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The creation of a unified Romanian state led to the formation of a unified Romanian Orthodox Church. In January 1865, the metropolitan of Ungro-Wallachia received from the ecumenical patriarch the title of “metropolitan primate,” with his see in the capital of Bucharest. The state, in its constitution of 1866, recognized the superior status of the Orthodox Church by identifying it as the “dominant religion of the Romanian state.” In 1885, the ecumenical patriarch (reluctantly) acknowledged the independence of the Orthodox Church of Romania, thus severing it from its primary source of income.

Seminaries and theological academies were established throughout the 19th century, even in Transylvania, where the ascendant Hungarian community had initiated an ethnic assimilation campaign directed at the Rumani majority. Nevertheless, the restored Orthodox Church in Transylvania prospered, churches were built and some 2,000 primary schools and a handful of high schools established.

When the Kingdom of Romania declared war on the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1916, Transylvania’s Hungarian authorities deported or jailed hundreds of Orthodox priests for their advocacy of a unified Romanian nation to include Transylvania. With the empire’s collapse after World War I, Transylvania’s Rumani majority — Orthodox and Greek Catholic — voted to join with the Kingdom of Romania. By 1920, a number of international treaties recognized Transylvania as a part of Romania.

The revised constitution (1923) for the integrated country recognized the Orthodox Church of Romania as the “dominant” church of the kingdom, while giving the Romanian Church united with Rome “precedence” over other confessions. Together, Orthodox and Greek Catholic bishops participated in the political life of the kingdom, having been assigned seats in the senate.

In December 1919, the synod of bishops of the newly unified Orthodox Church of Romania elected a prelate from Transylvania, Bishop Miron Cristea, as metropolitan primate. By November 1925, the metropolitan primate was raised to the status of patriarch, an elevation recognized by the Orthodox communion worldwide.

Though Romania between the world wars was embroiled in political chaos, its Orthodox Church flourished. By the eve of World War II, new eparchies had been erected, theology faculties established, churches built and theological journals published. For Orthodox Romanians settling in the New World, the patriarch set up an eparchy in Detroit to coordinate pastoral care.

After the war, in which Romania sided with Nazi Germany, a Soviet-backed Communist government ousted the king and a Soviet republic took its place. By 1948, the government began a campaign to wipe out any “fascist or anti-democratic” associations, singling out the Romanian Church united with Rome. That year, it ceased to exist and its assets turned over to the Orthodox Church.

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