over church schools, confiscating church property, and killing or imprisoning hundreds of priests, monks, and nuns. The Romanian Communist Party methodically removed all anti-communist clergy and infiltrated the priesthood with the secret police. Eventually, the compromised Romanian Orthodox Church began promoting active support of the communist regime, asserting that the church owed allegiance to the secular government the same as they owed allegiance to God. After the fall of the U.S.S.R., Romania embraced democracy, although the government still controls various aspects of church administration, and clergy are paid by the state.

Relations between the Romanian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church have been strained at times, mostly over the churches’ competing jurisdictions in Moldova, the country between Romania and Ukraine. The Moldova Orthodox Church answers to the Moscow Patriarchate, but the Metropolis of Bessarabia (the region of Moldova) is part of the Romanian Orthodox Church. Leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church have at times accused the Romanian Orthodox Church of proselytizing in Moldova, attempting to add to the Metropolis of Bessarabia by “stealing” members from the Moldova Church. In this religious wrangling, the Romanian and Russian churches are falling in line with old political disputes over Moldova.

The doctrine and practice of the Romanian Orthodox Church follow those of other churches within Eastern Orthodoxy. The Romanian Orthodox Church observes seven sacraments; venerates icons; prays to Mary, the “Mother of God,” and other saints; prays for the dead; and teaches that salvation is works-based. These teachings contradict biblical doctrine. The Bible teaches that prayer is to be directed to God alone, and it is clear that salvation is all of grace, apart from human works (Romans 4:5). The Orthodox message of salvation is “another” gospel to be avoided (see Galatians 1:6–9).

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This page last updated: January 4, 2022