Archbishop of Tomis Teodosie embarks on row with Gov’t over St. Andrew’s pilgrimage

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As Constanta city is under quarantine due to Covid-19 since November 20 and religious services are allowed only outside churches, except for the ones attended only by the churchmen, and pilgrimages are banned for people outside the city, the Archbishop of Tomis, Teodosie has asked in court the annulment of the resolution that bans pilgrimages amid the upcoming celebration of Saint Andrew, Romania’s patron saint on November 30.
Teodosie is officiating Holy Mass at “Saint Apostle Andrew’s Cave” in Constanta county on an annual basis, with ceremonies being attended by thousands of people.
This year, the local authorities have banned people living outside Constant city from attending the pilgrimage and ruled that people attending must keep s 4-metre distance among them, which got Archbishop Teodosie angry and made him sue the local resolution in court. However, the magistrates of Constanta Tribunal have overruled his petition, which made the high-ranking prelate even more furious.
At the same time on Wednesday, Police has fined more people attending a religious service inside a church in Constanta without wearing face masks and without respecting the social distancing rules. The religious service was officiated by a group of priests led by Teodosie himself.

The Archbishop of Tomis sent an open letter to PM Ludovic Orban and to the Cabinet on Thursday, slamming them for the pilgrimage ban. Teodosie said in the letter that he won’t allow that the right to honour Saint Andrew to be “trampled by those who have no fear of God and who worship an absurd science that disobey the human being in his entirety: body and soul”.

“What will you do? Beat us, fine us, arrest and execute all of us who will go to pray at the Monastery of Saint Apostle Andrew’s Cave, on the day we are celebrating him? Will you sic the judiciary and police forces on us, against your own brothers and sisters to achieve your settled goals?”, reads the letter.

Teodosie mentioned the events of December 1989 when people, discontent with the abuses of the communist rule, gathered at Timisoara, in front of the house of the reformed minister László Tőkés, with Teodosie saying a smaller injustice was being done against Tokes back then as compared to the “injustice done today against our legitimate wish to have our faith and dignity respected”.

The high-ranking priest threatened that people might take to the streets again, just like in 1989.

“Don’t underestimate the desire of people in Constanta and in other corners of the country of shouting in the street again <God with us>, in order to pray and live free, without a new dictatorship. An additional trace of wisdom might render to you and your collaborators the humanity and faith in your souls in the final hour, that the reasons of the pandemic seems to have darkened”.

In retort, PM Ludovic Orban advised Archbishop Teodosie to endorse the observance of sanitary rules, and to urge believers to respect rules, arguing they are imposed to protect our health.
In his turn, the new Liberal mayor of Constanta, Vergil Chitac said he would have a serious discussion with Archbishop Teodosie on his denial to give up the St. Andrew pilgrimage.
“His Holiness told me that, just like the human being needs physical food, he also needs spiritual nourishment, and the right to faith is a part of the fundamental rights (…) On the other hand, my life has been governed by science. I think rules must be obeyed in this case (…) I will have a serious conversation with His Grace Teodosie, for we cannot expose people”, the mayor said.
The Romanian Patriarchy on the other hand said that the state should be the one to solve this row in Constanta. The Patriarchy’s spokesperson, Vasile Banescu said that the State Secretariat for Cults must get involved to mediate the situation in Constanta. “The Patriarchy’s public stance is very well known, we plead for a rigorous observance of all sanitary rules, for order, balance and institutionalized dialogue, for a faith-reasoning bonding, for personal and institutional judgement. What I can add now is that, in a conflict like the Tomis ones, the state must get involved as mediator”, Banescu said.

It is not the first time that Archbishop Teodosie is taking controversial stances during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On May 16, the next day after the state of alert was enforced in Romania, Teodosie gave the communion to several children on the steps of the St. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Constant, using the same chalice and spoon.

At the same time, the Archbishop of Tomis took an unprecedented decision to resume the Easter’s Resurrection service in all churches and monasteries in Constanta county, a decision that has been criticized by the Romanian Orthodox Church itself.
In early June, Teodosie also officiated a service with hundreds attending without face masks and without respecting the social distancing.
The Archbishop of Tomis was investigated and even prosecuted and arrested in a mega corruption file, but he was acquitted by the Supreme Court in February this year, after being acquitted in a first court in June 2019.

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