Polycarp (Moruşca) of Detroit

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His Grace the Right Reverend Bishop Polycarp (Moruşca) of Detroit (also Policarp) was the first ruling Bishop of the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America. He healed the disunity among the Romanian Orthodox in the United States and established an enduring base for a united episcopate. Caught in the politics of World War II and its aftermath during a planned visit to Romania in 1939, he was not able to return to the United States.


Pompei Moruşca was born into a priestly family on March 20, 1883, in Cristeşti in Alba County, Transylvania. He studied theology after completing his secular education and was ordained to the priesthood in 1908. Fr. Pompei's first assignment was as a parish priest. He then became administrative assistant to the Metropolitan of Transylvania. After a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Fr. Pompei was tonsured a monk in 1925 with the name of 'Polycarp.' Subsequently he was raised to the dignity of archimandrite and assigned as abbot of the Hodox-Bodrog Monastery.

During the early 1930s, the Romanian parishes in the United States were organizing themselves into an Autonomous Missionary Episcopate under the Church of Romania. With recognition by the Church of Romania, the newly named Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America requested assignment of a bishop. On January 26, 1935, the Holy Synod of Romania elected Archimandrite Polycarp as the first bishop of the Episcopate. After his consecration on March 24, 1935, by Romanian Patriarch Miron (Cristea) of Bucharest, Bp. Polycarp departed for the United States. He arrived in June 1935.

After his enthronement in Detroit, Michigan, on July 4, 1935, Bp. Polycarp began healing the enmity between the two priestly factions within the episcopate by accepting the situation and starting anew under his declaration: "I accept you as I found you, but from now on, we shall have order and discipline." "Order and discipline" then followed. He then set out to make canonical visits to all his parishes.

He established the center of his diocese in Detroit, Michigan, with the Church of St. George as his cathedral. He also established the diocesan newspaper, Solia, as the official publication of the diocese. The newspaper continues to be published. He backed the purchase of property in Michigan in 1937 which was called Vatra and became the headquarters of the Episcopate. Its inauguration was on July 4, 1938. He also began organizing Church auxiliaries of the youth and ladies of the diocese, but these would not take an active form until after World War II.

Having established the diocese on a firm footing, Bp. Polycarp returned to Romania in late 1939 to attend a session of the Romanian Holy Synod. As World War II had broken out, travel and other circumstances prevented his return to the United States. At the end of the war, his diocese eagerly waited his return, but the new communist regime would not permit him to leave Romania. By a pastoral letter of July 30, 1947, he informed the diocese of the difficulties surrounding his return and added that he considered himself still the bishop of the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America.

A few months later, Bp. Polycarp wrote to advise of further developments in Romania concerning the Episcopate, noting that the Episcopate had been eliminated in the Church budget, effectively dissolving it in the eyes of the communist government. Further, the provisions of the laws placed Bp. Polycarp in retirement and directed that new leadership for the diocese must have approval of the communist government.

Effectively a prisoner in Romania, Bp. Polycarp lived on in retirement. He died on October 26, 1958, and was buried at the Monastery of St. John the Baptist in Alba Iulia, Romania.

Succession box:
Polycarp (Moruşca) of Detroit
Preceded by:
Bishop of Detroit
Succeeded by:
Valerian (Trifa)
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  • Constance J. Tarasar, Orthodox America 1794-1976 Development of the Orthodox Church in America, Syosett, New York, The Orthodox Church in America, 1975

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