Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Romanian Orthodox Church enthrones new patriarch

Church bells rang out around Romania on Sunday to celebrate the enthronement of Metropolitan Daniel as the new patriarch of the country's Orthodox Church.

Dozens of Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant clerics attended a ceremony, joined by hundreds of Orthodox faithful and the country's political leaders.

Daniel was elected patriarch Sept. 12.

The previous patriarch, Teoctist, was elected during the Communist period. He died in July of a heart attack at age 92.

Daniel, 56, is one of the youngest bishops in the church, known for his ecumenical stance and desire to modernize the church.

The Eastern Rite Catholic Church, with which the Orthodox Church has property disputes over churches seized by the state during communism, said it welcomed Daniel as the new patriarch.

Ninety priests, most of them Orthodox from Romania and other Christian Orthodox countries, but also from other Christian denominations attended the ceremony. President Traian Basescu, former president Ion Iliescu and former King Michael were also there.

People who woke up early were disappointed not to be allowed in the small Patriarchal Cathedral in Bucharest, the seat of the Romanian Orthodox Church.

Two huge television screens were set up nearby so that Romanians who gathered outside could witness the event.

During the ceremony, the new patriarch was given a series of objects, including a silver staff, symbol of his authority, and a white headdress.

The Romanian Orthodox patriarch is the only one among Orthodox heads of church to be dressed completely in white. The dress code was adopted in the 1930s as a way of distinguishing the Romanians among the orthodox faithful.

"We want to intensify the church's mission beyond the walls of the church," said the new patriarch, who added that he wished the church became more involved in the life of Romanians.

He announced plans to launch a radio, a TV station and a newspaper.

Daniel was one of the founding members of a group proposing renewal for the Orthodox Church.

But the group was disbanded in 1990 after he was elected Metropolitan of Iasi, a traditional stepping stone to becoming patriarch.

Born in 1951 in western Romania, Daniel spent 12 years in western Europe studying theology and was a teacher at the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey, Switzerland - a rare privilege for Romanians who often were prevented from travelling abroad.

An estimated 87 per cent of Romania's 22 million inhabitants are Orthodox, and the church has enjoyed a revival since communism fell in 1989.

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