Little Children Shall Lead
There is a curious pastoral phenomenon in Romania at the moment: many people born and educated under Communism are receiving a religious education from their children! I have met such parents who tell me their children ask them to prepare suitable food for fasting periods according to what they have learned in their religion classes. The same is true for prayer; some parents learn how to pray from their children. Usually the children do not omit church attendance and very often the parents attend with them. Eventually this becomes a process of mutual encouragement. The school then becomes a marvelous pastoral possibility.
At the university level, students have formed the Association of Romanian Orthodox Christian Students. In January 1992 the Church of Saint Nicholas in Bucharest became a university chapel at the request of this association. In 14 university centers throughout the country there are 33 different courses (theology and social assistance, theology and philology, theology and the Romanian cultural patrimony, pastoral theology, and so on) with a total of 5,641 students (3,206 men and 2,435 women).
Theological education was very nearly abolished under Communism. There were only two theological institutes that could offer university-level degrees (Sibiu and Bucharest), and only four theological seminaries (Bucharest, Cluj, Neamt, and Caraensebes). When I was a student in Sibiu (1984-88) the total number of students was around 800. At that time the Theological Institute in Sibiu was the largest Orthodox theological graduate school in the world.
The number of Orthodox theological seminaries has now grown to 28; two of these are training nuns. The total number of students at this level is 5,524. Another seven colleges do not give a university-level degree but train teachers of religion with a lower diploma and qualified chanters for the churches. These colleges have 218 students. In addition, there are five higher medical-theological schools training nurses (with 296 students) and another 12 schools training chanters for the churches with a lower level of qualification in church music.
Theological publications, such as textbooks, reviews, and the like were severely restricted under Communism. There were five metropolitan theological reviews, three central church reviews, and one newspaper, the Romanian Telegraph. Very few other theological publications were printed. Compared to the situation in other Communist countries, this was not too bad, but there was a shortage of Bibles, prayer books, theological books, and textbooks. What little was published during that period was printed in very small press-runs.
Today we are witnessing an explosion of religious books. There are now 33 church periodicals. Hundreds of books written by Romanians or foreigners are published or republished. Three volumes of the Philokalia have already been reprinted. The Holy Fathers and ecclesiastical writers are being translated and published or reprinted. There are plenty of Bibles, prayer books, textbooks, liturgical books, books of liturgical music, and a very wide range of religious literature.
Orthodox Cultural and Charitable Work
There is a new flowering of Christian organizations: the Romanian Bible Society, founded May 1991, which is a member of the United Bible Societies; the Association of Romanian Orthodox Christian Students, mentioned above; the National Society of Orthodox Women of Romania; the Romanian Orthodox Brotherhood of Saint Andrew, reorganized in 1991; the Logos Literary and Theological Society; the National Conference of Priests; the National Consultative Conference of Orthodox Laity; and Christian medical organizations. One hundred sixty-eight priests give religious assistance in hospitals. Fifty of these are full-time hospital chaplains paid by the government. There are 33 prisons, each with a full-time chaplain paid by the Ministry of Justice. Forty-one priests work in homes for the aged. Sixty-five priests serve in orphanages. The largest Christian charitable work of the church may be seen in Christiana Hospital. This was the first Orthodox Christian hospital reestablished after 1989. It is jointly operated by the Christiana Association and the Ministry of Health. The principal work of the association is the hospital, which provides medical, social, and spiritual assistance to poor and sick people. The Christiana Association is also involved in Christian publishing and a school of nursing.
Fr. Ovidiu Tamas is a Romanian Orthodox priest and rector of the Orthodox seminary in Vaia Mare, Romania.
Edited excerpts reprinted with permission from "Pastoral Possibilities in Post-Communist Romania," Eastern Churches Journal 2 (Summer 1995), 103-14.
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