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The Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America (ROEA)

 

Website: roea.org

 

To the Clergy and Faithful of The Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America:

 

On the Unity of the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate with the Orthodox Church in America

 

PASCHA 2006

 

Beloved in Christ, Clergy and Faithful of our God-protected Episcopate:

 

Christ is risen!

 

Introduction

 

In addition to our recent Pastoral Letter for Pascha, we are sending you this Archpastoral Letter to inform you of the results of the work of the commission (The Joint Dialog Commission) we established some years ago to study the present relationship between the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America (Vatra Româneasca), which is part of the autocephalous, Orthodox Church in America (OCA), and Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese of America and Canada, which is part of the autocephalous Orthodox Church of Romania (BOR).

 

Some have thought that there could be some kind of administrative unity between the two Romanian Orthodox dioceses on North American soil. "The Joint Dialogue Commission" was formed to study such a possibility; it was comprised of members of both the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America (Vatra Româneasca) and the Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese of America and Canada.

 

With this letter, we are formally announcing that the "Joint Dialogue Commission" has fulfilled its assigned task. The dialogue is closed, and The Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America (Vatra Româneasca) will remain an integral part of the autocephalous Orthodox Church in America (OCA) as it has been since 1960.

 

Historical Considerations

 

In the years between 1950-1952 following the communist regime installation in Romania and the Romanian Communist regime's pressures and efforts to control the diaspora and the Church outside of Romania, The Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America (Vatra Româneasca) - which took form in 1929 and had as its first Bishop His Grace Policarp Morusca- became separated from the Romanian Orthodox Church (BOR), continuing to serve Romanian Orthodox faithful and to establish new parishes. Also at this time (1950), the Romanian Patriarchate (BOR) established a new diocese, now known as The Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese of America and Canada. In 1960, The Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America (Vatra Româneasca) entered into a canonical relationship with the American Metropolia. In an informative report to the Holy Synod of the American Metropolia, in October 1962, the late and thrice-blessed Archbishop Valerian (D. Trifa), referring to the propagation of Orthodoxy on the American Continent, stated: "We feel that being the oldest Orthodox Church in this country, our Metropolia has the prerogative of taking the initiative (of promoting a united Orthodox Church in North America). " When, in 1970, the Metropolia was recognized as The Autocephalous Orthodox Church in America, The Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America (Româneasca) continued its canonical relationship with The Autocephalous Orthodox Church in America (OCA), voluntarily petitioning it to become an integral part of the newly recognized Autocephalous Orthodox Church in America (OCA). In the minutes of the Episcopate Congress of 1970, we read: "His Grace, Bishop Valerian has conveyed to the representatives of the Romanian Patriarchate that in view of all which has happened in the last 20 years (1950-19 70), and since all efforts to re-establish acceptable relations with the Patriarchate have failed, the subject of returning under their jurisdiction should be considered closed. "

 

In "The Agreement Between the American Autocephalous Church and The Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America" (December 17, 1970/July 1971), the Episcopate states in Article 1: "The Romanian Orthodox Episcopate acknowledges and accepts the Orthodox Church in America as the sole Autocephalous Orthodox Church in America."

 

Furthermore, in Article III, it is stated: "Regarding the administration of the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America, the Orthodox Church in America agrees to the following ... The Congress of the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America is the sole legislative body of the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate having the right to approve and amend the Constitution and By-laws of the Episcopate, provided that such amendments do not contradict any of the terms of this agreement. "

 

From the official minutes of the Congress of 1971, we read the following: "Be it resolved that the Agreement between the Orthodox Church in America and the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America executed on the 17th day of December, 1970, is hereby ratified. Carried unanimously."

 

Autocephaly and Autonomy

 

An autocephalous church is a local church which exists within the given boundaries of a national state, administratively self-ruling in all areas of its life. Autocephaly literally means a "church electing its own head." An autonomous church is a local church which is within the boundaries of a national state but which is not fully self-ruling with its own head and thus it is dependent on another church to give final approval over certain aspects of its church life. Autocephalous and autonomous churches are comprised of interior, defined divisions called dioceses, each one of which is headed by a bishop. Together, the bishops are known as a synod. Each synod has a chief bishop who is a coordinator of the work of the entire local church.

 

The Autocephalous Orthodox Church of America (OCA) is comprised of numerous dioceses within the North American continent. The Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America (Românească) is one such division; it includes parishes and missions in the United States and Canada. The Archbishop is a full member of the Orthodox Church of America (OCA) Holy Synod, receiving the Holy Chrism from that Church, and he commemorates the Metropolitan.

 

The Autocephalous Romanian Orthodox Church (BOR) is comprised of numerous dioceses within the Romanian nation but it has also created dioceses beyond the borders of the Romanian State. One such diocese outside the Romanian State is The Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese of America and Canada which is within the borders of North America. The Archbishop is a full member of the Romanian Holy Synod, receiving the Holy Chrism from that Church, and he commemorates the Romanian Patriarch.

 

The Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America (Vatra Româneasca)

 

As stated previously, the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America (Vatra Româneasca) has been an integral part of The Orthodox Church in America (Metropolia) since 1960, entering into a new agreement as an integral part of The Orthodox Church in America (OCA) in 1970, and being recognized as such by the Romanian Orthodox Church (BOR), in a letter dated May 8, 199 1: "We assure you that the Holy Synod recognizes the Romanian Episcopate of the Vatra as a canonical diocese, as well as recognizing the validity of the hierarchal succession of the same diocese... " (Protocol Nr. 6391/1991: See Solia, Sept. 1991).

 

Other autocephalous and autonomous churches which officially recognize this autocephaly are: The autocephalous Churches of Russia, Bulgaria, Georgia, The Czechlands, Poland and autonomous Churches of Japan and Kiev.

 

Over the past five decades, the Bishop of the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America (Vatra Româneasca) has been an active member of the Holy Synod of The Orthodox Church in America (OCA). The Episcopate has anointed her faithful with the Holy Chrism from her, raised the name of the Metropolitan as the head of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church in America (OCA), its bishops were consecrated by the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), and it has enjoyed the canonical stability and peace which came from this unity.

 

Archbishop Valerian, Archbishop Nathaniel, and Bishop Irineu, each orally and in writing took an Oath to the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) and thus, none of these hierarchs was ever under the jurisdiction of the Romanian Orthodox Church (BOR).

 

Retirement of Archbishop Valerian

 

In 1984, Archbishop Valerian retired as Ruling Hierarch of the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America (Româneasca). A few months afterward, on October 7, 1984, 14 years after the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), he wrote a letter to His Beatitude, Justin, Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church (BOR): "Due to geographical, historical and political circumstances, the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate had to be assured of a greater autonomy, including the right to freely elect its bishop. The mission of The Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America is not only the preservation of its liturgical and Romanian heritage, hut also to continuously educate its members in religion, combined with the propagation of Orthodoxy on the American continent. To assure its existence, the Episcopate in America must look only forward and not backward. For this reason, it voluntarily became affiliated with the Autocephalous Orthodox Church in America, which is made up of various ethnic Orthodox groups who also have the same goals. Since the purpose of this affiliation was fundamental for the very existence of the Episcopate, it is therefore, irreversible.

 

Relationship with the Romanian Orthodox Church (BOR)

 

Since the 1990 change of the political regime in Romania, the relationship between The Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America (Româneasca), and the Romanian Orthodox Church (BOR) has normalized to the extent that the head of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), His Beatitude, Theodosius, Archbishop Nathaniel, and other members of the Holy Synod of The Orthodox Church in America, joyfully responded to an invitation to participate in the consecration of His Eminence, the Most Reverend Nicolae, Archbishop of the Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese of America and Canada. In 1995, Archbishop Nathaniel was officially invited by His Beatitude, Teoctist, Patriarch of Romania, to participate in a celebration of the autocephaly of the Romanian Orthodox Church (BOR). His Eminence Archbishop Nathaniel has served several times in the Patriarchal Cathedral in Bucharest and in other cathedrals in Romania. He was invited to ordain clergy in Romania for the Romanian Orthodox Church (BOR). Hierarchs from Romania have ordained clergy for the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate (Vatra Româneasca) and served in our Cathedral and churches. Our hearts rejoice in that we now "live together like brothers." (Psalm 132: 1).

 

Work of the Joint Dialogue Commission

 

The Joint Dialogue Commission was formed to respond to the suggestions fori a single Romanian Archdiocese in North America. Since 1990, the Commission has studied various possibilities. The only two plausible positions for an administrative unity of the two Romanian American dioceses are:

•  The Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese of America and Canada (BOR), joins The Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America (Vatra Româneasca) and comes under the jurisdiction of The Orthodox Church in America (OCA), or

•  The Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America (Vatra Româneasca) joins The Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese of America and Canada and goes under the jurisdiction of the Romanian Orthodox Church (BOR).

 

The Joint Dialogue commission exhausted much effort to formulate a possible third way, of establishing an "Autonomous American Romanian Metropolia". This formula is non-canonical, and therefore unacceptable. A Metropolia cannot exist on its own; it must be part of an autocephalous or autonomous Church, recognizing the authority of a synod, receiving from that Church the Holy Chrism, and publicly acknowledging the head of that Church in all liturgical services and actions.

Thus, the formula to establish an "autonomous"or "pre-autocephalous" American Romanian Metropolia is not an option for consideration.

The Formula offered by The Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese of America and Canada

 

The Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese of America and Canada commission is firm in proposing only a union which would have the new Metropolia. receive Holy Chrism from the Romanian Orthodox Church (BOR), its metropolitan commemorate the head of the Romanian Orthodox Church (BOR), and be a member of the Romanian Holy Synod. It is clear that this means that The Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America (Vatra Româneasca) must come under the direct jurisdiction of the Romanian Patriarchate. This formula is not acceptable to The Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America (Vatra Româneasca), which by the voluntarily signed agreements of its hierarch, The Most Reverend Archbishop Valerian and Church Congresses clearly chose its permanent place within The Autocephalous Orthodox Church in America (OCA).

In effect, each party has re-affirmed its present canonical status within its own jurisdiction. It is thus understood that the work of the Episcopate's commission is concluded.

It is our hope that the good will which exists between The Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America (Vatra Româneasca) and the Romanian Patriarchate and its archdiocese in North America will continue.

 

Oath and Loyalty

 

Every clergy, priest or deacon, who has been ordained into the ranks of the clergy of The Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America (Vatra Româneasca), has signed a written Oath of Loyalty to uphold the Bishop, the Episcopate Council, the Episcopate Congress and the Constitution and By-Laws.

 

Every clergy, priest or deacon who has been accepted from the Church of Romania or from any other jurisdiction into The Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America (Româneasca) before petitioning to be accepted into the ranks of the clergy of The Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America (Vatra Româneasca) was made aware, and thus knew that The Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America (Româneasca) is a part of The Orthodox Church in America (OCA). Upon petitioning and then being accepted into the ranks,'every priest and deacon signed a written Oath of Loyalty. In other words, every clergyman was aware that acceptance into The Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America (Româneasca) meant he would become a clergyman of The Autocephalous Orthodox Church in America (OCA).

 

Each time a clergyman is given a new assignment, he again signs the same written Oath of Loyalty under present circumstances. To become a member of an Episcopate parish, a person is to be made aware of the position of The Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America (Vatra. Româneasca) in The Orthodox Church in America (OCA) and those who are elected to hold office in a parish council recite in public the prescribed Oath of Loyalty.

 

It may be that among the ranks of the clergy some may wish to leave The Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America (Vatra Româneasca) for another jurisdiction. Any one who petitions the Episcopate will be released to His Beatitude, Herman and through him to whatever jurisdiction the clergyman indicates. Any of the faithful who may wish to disassociate from an Episcopate parish is free to depart. It is understood that the parishes and missions which are under the spiritual authority of the Archbishop remain within the jurisdiction of The Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America (Vatra Româneasca), being integral parts of the Episcopate.

 

Clergy are not members of social societies whose constitutions may indicate such departures are matters of "personal" and subjective choice. The Church is One and each person, ordained or not is part of the One Body of Christ, His Holy Church which is One throughout the world. Each person has as their spiritual father the hierarch whose name they elevate in public and personal prayers.

 

Conclusions

 

We are aware that the termination of the dialog and our resolution will not be pleasing to some, and the Episcopate will continue to be criticized for "not returning to the bosom" of the Romanian Church.

 

Sadly, very sadly, the Church throughout the world suffers from divisions based not on the Canons of the Church but on worldly cares. During the Hymn of the Cherubim we are reminded to "Lay aside all earthly cares." Let us include in our petitions before the All-holy Trinity that God's grace, which He freely bestows, moves the hierarchs of the Church to call the long-awaited Ecumenical Council to resolve those issues which complicate and hinder the witness of His Holy Church in the 2 1 st Century.

 

We cannot speak of disunity. All who partake from the same Holy Chalice are united into Christ. We shall continue to enjoy the friendship and spiritual love which now exists in the Romanian Orthodox Community in North America and with the Church of Romania.

 

The Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America (Vatra Româneasca) continues her witness to Our Lord and God and Savior, Jesus Christ, with and in The Orthodox Church in America (OCA) as she has for the past five decades, continuing to give thanks to the All Holy Trinity for mercy and truth.

 

+ NATHANIEL, By the Mercy of God and the People,

 

+ Archbishop of Detroit and the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America - Orthodox Church in America.

 

(April 23, 2006)

 

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