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Archbishop Valerian’s 1984 letter

Author: Archbishop (Arhiepiscopul) Valerian
August 6, 2009
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ADMINISTRATOR’S NOTE:

Archbishop Valerian’s October 7, 1984 letter to Patriarch Justin of the Romanian Orthodox Church has recently re-surfaced.  Several copies were made of the following in both Romanian and English in 1984.

We thank Gus Vincent for this particular copy.  Others also have this letter and one copy was received at the Romanian-American Heritage Center in Grass Lake Michigan, where it can be consulted.

Gus Vincent’s son, V. Rev. Father Dimitrie Vincent, was kind enough to make this copy available for the website.  His commentary follows after the letter.


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14 Comments to “Archbishop Valerian’s 1984 letter”


  1. Fr. Dimitrie Vincent Says:

    “Looking at the Past with an Eye to the Future”

    Even though “Times change” the gospel message of the Church that “Christ is Risen!” and the great commission to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…” (Matthew 28:19) is for all times and places…including North America .

    Here in the “so called Diaspora” the call to Witness to the world the faith in the Living God in a koinonia of divine love through transparent and free canonical structures which allow the Holy Spirit to comfort and guide us in all things is the call of the day.

    In our postage stamp portion of the Lord’s Vineyard in North America the exploration of the ROEA, OCA JDC Unity Proposal is one possible proposal to be considered, discussed and eventually voted upon. However, there are many speed bumps along the way with this “model” of canonical unity that proponents keep hitting.

    One that ought not to be overlooked and dismissed offhandedly is the “model” of church proposed by Archbishop Valerian Trifa. The extraordinary vision, foresight and wisdom of Archbishop Valerian Trifa the leader of the Romanian Episcopate for over 30 years offered a working model of church that kept a balance. His was a multicultural and multigenerational model in which Jesus Christ was the center and not a static “Romanianism”. He began his Episcopal leadership by stating at his Installation Address July 4, 1952 at St. George Cathedral in Detroit that a Patriarch of North America was necessary. He worked throughout his Episcopal tenure to move towards this end.

    He retired July 4, 1984 . During this time he moved his diocese from a “non-canonical” status to a canonical home with the Metropolia (1960) and became the first diocese to join the OCA (1970) which created a multicultural canonical body in North America and not simply a “Russian” OCA. (To the degree we do not interact with and know one another across diocesan lines within the OCA in a greater way is another discussion. Simply, the greater the interaction the greater the communion will be.)

    What is of interest is a recently surfaced letter written by Archbishop Valerian Trifa on October 7, 1984 “In Exile” to Patriarch Justin. This letter reveals many things. One is Archbishop Valerian’s views on canonical unity with the OCA, which for him, was “irreversible” and the direction the ROEA, OCA ought to be looking is “…forward and not backward.” (We read “backward” as canonical unity with the Church of Romania.)

    It is clear that for Archbishop Valerian and his Episcopate the goal, right from the beginning, was to transition into an organic, local and indigenous Church in North America. He was sensitive to and realistic in this transformation of a body of Orthodox Christians from Romania to a body of Orthodox Christian believers of Romanian heritage and descent who became North American in cultural formation and citizens of Canada and the United States . This was not forced but seen as the natural order of things.

    During his years as Pastor of his flock there was never a consideration to return to the metaphorical “Mother” Church of Romania who during the communist period was anything but a loving mother. His letter reveals this.

    Naturally, it will be stated that after 1989 things changed and “If” Archbishop Valerian were alive to witness this great wave of immigration of Orthodox Christians from Romania his views would also have changed. At best, this is debatable. Again, I defer to his letter to speak to this point.

    If one looks at the vision, direction, work and writings of this “thrice blessed” hierarch it is clear his goal and desire was to establish a local and indigenous Church in North America working alongside with other bishops, clergy, theologians and laity of the same Orthodox Christian mind and heart within and outside the Episcopate. Orthodox Christian unity, as a Christocentric and not ethnocentric reality, was his goal all the while respecting one’s Romanian, or for that matter, any ethnic heritage, background and formation.

    The following document is offered in this light for your review and consideration. To gain a better understanding of the times, the mindset of the then recently retired Archbishop and his flock is very important. It serves as a reminder for those involved in current discussions that we ought not to forget Archbishop Valerian; his dreams, ideas and tireless efforts, in spite of the cross he carried, towards a united North American Patriarchate and the Christocentric model of church he proposed through the life of the Episcopate. It would be regrettable if portions of his ideas were co-opted by those who wish to use them for other reasons.

    The letter written after the Archbishop’s retirement is not on ROEA, OCA letterhead nor is it signed as it was translated at that time from the Romanian original. The letter is authentic and can be found in the Romanian American Heritage Center Archives in Grass Lake Michigan. Copies were distributed to many clergy and laity back in late 1984 presumably at an Episcopate (Diocesan) Council Meeting. This copy comes from the files of Mr. Gus Vincent who served many years on the ROEA, OCA as an Episcopate Council member.

    In the Light of the Transfiguration,
    V. Rev. Fr. Dimitrie Vincent
    August 6, 2009


  2. Anonymous Says:

    Fr. Dimitrie,

    Thank you for your pastoral letter written to us from the Albanian Archdiocese.

    I just want to add for the consideration of readers that context is important. It appears he was making a strong stand against a patriarch and church who were compromised at that time. However, there are other writings of Archbishop Valerian that indicated a reconciliation may be possible after the fall of communism. If you are truly fair and balanced, why not present those? I am sure the expert historian can easily provide you with those writings too if he is motivated to do so.


  3. Administrator Says:

    Hi Anonymous,

    The argument of context could be a good one if you would be talking about some other types of people, or if statements would have indeed been falsified by taking them out of context. However, when talking about someone of Trifa’s intellectual capabilities and moral standing, one quickly understands that existentialist and indeed communist relativism do not apply here. Reading his 1984 letter also makes it clear that his statements were not taken out of context and that they do indeed speak for themselves, rather eloquently. With this type of person truth is truth. A lie is a lie. Faith is faith. A statement is a statement. Absolute is absolute. Free thought makes these statements second nature to those who do not compromise, no matter what.

    The point here is that in no material whatsoever exists where Trifa suggested the possibility of a reconciliation, and even less a “subordination” under the Romanian Patriarchate, even after the fall of communism. If any writings would have existed whereby Trifa would have accepted us leaving the OCA to subordonate ourselves under the Romanian Patriarchate, they would have surfaced at least in the 1990’s. It is clear from his 1984 letter that integration into American Orthodoxy was the way forward while going under Romania would be a step backward. Thus, Trifa stated that the Episcopate’s move into the OCA was “irreversible”. And that is fact, not fiction. Absolute, not relative.


  4. Audrey Fatsy Says:

    Thank GOD this letter [from AB Valerian Trifa] has surfaced. It’s perfectly clear that Archbiship Valerian not only told the Patriarch to stay out of our house but that the decision to join OCA is “irreversible”. So what’s the problem? We are OCA and that’s should be the end of it..


  5. Bill Balamaci Says:

    God bless you as I thank you for your determination to provide valuable and objective information to our ROEA family related to the proposed unity. As past president of the Fellowship of Orthodox Churches in Connecticut (F.O.R.C.C.), I am pleased
    to inform you that our 30 parish membership includes Albanian, Antiochian, Greek, Romanian, Russian, and Ukrainian all working for the unity of ORTHODOXY in America. Our key-note
    speaker at our Oct. 4, 2009 benefit dinner at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, Bridgeport, is Metropolitan Jonah.
    Once again, thank you for all your efforts for our beloved
    Orthodox faithful.


  6. Michael J. Kalugar Says:

    The wisdom of Archbishop Valerian is sorely missed. In these troubled times the current leadership should be more concerned with keeping/supporting families of our church rather then lagacy building. The world has changed, however the principals and direction given from this beloved and devoted man should still apply today.


  7. Matei Says:

    Scrisoarea Arhiepiscopului Valerian Trifa nu poate fi mai clara. Intrarea in OCA este ireversibila. OCA-ul reprezinta viitorul. BOR reprezinta trecutul. Romania comunista sau Romania post-comunista, nu au mult in comun cu cultura si gandirea Nord Americana, sau cu cei integrati si nascuti aici. Noi, ortodocsii Americani de origina Romana, avem Episcopia noastra Vatra (ROEA) si facem parte integrala din Biserica ortodoxa Americana (OCA). Restul nu ne priveste.


  8. Administrator Says:

    Aceasta este ultima scrisoare cunoscuta a lui IPS Valerian despre viitorul Episcopiei Vatra. Pozitia luata in aceasta Scrisoare este in linie cu tot ceea ce a scris si a facut timp de 33 de ani in fruntea Episcopiei. Cine indrazneste sa puna la indoiala intentiile IPS Valerian nu are decat sa vina cu dovezi.


  9. Valerie Yova Says:

    excerpts of what was posted on ocanews.org, ‘Share your comments’ section regarding ‘Reflections on Romanian Unity’:

    … I was blown away by Archbishop Valerian’s letter, filled with love and admiration for him, and glad that he did not have to witness what is happening today. Many of us feel that the “forgiveness” asked of the Romanian Patriarch on behalf of the ROEA was an insult to +Valerian and many other clergy and laity who served the ROEA faithfully. Forgiveness for what? Since when is forgiveness offered as a matter of protocol or politics?


  10. Anonymously sad Says:

    excerpts of what was posted on ocanews.org, ‘Share your comments’ section regarding ‘Reflections on Romanian Unity’:

    It is amazing, and yet sad, to read something that Abp Valerian wrote 25 years ago because he was so right…and now the JDC has it so wrong for the Romanian OCA Episcopate/diocese. Why?

    The JDC is supposed to be looking out for the “best interest” of the diocese (a concept that ought to be driven by the teachings of the Church and the will of God), but doesn’t really want discussion or debate. Why?

    The diocese is now firmly planted, and only by the grace of God. Yet they claim they know better, and want to tear it out by the roots and give it back to a Patriarch on the other side of the ocean.

    I can’t imagine that Abp Valerian is smiling.


  11. Constantin Aurel Ardeleanu Says:

    excerpts of what was posted on ocanews.org, ‘Share your comments’ section regarding ‘Reflections on Romanian Unity’:

    … As for Archbishop Valerian’s letter, Memory Eternal, well, those of us who worked and stayed at the Vatra for camps and the Congress, who had the opportunity to really know this very special man….. all I can say is he is the closest thing I know to a modern day Martyr for our Church in the America’s, as well has for those in Romania; those in Romania just never had the opportunity to know.

    I pray that many will follow Metropolitan Jonah’s lead toward a truly united Orthodox Church in the America’s, as well as considering the proper due Canada and Mexico; but what a great step it would be for ROEA to truly integrate itself with the OCA as we move forward. Living in Houston since 2000; I have been fortunate to see the forward vision that has been forged by the DOS. May we all be guided by Our Lord, and blessed with the Wisdom from the Holy Spirit.
    #3 Constantin Aurel Ardeleanu on 2009-08-14


  12. Curious parishioner Says:

    I am really curious about why the JDC Members of the Episcopate
    1) don’t engage the discussion online - especially when questions are asked,
    2) try to crush those who dare to question in public gatherings (as happened at the Brotherhood gathering), and
    3) trash those who disagree.
    Are they accountable to anyone? What type of accountability is Abp Nathaniel demanding of them?


  13. Constantin Aure Ardeleanu Says:

    What can so many of us say that has not already been said? Valerie speaks to things so many of us experienced to one degree or another. Myself, I did not have the opportunity to have Grandparent here, but I did have the opportunity to travel to Romania in 1983 and 1984; and can only say that under the Communistic regime, life for all Romanians was deplorable; words could not even begin to express how bad. Connie Nan’s words also ring so true and there are many of us that appreciate his speaking out. As for Archbishop Valerian’s letter, Memory Eternal, well, those of us who worked and stayed at the Vatra for camps and the Congress, who had the opportunity to really know this very special man….. all I can say is he is the closest thing I know to a modern day Martyr for our Church in the America’s, as well has for those in Romania; those in Romania just never had the opportunity to know.

    I pray that many will follow Metropolitan Jonah’s lead toward a truly united Orthodox Church in the America’s, as well as considering the proper due Canada and Mexico; but what a great step it would be for ROEA to truly integrate itself with the OCA as we move forward. Living in Houston since 2000; I have been fortunate to see the forward vision that has been forged by the DOS. May we all be guided by Our Lord, and blessed with the Wisdom from the Holy Spirit.


  14. Dr. Gary & Judith Roman Scavnicky Says:

    Thanks for printing Archbishop Valerian’s letter from l984. Judy and I are not in favor of union with Romania. We can have an American union with the Romanian parishes wherever they may be in the U. S. and Canada. But, a political, social, canonical and economic reunion with Romania, NO.


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