The relationship between Orthodoxy and the Western capitalist democracy is not smooth really. Reformed as they were along with the establishment of the modern national states, Orthodox Churches have nonetheless remained captive to nationalist patriotism than inclined to get enthusiastic about the ongoing globalization.
Meanwhile, the Romanian Orthodox Church chose its first patriarch of this new age, which is relevant, given Patriarch Daniel changed the look of a sometime hesitant Church. He managed to get started the work at the grandiose cathedral (which his predecessor failed to accomplish, despite his influence and his repeated attempts), he kept the institution far from useless controversies (via low-key public presence), focused himself on more efficient running of the Church – recovering and increasing the number of properties, financial support from the state, a privileged social assistance role, profitable capitalization on the pilgrimage, and religious tourism business in general, where it acquired a quasi-monopoly, but also by setting up a careful strategy aimed at reaping benefits from the trendy ‘traveling’ holy relics phenomenon.
More delicate proved the dispute with what might be called the Orthodox counter-culture, as some highly influential monks have become voices alternative to the official one, quite conformist with respect to political and social values. Justin Parvu, one of the highly regarded, has passed away not long ago. Founder of a monastery in Neamt County, he saw it not just an area of spiritual withdrawal, in the traditional sense of the word, but also as a hotbed of resistance against the negative influences of the West. For two decades, many have been those that pinned their hopes on the Petru-Voda monastery as either a spring of spiritual redemption (reputed monks, somehow improperly called “confessors” are in great demand in today’s Romania), or redoubtable fortress of `pure faith`. Such phenomenon’s implications should not be played down by any means. If politicians’ support for the Orthodoxy is politically-minded (they staunchly opposed recently the religious denomination alternative financing bill), how are the others marked by the Church’s involvement in these ‘more special’ practices?
The late father Justin Parvu, a sympathizer of the Legion of Archangel Mihail in his youth, remained loyal to his political faith to his death. Without stigmatizing too easily a movement that made its mark at its time, as the communists also did to their benefit, the lack of a clear-cut delineation is intriguing in the case of a cleric that had so much spiritual authority. Yet, this could not have been just behind its time, as claimed by some unflinching defenders of the Legionnaire Movement), as his stands were in a broader sense related to a different cultural and political paradigm.
We should recall it was he who originated a few years ago a protest movement against biometric identity documents, which he regarded as having apocalyptical sign attributes. The smoldering conflict was well-known between Patriarch Daniel (a former metropolitan bishop of Moldavia, to whom the Petru-Voda monastery was subordinated), accused of promoting an anti-national and ecumenical damaging Orthodoxy. Though two perspectives are struggling against each other here, such polarity does not rule out some surprising convergences.
The ‘holiness’ capital is tempting again for various authorities in the Orthodox Church. Even if a late patriarch Andrei Saguna was canonized while his legacy was reneged on (which supposed a certain disqualification, other candidates are even more problematic. Justin Parvu served many years in prison on political grounds and greatly supported the canonization of the `new martyrs`. The caution showed by the ecclesiastic hierarchy was due to some political involvements, as many of those concerned had Legionnaire sympathies. The forced Anti-Catholicism martyrs in the Habsburg Ardeal were easily canonized than those in conflict with the communist militant atheism. The political stake is tied to the future of secularization – its magnitude and meaning – and the social influence of religious phenomena. A saint’s canonization is, as before in history, a political matter.