Editura Universitara The Romanian Orthodox Church during the First World War

ISBN: 978-606-28-0310-0

DOI: 10.5682/9786062803100

Publisher year: 2015

Edition: I

Pages: 476

Publisher: Editura Universitara

Author: Constantin Claudiu Cotan

Product Code: 978-606-28-0310-0 Do you need help? 0745 200 718 / 0745 200 357
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Father Cotan Claudiu Constantin is a doctor in theology, associate professor at the Faculty of Orthodox Theology in Constanta and doctor in history of the Faculty of History, University of Bucharest, where he defended his thesis entitled: Romanian Orthodox Church during the First World War, a major topic topicality considering the fact that next year marks one hundred years since Romania's entry into the battle with the Entente. The participation of our country in this war changed the history of the Romanians who obtained, after the victory, more than they had ever dreamed of, Greater Romania.
What draws attention from the beginning to this doctoral dissertation is the vastness of the sources and the researched literature, in order to offer the historian, the theologian and, last but not least, the reader both a historical perspective and a theological analysis regarding the role played by Romanian Orthodox Church during the Great War. The author himself confesses that "Our work aims to capture an aspect that has not been researched so far, the life of the Romanian Orthodox Church in the old kingdom of Romania during the First World War." For the full success of this approach, the author starts the road with a brief presentation of the sources, followed by a necessary highlighting of the research stage, stating that his scientific approach is based primarily on research of national archives, but also those belonging to the Orthodox Church. Romanesque, without neglecting the memories of contemporaries, who also recounted the church events that took place during the war.
This book contains, in addition to the actual treatment, an important number of documents, many of which are unpublished in the Annexes chapter. By presenting these documents, the author offers us the uniqueness of his work which becomes a reference for those who are interested in studying the history of Romanians. Father Constantin Claudiu Cotan aimed to present the history of the years before and after the war, with an analysis of the involvement of the Romanian Orthodox Church in important events that took place in those times. Bishops, priests and monks had their role in the great effort that our people made to support the Army during the fierce battles.
It is known that throughout the history of the Romanian people, the Church, the clergy in general, have made enormous efforts for defense and freedom. In most emancipation movements, revolutions or uprisings (Horia's Uprising, Tudor Vladimirescu's Revolution, the Pasoptist Revolution and the War of Independence) the clergy were with the people, trying to help both gain the rights and freedoms of the people and their prosperity. cultural, economic and social. Father Cotan highlighted this in his doctoral thesis: Ortodoxia si miscarile de emancipare nationala din sud-estul Europei in secolul al  XIX-lea (Orthodoxy and National Emancipation Movements in Southeastern Europe in the Nineteenth Century), Edit. Byzantine, Bucharest, 2004, defended at the Faculty of Orthodox Theology in Bucharest in 2001. The new doctoral thesis is the logical continuation of the elaborate research that the author carried on.
During the First World War, the Orthodox clergy had their own contribution to the battles on the front, through military priests. Monks and nuns from monasteries across the country have dedicated themselves to caring for the wounded and sick in hospitals and sanatoriums. Hospitals for the wounded have been set up in Moldovan monasteries. The wounds of the Romanian soldiers were bandaged by the hundreds of nuns and monks who served as sisters of charity and nurses in all military hospitals. The military priests stood in trenches with the soldiers he confessed and shared at every difficult moment of the battles. The hearts of these servants of God beat along with those whom they blessed at every attack they made on their enemies.
We must not forget the fact that the Orthodox hierarchy and clergy considered Romania's entry into the war as a necessary action. The sacrifice of the Romanians was just right. The author shows us in his documented work that many of the priests who remained in the enemy-occupied territories suffered detention in various camps in Hungary, Germany, and Bulgaria. Some of them suffered ill-treatment, imprisonment and even death, others took refuge, for fear of repression, in Moldova and even in Ukraine. Fearing the Bulgarians, most Dobrogean priests left their parishes, but also their believers, taking the road to exile in Moldova and Muntenia. The ruined churches and the destroyed priestly houses, but also the mistreated, imprisoned and even killed priests proved that those who had fled had good reasons.
Last but not least, the prayers, the services, the sermons, the speeches given for the blessing and encouragement of the soldiers must be mentioned here. The services of all the churches asked God for victory and divine protection for the Roman soldiers. Prayers were raised in the churches and for the spiritual strengthening of those who remained at home, who were tormented by the thought of the trials that their loved ones endured on the front. The mother prayed for her son, the wife for the husband, and the sister for the brother taken to the battle away from the village where he was born.
Father Constantin Claudiu Cotan successfully manages to present the involvement of the Romanian Orthodox Church in the events of the great act of the unification of Romania. Along with the great political personalities of the time, we see united by the same goal the Orthodox hierarchs, but also the Greek Catholic bishops of Transylvania, who together made an important contribution to the achievement of Greater Romania and the huge progress that Romanians fulfilled in the interwar period. Although the great political construction made by the blood shed by the Romanian soldiers in the First World War no longer exists, it remained in the souls of the Romanians and is still considered our moment of glory.
The above presents entitle us to consider the fact that the author of this paper has made special efforts both in terms of historical research and in terms of a relevant analysis, unequivocally, of the period presented. The author did not refrain from presenting actions and events, less honorable, created by Romanian politicians and even by some people of the Church, actions that can be attributed to the difficult context during the occupation of Bucharest, a context that was successfully elucidated by the author, according to the researched documents. This book is among the best historical research dedicated to the First World War.

Prof. Dr. Constantin Patuleanu,
Faculty of Orthodox Theology,
the University of Bucharest



was born in 1967, in Tismana, Gorj County.
He attended the courses of the Theological Seminary in Craiova (1984-1989).
His theological training continued at the Faculty of Theology in Bucharest (1990-1993), where in 2001 he obtained the title of Doctor of Theology with the thesis: Ortodoxia si miscarile de emancipare nationala din sud-estul Europei in secolul al XIX-lea.  (Orthodoxy and the national emancipation movements in Southeast Europe in the 19th century.)
Between 1991-1996 he attended the courses of the Faculty of History, University of Bucharest, where after defending his thesis: Biserica Ortodoxa Romana in timpul Primului Razboi Mondia (The Romanian Orthodox Church during the First World War), he obtained the title of Doctor of History.
Father Claudiu Cotan is an associate professor at the Faculty of Orthodox Theology in Constanta.
Among his most important works we mention: Ortodoxia si miscarile de emancipare nationala din sud-estul Europei in secolul al XIX-lea (Orthodoxy and national emancipation movements in southeastern Europe in the nineteenth century), Bizantina Publishing House, Bucharest, 2004; Istoria Bisericii Ortodoxe Romane, 1600-2000. Studiu introductiv (History of the Romanian Orthodox Church, 1600-2000. Introductory study), Vasiliana'98 Publishing House, Iasi, 2009; Biserica si Statul. Biserica Ortodoxa in secolul al XX-lea (Consideratii generale) (The Church and the State. Orthodox Church in the twentieth century (General considerations), Vasiliana'98 Publishing House, Iasi, 2009; O istorie a Bisericilor Ortodoxe Slave (History of the Slavic Orthodox Churches), Vasiliana'98 Publishing House, Iasi, 2009.

The Orthodox Church in years of trial (Prof. Dr. Ion Bulei) / 7

1. Introduction / 9

2. Research stage / 13

3. The political-religious situation in south-eastern Europe at the beginning of the 20th century / 17
3.1. The political and confessional situation in Transylvania / 17
3.1.1. The attitude of the Transylvanian Orthodox clergy towards Romania's entry into the war / 27
3.2. The political and religious situation in Bucovina / 31
3.3. Bessarabia at the beginning of the 20th century / 34
3.4. Serbs and the Orthodox Church in the early twentieth century / 42
3.5. The Orthodox Church and the Bulgarian state at the beginning of the 20th century / 46
3.6. Greek Orthodox Church around the First World War / 49
3.7. The political-religious situation of the Albanians at the beginning of the 20th century / 52
3.8. Romanians from the south of the Danube / 54

4. The Romanian Orthodox Church at the beginning of the 20th century / 61
4.1. The Orthodox clergy and political life in Romania at the beginning of the 20th century / 66
4.2. The attitude of the Orthodox clergy towards the social and religious problems in Romania / 67
4.3. The Romanian royal family and the Orthodox Church / 78

5. Orthodox hierarchs in the war years / 82
5.1. Primate Metropolitan of the Romanian Orthodox Church / 82
5.2. Bishopric of Ramnicu / 84
5.3. Episcopate of Arges / 87
5.4. Bishopric of Buzau 89
5.5. Metropolitan Church of Moldova / 89
5.6. Episcopia Romanului / 94
5.7. Bishopric of the Lower Danube / 95
5.8. Episcopate of the Hussites / 102

6. Romania in War / 105
6.1. The action of Alexandru Tzigara Samurcas / 113
6.2. The situation of the Orthodox clergy in Dobrogea / 119
6.3. Romanian Orthodox Church in the occupied territories, 1916-1918 / 125
6.4. The Orthodox clergy under German occupation / 135
6.5. Metropolitan Conon and the occupation authorities / 144
6.6. The problem of the new calendar / 148
6.7. The Bulgarian Te-Deum / 152
6.8. Metropolitan Chancellery and Marius Theodorian Carada / 154
6.9. "The Call of the Primate Metropolitan" / 161
6.10. The event of February 17, 1918/171
6.11. Confiscation of church property / 175

7. The military clergy during the First World War / 185
7.1. Orthodox priests on the front / 188
7.2. Preparing and maintaining the morale of the troops / 191
7.3. The activity of the Orthodox clergy and theologians in the sanitary structures of the army / 196
7.4. The military clergy in Bessarabia / 204
7.5. Orthodox priests in camps / 209
7.6. The care of the Romanian Orthodox clergy for orphaned, widowed and wounded children / 210

8. Moldovan Orthodox Church during the First World War, 1916-1918 / 215
8.1. The Moldovan Front / 237
8.2. Monks and nuns in the sanitary service / 240
8.3. The Synod of Iasi from 1918/247

9. The Great Union / 252
9.1. Romanians everywhere and the Great Union / 255
9.2. The union of Bessarabia with Romania and the Orthodox clergy / 259
9.3. Bucovina and the union with Romania / 264
9.4. National Assembly from Alba Iulia (December 1, 1918) / 266
9.5. The contribution of the Romanian Orthodox Church to the Great Union / 271

10. The Orthodox Church at the end of 1918. The resignation of the primate metropolitan Conon / 273
10.1. The situation of the Romanian Orthodox Church and the military campaign of 1919/275

11. Conclusions / 283

12. Annexes / 287

13. Bibliography / 463

A spectacular research (Fr. Prof. Dr. Constantin Patuleanu) / 475

The history of the Great War continues to be one of the topics of generous research, which still has shadows on which it is required to cast at least one ray of light. This work aims to shed light on such a shadow, the life of the Romanian Orthodox Church in the Old Kingdom of Romania during the First World War. Our scientific effort is based, first of all, on the research of the national archives and of those belonging to the Romanian Orthodox Church, especially the Archive of the Holy Synod and that of the Metropolitan Church of Moldova and Bucovina. In order to capture the situation of the Romanian Orthodox Church in those years, we also appealed to the memoirs of contemporaries who, for the most part, also mentioned the church events that took place in the occupied territories or on the battlefields of Moldova. and from various other regions.
About the church life from this period of Romanian history, Nicolae Iorga left us the following lines: “On the eve of a war that had to decide on the entire future of the third and the nation, the Church of the Romanian kingdom no longer represents, through the incessant intrusion of the State, that is, of the parties in the struggle for its domination, that moral force which had once made its glory.
Around the forced withdrawal of Metropolitan Athanasius, a fierce battle had taken place around the trial of Bishop Gerasim Safirin, in which even the lowest weapons of slander and insult had been used, dangerous elements using these scandals to compromise the sacred institution they claimed. to serve. The pamphlet, which spared nothing from the private life of the attacked, had acquired an unprecedented development and audacity in the long history of an honest and good-doing Church. The accusers were often far inferior to those whom they attacked in the name of religion and morality. One of the young clergymen from Bucovina, and not one of the worst and least prepared, I think has the right to interfere in this sad conflict.
Attempts at reform, such as those, bold and sustained with talent, which made, for some time, the popular figure of the young archimandrite Julius Scriban, from a family of energetic defenders of their point of view in the Church, had the disadvantage of being disoriented, sometimes recommending Catholic formulas, and that they used the same means as the authors of articles and pamphlets with a polemical character against people, whatever their true value.
In this atmosphere came (1910) the church reform inspired by Minister Haret by his lay advisers who had gone through the priesthood school. She was strongly influenced, namely directly, not through Transylvania, by the Protestant spirit. By maintaining all the rights that the State had arrogated to itself, the authority of the bishops was further diminished, who remained to be elected from now on before the reunited Chambers, Christians and heterodox being received to vote together with the others, and it was given, in addition to the Synod, extended attributions to a church Consistory, which also included priests and deacons and which decided on service books, programs, judgments, administration, finances. On the personal quarrels and on the hasty reforms, the body of the Metropolitan Church of Sibiu, "Roman Telegraph", wrote these good lines:
"The turmoil continues in the church body through reforms and para-reforms, which are sometimes poisoned by an inevitable political party spirit, as well as resignations of Metropolitans, disciplinary bishops, even just, are in no case meant to produce in the organism of the Church that undisturbed peace, which is indispensable for its silence and strengthening”.
In fact, the Superior Consistory never gained the authority it thought was possible, and the power remained, in fact, in spite of some unheard and echoless priestly speeches, also in the hands of the bishops. And these were personalities without any relief, like the one whom, for his undeniably clean life, and not for his almost barren scholarly merits, or for the great qualities of intelligence in this former race teacher, the one who descended from the boyars Moldovans, elected by the reunited Parliament: Conon Aramescu Donici, former bishop of Husi. The nationalist attitude of this old prelate during our neutrality, when he said openly what is our duty to our captives, was to change the time of war, from weakness of character, perhaps due to age, in yielding to the urges that- they called him to the side of the German occupiers. And he will strengthen with the dance in this abyss and some of the people who had inspired the highest hopes until then.
With the three tired elders, Conon in the Kingdom, Vladimir in Bucovina and Ioan Metianu in Transylvania, to which were added, in the united Church, the advanced years of Bishop Victor Mihaly from Blaj, with bishops, including one each, like Father Traian Badescu from Caransebes, a worthy successor of Nicolae Popea, had dared to show hostile feelings to the Hungarian state, but most were tired, like the one from Arges, the scholar Gherasim Timus, like the one from Arad, the good landlord Ioan Pop, or compromised for simony that Dionisie Climescu from Buzau, or, still young, had not yet had the opportunity to mix decisively in the political field, enters the war most losing lives, but the most hopeful, the entire Romanian nation.
During these battles, the episcopate, in all Romanian provinces, had no role, except for the good national dress of the Iasi metropolitan, Pimen Georgescu, from a village in Prahova, Provita, which circumstances closely linked to the pains and expectations of those refugees around the flag, defeated, but not dishonest, in Moldova. The attitude of Father Gurie Grosu from Bessarabia, who became vicar of the Moldovan Metropolitanate, was also good. The Transylvanian bishops were forced to confess, even hypocritically, their adherence to the powerful in Budapest, and the Government had placed, as we showed above, at the head of the Transylvanian episcopate of the Orthodox Vasile Mangra, who paid by denying all his national past. The words of the great historian determined me to stop with remembrance on this historical period and to observe if at all these harsh words towards the Orthodox hierarchy come true. The approach proved not to be easy, considering the fact that few have given themselves, in time, the respite to leave a few lines and a few appreciations on the life of the Romanian Orthodox Church, with the good or bad ones of those trying and hard times for all Romanians. A series of works that tangentially deal with aspects of our theme were printed in the years following the Great War. At the head of those who showed a special interest in studying church life during the war of 1916-1918, I am called to remember the one who led the military clergy in those moments of great patriotism, courage and dedication of our nation, the archpriest Constantin Nazarie. He is joined by the energetic metropolitan of Moldova and Suceava, Pimen Georgescu. There are others who left pages about the troubled Romanian church history of those times, but most did not stop with the historian's insistence on their research, but only noted them as simple images from the great picture of the drama of an entire people.
After the great failure of the autumn of 1916, the Romanians managed an amazing comeback, so that, in the autumn of the following year, they would show the whole world that they had the ability to get up from their knees. Among the people of the Church who dedicated themselves to saving the homeland we remember the Orthodox hierarchs of Moldova, the priests of that Romania, who made enormous efforts to help the army, their believers and the refugees beyond Milcov in front of the enemy, but more elected the military confessors who pastored and encouraged the soldiers on the front, the Orthodox monks and nuns who, with devotion, cared for the wounded and sick in the military hospitals, some of them even arranged in monasteries.
The involvement of the Orthodox clergy in the events of the First World War, both in its military and in its political side, was an obvious fact. Not long before the outbreak of the great world conflict, probably feeling the political tensions that foretold future tragedies, the Orthodox clergy addressed in their theological-moral writings the issue of war, its compatibility with the Christian life. From a moral point of view, war is an evil, and peace is a good. Christianity condemned the war and presented it as an evil that unfortunately appears in the lives of believers. But from the beginning, Christians have responded to military duties, and the Church has not asked them to leave the army even during the persecutions of early Christianity. In the Roman Empire, which became a Christian, military service was admitted not only on the basis that it was necessary to defend the state, but also on the grounds that this state was, in turn, the one that defends and preserves the Christian order. Saint Athanasius the Great confessed: “… to kill is not allowed, but in wars to suppress the enemy is both lawful and worthy of praise. Thus, those who distinguished themselves in war deserve great honors and monuments are erected to them that announce their deeds; so that the same thing is not allowed in a certain way and at a certain time, and in another way and at the right time it is allowed and forgiven ”. These words have acquired a canonical character. Thus, in time of war, Christians are allowed to take up arms to defend themselves. It is interesting that St. Basil the Great, without imposing, but only advising, urges "those with unclean hands" to restrain themselves from Holy Communion for three years. Probably the great hierarch wanted to give Christian soldiers a means of calming the conscience troubled by participating in the killing of others, even if they were enemies. Canon Zonara states that the advice given by Saint Basil was never even applied in the practice of the Church. The same thing is mentioned by Balsamon. Moreover, priests also took part in the wars, which the Church did not remove from the ministry. In fact, in his word, the Orthodox Church proclaimed that the armed defense of the homeland is a fundamental duty of all its believers.
The experience of the two world wars, the threat of nuclear weapons and other forms of mass destruction, but even the presence of modern terrorism have changed the Christian perception of war. However, until the tragedies of the First World War, war was seen as a relative and admissible evil. The problem of war was analyzed in a special way by the Russian thinker V. Soloviev (1853-1900), for whom war is not limited to its negative definitions, but includes in itself some positive elements. Certainly war is an evil, but not an absolute evil in the category of mortal sins. Soloviov says that just as surgery, which is a painful operation for the human body, is absolutely necessary to save the sick, so war is necessary under certain conditions for the progress of society. It also states that a future global conflict will be caused by the clash between European and Eastern civilizations. Soloviev's ideas and works were highly valued in Russia, the Orthodox world and Western Europe. In the Balkan countries, his work was particularly widespread through the mediation of Orthodox clergy. Philosophers and theologians in the Balkan world, under the impetus of an increasingly present nationalism, took the interpretation of the Russian thinker on war to an extreme form, tending to say that war would be a noble action and a primary factor for the evolution of culture and civilization. engine of progress. Such conceptions put into practice could only bring tragic results.
The need to compose a paper that would present the life and activity of the Orthodox clergy during the First World War determined me to accept the request of Professor Ion Bulei, the coordinator of this doctoral thesis. There is no historical work in which church events are presented in all their complexity and in a logical and chronological order, in which to address this topic. This historical approach will be limited to the presentation and interpretation of the church realities of Old Romania, approaching only tangentially the situation in the other Romanian provinces or that of the Orthodox in the south of the Danube, Bulgarians, Serbs, Greeks, Aromanians and Albanians.
Appreciations received from Prof. Dr. Ion Bulei, supervisor, Prof. Dr. Lucian Boia, academician Dan Berindei and Fr. Prof. Dr. Constantin Patuleanu, as well as the tips for improving the work made it possible to edit this book. I would like to thank these professors for being part of my doctoral committee.


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