ARCHEPARCHY OF ALBA IULIA AND FĂGĂRAȘ

The Archdiocese of Alba Iulia and Făgăraș, with its centre at Blaj, started as the Diocese of Alba Iulia of the Romanian Church United with Rome. This Union began under Bishop Teofil (1697-1700) and was completed under his successor, Athanasius Anghel (1700-1713).

The successor of Athanasius Anghel was Bishop Ioan Giurgiu Pataki (1715-1727). The initial residence was at Alba Iulia; then it was moved to Făgăraș, according to the Bull Rationi congruit of Pope Innocent XIII of 17.08.1723. The diocese received the title "of Alba Iulia and Făgăraș".

The next Bishop was Ioan Inocentiu Micu Klein (1728-1751). He moved the residence to Blaj, nearer to Alba Iulia, the capital of Transylvania. After 1740, the first young Romanians were sent to study in Rome. This favoured the emancipation of the Romanian clergy and the emerging of a national Romanian consciousness, as well as a rising of the cultural standard of the Catholic Romanians in Transylvania, which had been excluded until then from the political and cultural life of the province. Bishop Inocentiu Micu, the first Romanian admitted to take part in the works of the Transylvanian Diet, struggled in order that the Romanian may obtain equal rights with the other nationalities. For this purpose, he made several interventions in writing or going to the Imperial Court in Viena himself; he thus entered into conflict with the Transylvanian government, but came to be recognized by all Romanians, either Orthodox or Greek-Catholic, as a symbol of national revival. Seeking the support of the Holy See, he went to Rome, but he was prevented from returning to his diocese. Because of this exile in Rome, he had to give up his rights as a Bishop and was replaced by his former Episcopal Vicar, Petru Pavel Aron (1752-1764). The latter supported the setting up of the famous Schools of Blaj; previously a Printing House had also been started, in 1747.

Between 1754-1848 (the year of the great revolutionary movements), the Romanian Church United with Rome knew a flourishing period, being solidary with the movement of social emancipation of the Romanians in Transylvania.

Bishop Atanasie Rednic (1765-1772) had to face both the opposition of the privileged classes in Transylvania and that of the Serbian Metropolite of Karlowitz, who was hostile to the union of the Romanians with Rome. He took care of the welfare of the clergy and reformed monastic life. He was followed by Grigore Maior (1772-1782), a cultivated Bishop, a great speaker and a poet.

During the charge of the following Bishop, Ioan Bob, (1783-1830), the movement for national emancipation elaborated the document called Supplex Libellus Valachorum (1790-1792), true Magna Charta of the Greek-Catholic claims. In the same period, the schools of the diocese, the didactic material and the philosophic and historic writings of the Latinist trend were dominated by the Romanian national ideals.

After the death of Ioan Bob, the episcopal see was occupied by Bishop Ioan Lemeni (1832-1850), a good administrator, but promoting submission to Austrian absolutism.

By the Bull of Pope Pius IX, Ecclesiam Christi ex omni lingua, the Romanian Church United with Rome was raised to the rank of Archbishopric and Metropolitanate, the Romanian Greek-Catholic dioceses being removed from under the jurisdiction of the Archbishopric of Esztergom. The suffragan dioceses of the newly created Archbishopric were Oradea Mare, Gherla and Lugoj.

The period between 1848 and 1948 is considered the golden age of this Church. Metropolite Alexandru Șterca Șuluțiu (1850-1868) was faced with the absolutism of the Habsburgs and with Transylvanian constitutionalism. Together with the Orthodox Bishop, at the National Romanian Congress of 1861, he militated for the principle of national and political emancipation of Romanians of either denomination. Their action continued at the second National Romanian Congress, of 1863.

Under the dualist Austrian-Hungarian rule, the Metropolitan see was entrusted to Ioan Vancea (1868-1892). In this period, three episcopal synods were called: in 1869, 1882 and 1889, where norms of Church organization were stipulated. Romanian education activities in Blaj were reorganized and the memorandistic movement was continued. The latter demonstrated the Metropolite's strategic dynamism. Together with the Bishop of Oradea, Iosif Pop Silaghi (one of the famous Oriental canonists of the time), he took part in the Vatican I Council; there he showed his disagreement towards the solemn proclamation, at that moment of history, of the dogma of papal infallibility. At the same time, the two Romanian Bishops advocated the maintaining of the whole theological, liturgical and canonical patrimony of their Church within Catholicism.

Ioan Vancea was followed by Victor Mihaly de Apșa (1893-1918). Among the problems he had to face the most difficult was raised by the creation of a diocese whose liturgical language was Hungarian. This diocese was wished for by the representatives of Austrian-Hungarian dualism, but refused by Romanian and Ruthenian bishops. Upon insistent demand from the Imperial Chancellery, a new diocese, of Hajdudorog, was created in 1912, with the papal Bull Christifideles graeci. Thus, over 70,000 Romanian faithful of 83 parishes and a still greater number of Ruthenian faithful were eventually obliged to attend celebrations in Hungarian. This fact was opposed by the Metropolitan see of Blaj, which sent a delegation of theologians to the Secretariat of State in Rome.

After the death of Victor Mihaly de Apșa, in the new political context created by the union of Transylvania with Romania, the appointing of the new Metropolite, Vasile Suciu (1920-1936), was made with approval from Rome and consent from King Ferdinand of Romania. The Metropolite had several schools built in the archdiocese. He himself wrote valuable theological books. An important event of the time was the Concordat signed between the Holy See and the Kingdom of Romania, on May 10th 1927, which the government headed by Iuliu Maniu ratified on July 7th 1929.

The next Metropolite was Alexandru Nicolescu (1936-1941), former ecclesiastic counsellor of the Romanian Legation at Vatican and Bishop of Lugoj. After his death, the Metropolitan see remained vacant; the archdiocese had only Apostolic Administrators (Valeriu Traian Frențiu between 1941 and 1946, followed by Ioan Suciu, between 1946 and 1948).

The year 1948 suddenly and violently interrupted the normal life of the Romanian Church United with Rome, which was declared illegal. There followed a period of suffering and martyrdom, which ended in December 1989. Meanwhile, the Church pursued its activity in clandestinity.

After 1989, the Holy See confirmed the Bishops of the Romanian Church United with Rome and appointed Mgr. Alexandru Todea Metropolite of Blaj; in 1992 the new Metropolite was created Cardinal. When Cardinal fell ill, the Bishop of Cluj-Gherla, Mgr. Gheorghe Guțiu, became Apostolic Administrator of the whole Metropolitan Province.

Since 1994, the Archdiocese and Metropolitanate of Blaj has been lead by the Metropolite Lucian Mureșan.


This text was published in the leaflet "The Romanian Catholic Church",
by the printhouse of the Roman-Catholic Archdiocese of București,
when Holy Pope visit Romania (May 7-9, 1999)