Ana-Maria Iancu (Rădulescu), Romanian Orthodox Church – State Relations. A Case Study: the Metropolis of Oltenia (1939-1964)

Mitropolia Olteniei Publishing House, Craiova, 2023

Studying Church-State relations implies understanding how the Church works, the principles on the basis of which it relates to the political authorities, taking into account its purpose, which is not a material and temporal one, but the salvation of all believers, regardless of aspects deemed to be transient, as the political regimes succession. From this point of view, it can be claimed that a significant part of the studies carried out until now in Romania on this topic are able to capture but incompletely the way the Church can act in a certain situation, in accordance with its dogmatic and canonical principles. Thus, it can be claimed that there is a need to carry out studies that address the issue of Church-State relations from a new angle, studies that combine as objectively as possible the various approaches used so far (historical, theological, of political science), in order to capture the complexity of the topic.

This PhD thesis studies the evolution of relations between the political authorities and the Church in the Metropolis of Oltenia, in the period from 1939 to 1964. The author intends to validate the general hypothesis according to which the local power factors agency is particularly important for understanding the relations between the Church representatives and those of the State in the studied time period. Otherwise, focusing only on the discourse analysis of the Church representatives and on the legislation and official measures adopted by the State representatives, and not taking into account the local level relations and power games (much more difficult to capture, it is true), as well as the double language adopted, compelled by the context, by some Church representatives, can only lead to an analysis quite distant from the “grassroots” realities of Church-State relations.

Romanian Orthodox Church – State relations, in the period from 1939 to 1944, as mirrored in the Metropolis of Oltenia, characterized by the political authorities’ abusive interventions in the diocese’s organization and functioning, foreshadowed and made somehow possible the subsequent developments until 1964. The hierarchs’ appointment by the political factors with only their formal election by the Holy Synod, the misuse of the clergy as officials of the State, the removal of inconvenient hierarchs by infringing church legislation, the non-canonical dioceses’ creation and dissolution, were abuses that limited Church autonomy in this period, diminishing the hierarchy, clergy and believers’ resilience toward political intervention in the religious sphere.

Beginning with 1944, and especially after 1948, the abuses took place on a completely different scale and intensity, as the political authorities resorted to unprecedented measures of repression and control of the Chuch, i.e. mass arrests of the clergy, the displacement of priests from parishes on the border with Yugoslavia and the closing of monasteries.

Behind the brutal measures of 1944-1964 as well as the oppressive communist legislation on religious denominations, a less visible war of attrition took place, at the central and local level, between, on the one hand, the Church hierarchy and, on the other, the Party and the State’s officials in the territory, the regional representatives of the Department for Religious Denominations and the Security officers with duties concerning the supervision of religious life. Focusing on a case study, such as that of the Metropolis of Oltenia, allows us to draw conclusions regarding this less-studied aspect, of religious policy implementation at the local level, and the importance of local authorities’ initiatives in shaping and applying this policy.