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November 26, 2022

Power without spirit

A more efficient nature, the latter had someone close to him – Laurentiu Streza – elected as the head of the Orthodox Church in Transylvania. Annoyed by the move and also mastering the weaknesses of the nonagenarian Patriarch Teoctist, Bartolomeu obtained the confirmation of the secession of the eparchies in the north, west and centre of the region. This is how a new metropolitan see was born. It was a brutal gesture, legitimised by the force of a fait accompli. The epilogue of this ecclesial story was written only a few years later, with the death of the metropolitan of Cluj. The man the late metropolitan had once wanted in the Sibiu chair, Andrei Andreicut, became his successor in Cluj, however tacitly consenting to a new territorial delineation, just as brutal and groundless. He swapped places with his unlucky competitor in Cluj, Irineu Pop, who took his old position in Alba and who, without the slightest embarrassment, demanded the re-annexation of Sibiu. The bishop of Oradea had the same demand, against any common sense logic or geographical non-enclavisation.Poor taste comedy. This is what both atheists and neo-Protestants could say. How is such thing even possible? Well, the explanation looks quite simple at a first glance. Heading a fundamentally hierarchical institution in an authoritarian manner, a patriarch of great ambitions, skilled when it comes to controlling the episcopate synod, insisted to flex his muscles even after his opponent has been buried. He made a forceful demonstration meant to deter any future evolutions towards a minimal autonomy. Working almost in secrecy, he applied the finishing stroke to the work of the biggest reformer of all local clergy representatives of the last centuries, Andrei Saguna, who had been recently canonised for pure marketing purposes serving the Church policy (Sibiu versus Cluj). By a simple synod decision, the lay were deprived of the little decision-making power they still had in a highly clerical Church. The truly embarrassing thing in all this is the servile manner in which the actors of the current re-division danced to the patriarch’s tune. It so happens that all of them are blakmailable. Andrei of Cluj has been striving for years to claim his innocence regarding his alleged collaborationism with the former communist political police. Irineu of Alba had lain waste for almost twenty years, ostracised after his mysticoido-monarchist adventure of ‘the Pucioasa movement’. Sofronie of Oradea was ‘redeemed’ in extremis for his liturgical solidarity with the Greek Catholic Church. Even Metropolitan Nicolae of Banat, who consented to the Deva Bishopric also line up to Sibiu, is not only ostracised for the same solidarity with the Greek-Catholics, but also carries the burden of a horrible, paid and zealous collaboration with the same political police. People like these cannot stand up to the patriarch. Actually, they don’t even want to. They are all capable of a shameless versatility. Nothing new under the sun so far. People without a spine can be found everywhere, at any time. The problem is when they represent an institution with a claimed spiritual mission, therefore a model of excellence. How can a Church subservient to the State defend its parishioners? How can a bishop or a priest pursue any meaningful initiatives as long as the principle of hierarchic submission works more strictly as it does in the Army? The Orthodox Church is the victim of a conformism that makes havoc in the society. In the last years the debate was going on a certain clash between ‘the ecumenist’ and ‘the traditionalist’. But the actual difference between the two is much shallower than that. It’s down to psychology. The former are supporters of ‘ecumenical’ tourism, love to attend international conferences and generally make the most of the advantages of Western civilisation (scholarships, internships, collaborations); the latter, on the other hand, have a more subtle ego, they want to make sure they are in the right boat and are always up for a good fight to prove their are right and gain influence. Meanwhile, the Church prospers, restores its estates, gets social privileges with the assistance of political accomplices and dispatches goods it makes through hypermarket chains. And the Church enjoys an immense authority, especially over certain categories of the public, based on its specific offer: blessings and healings, charismatic guides and faith tourism. Why do all these seem so far away from the Christic spirit of the Gospels?

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