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Romanian Orthodox Church after Teoctist - reform or continuity?

Marţi, 31 iulie 2007, 0:00

The Romanian Orthodox Church (ROC) would face a crucial moment once it returns to business after the death of Patriarch Teoctist, its leader, who passed away on Monday.

ROC needs to choose a new leader in a time when Romania is among the top European countries where the Church still enjoys an important degree of trust among the population. Romanians’ trust in the Church is impressive since in Europe the influence of the Church is diminishing and the need for reform springs up more often. addressed a series of questions to writers and publicists regarding the Church involvement in society and their opinion on whether the road to be pursued by the Church should be one of reform or tradition.

Some consider that there is no need of reform because the Church’s role is more of relieving the spiritual pains rather than being philanthropic. Others argue that the relationship between the Church and the society is a solid one even though imperfect and unnoticed.

Publicist Florian Bichir, an expert in theology says that the main objective of the Church is saving souls and not involvement in social activities even though such initiatives are welcomed.

Journalist Isabela Aivancesei opinionates that there is no need for reform as the mentality of the clerics is unlikely to face radical changes. The journalist says that, even though the relationship between the Church and the population is imperfect, it is not by far to be neglected.

Dan Ciachir, writer, says that the Church is involved in social activities and that people should be well aware of this even though the Church focuses on its more spiritual role.

A reader argues in a post for an article on the Romanian edition of the website that there are many people waiting for a reform now that the Patriarch died. The reader says that not all people are aware that many people left the Church for other sects because of strange cases where priests under Teoctist sometimes refused to perform the funeral ceremonies or other such duties.

ROC - A European performance

Among the European contries, Romania is fifth when it comes to religiosity according to the results of two profile studies - the World Values Survey and a Eurobarometer dedicated to special values, science and technology in 2005.

Thus, when it comes to religiosity, Romania is behind Malta, Poland and Ireland - where the Catholic Church is considered very powerful and is involved at all society levels.

But, among the Orthodox countries, Romania dethroned even Greece, a country sanctioned by the US State Department’s freedom of religion reports.

According to statistics the countries where the Church involved massively in the life of its citizens are those where the trust in the Church is very high.

As the population is less and less religiously homogenous and religious confessions grow in number for historical, political reasons or under the influence of migrant waves, religiosity starts to fall.

The Czech Republic is the most vivid example as the Czechs say joking or not, that atheism is the state’s religion. Germany, France, Holland or Sweden follow its example closely.

Tradition and social-political involvement

Thus, according to the studies quoted above, Malta is the country with the highest level of religiosity (99.1% according to World Values Survey). A true “religious phenomena” is also met in Poland, which comes second with 96.2%. Poland is also one of the biggest countries in Europe where the Catholic Church is still one of the main pillars of the society.

Its role is just as strong in day to day political arena and a clear example of this would be the late European-level negotiations on the issue of whether to maintain the Christian identity in the now-defunct European Constitution or not. Another example would be the stand of the population on matters such as homosexuality.

According to another study conducted in 2006 by the US State Department on religious liberties in the world, more than 96% of the Polish identify themselves as Roman Catholics. The great majority are practitioners.

In Ireland 88.4% of the population affirm their belonging to the Catholic Church. In this country, the acceptance of other religious communities apart of the Catholic one permitted a stable social environment. Local authorities mention religion as a perspective on people’s rights and liberties.

But in Northern Ireland one can still observe the scars of the political-religious conflict that marked the historical development of the region and brought Catholic Republicans face to face with Protestant Unionists.

The Greek model, sanctioned

In the Orthodox camp, Greece leads the tops when it comes to Church involvement in day to day life or in politics, economy and the society as a whole. The Greek Orthodox Church is still financially supported by the state which pays salaries - a treatment received by two Muslim leaders, but still to be approved to the leaders of the Jewish community.

Religious eduction is mandatory in the primary and secondary studies and the US State Department pointed out that in the case of Greece, religious freedom is by far a resolved issue. The report underlined a series of administrative and social obstacles that citizens face if they embrace another religion than the official one.

The real debate regarding religious reforms is heated in the Western European countries where the clerics do not enjoy such popularity by any means.

The phenomenon is very strong in the Czech Republic where only 33% of the population believe in God or in a superior force. The country is classified by the World Values Survey as the last among European countries regarding religiosity.

In the West, hope relies in immigrants

Among western states, the lowest religiosity level is registered in Holland (58%), France (56,1%), Germany (49,5%) and Sweden (46,5%).

In France, a dominant Catholic county where religion faces traditonally secular state policies (see policies related to the exposure of religious symbols in schools) only 1 out of 20 citizens regularly attends the Church.

Here, just as in Holland or Great Britain the popular cults enjoy the biggest popularity in areas where African, Arab or Asian immigrants live.

According to some data realized in 2003 by the Christian Church in Great Britain, cited by the NY Times at the time, half of the Londonese Church attendance on Sundays are Asian immigrants.

In Central and Eastern Europe, except Poland, Romania leads the top regarding religiosity.

Romania is closely followed by Bulgaria, another Orthodox country while all the other countries estimate serious distrust in the Church in countries such as Hungary, Slovenia, Estonia and the Czech Republic.

These countries that are getting ever closer to Western standards of living - and believing - in a trend that, some may argue, would continue with the newer EU member states, Romania and Bulgaria.

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