Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America (OCA)
The Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America is one of the ethnic dioceses of the OCA, covering all of North America and overlapping with its regular dioceses. Its current hierarch is Archbishop Nathaniel (Popp) of Detroit, assisted by his auxiliary, Bishop Irineu (Duvlea) of Dearborn Heights.
The origins of the Episcopate began with the arrival in America of Orthodox Romanian immigrants from Transylvania, Bukovina, Banat, and Macedo-Romania in the years before World War I. As many of these immigrants arrived with the intent of returning to their European homelands after working in America not many organized parishes or built churches. With the founding of an independent Romania after World War I, many of these immigrants did return to Europe.
The first priests to service the Romanian community did so on an itinerant basis. The oldest Romanian Orthodox parish was organized in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada in 1902, while the first parish in the United States was established in Cleveland, Ohio in 1904. These parishes were affiliated with, for Canada, the Metropolitan of Moldava and, for the United States, the Metropolitan of Transylvania. These metropolitans provided some priests with theological training, but a class of untrained priests formed in America who were ordained by Bishops Stephen (Dzubay) of Pittsburgh, Adam (Philipovsky), and Arseny (Chagovtsov) of Winnipeg. These two groups formed separate factions that caused fragmentation and conflict.
In 1928, the Metropolitan of Transylvania Nicolae Balan sent Fr. Trandafir Scorobet to survey and report the status of the Romanian Orthodox parishes in America. At a meeting on January 30, 1928, with the Romanian clergy in Cleveland, Ohio, he recommended reorganizing the church in America with the establishment of an episcopate. Then, on April 25, 1929, at a general congress of clergy and laity in Detroit, Michigan, an Autonomous Missionary Episcopate was formed under the canonical jurisdiction of Holy Synod of the Church of Romania. The resolution of the congress was accepted by the Romanian Patriarchate with Decree No. 10210 in November 1930 and the Romanian Holy Synod proclaimed the establishment of the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America.
On January 26, 1935, the Holy Synod of Romania elected Archimandrite Polycarp (Morsca) as the first bishop of the new episcopate. After his consecration in Europe on March 24, 1935, Bp. Polycarp arrived in the United States and was enthroned in Detroit during the Church Congress on July 4, 1935. A statute for the episcopate was also enacted at the congress. Bp. Polycarp was able to heal the factional disputes by accepting what he found, but expected order and discipline thenceforth. He established the foundations for many church organizations and, in 1937, was instrumental in the acquisition of property in Michigan, called Vatra, that became the headquarters for the episcopate. After formally inaugurating the headquarters, Bp. Polycarp returned to Romania in 1939 for a session of the Holy Synod, but was prevented by the start of World War II from returning to the United States.
During the time of World War II the administration of the episcopate operated in a subdued manner awaiting the return of Bp. Polycarp. After the war, his return was again stopped, this time by the new Communist government. While prevented from returning he advised his community by a letter on July 30, 1947, that he still considered himself the bishop of the Episcopate. But, later in the year, by a letter on December 8, 1947, he advised that by a law (No. 166 of 1947) funding for the episcopate had been eliminated and the Episcopate was dissolved in the view of the government, and that he, Bp. Polycarp, was placed in retirement.
The next moves were typical of Communists of the time. In a letter of April 4, 1949 to the Episcopate Council of America, Bp. Polycarp wrote that under a new law for the Church of Romania the leaders for Romanian Orthodox communities outside Romania would be sent by the Patriarchate "with the approval of the government." Under this new policy of governmental control, a Bp. Antim Nica was appointed for the American Episcopate, but the diocese in the United States refused to accept him. In May 1950, at Detroit, Michigan, using a new tactic, an episcopate, the Romanian Orthodox Missionary Episcopate in America, was chartered. An American citizen, Fr. Andrei Moldovan, at that time pastor of the parish in Akron, Ohio, was called to Romania to be consecrated bishop. Although repudiated by the majority in the older episcopate, Bp. Moldovan, upon returning to the United States, immediately began lawsuits for control of the diocesan properties.
Under the leadership of Fr. John Trutza, the efforts of the Moldovan episcopate were turned back and control of the properties remained with the older episcopate. Then, at the Council of July 5, 1951, the episcopate declared itself completely autonomous for both administrative and spiritual matters. The Council then elected a lay theologian, Viorel D. Trifia, as vicar bishop of the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America. Thus, he came to exercise leadership of the diocese due to the continued absence of Bp. Polycarp who remained a political prisoner of the communist government of Romania.
The newly elected bishop was consecrated with the name Valerian on April 27, 1952, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, by three Ukrainian bishops. Under Bp. Valerian the Episcopate entered a new era of activity, even as he came under continuous attack, first in the media and then in the courts. After Bp. Polycarp's death in 1957, Bp. Valerian then became the titular Bishop of the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America.
In 1960 the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America was received into the Metropolia as an ethnic diocese. Abp. Valerian was designated Archbishop of Detroit and Michigan and became a member of the Holy Synod of the Metropolia. Then, in 1961, bishops of the Metropolia consecrated Abp. Valerian again to remove any doubts of his canonicity.
Abp. Valerian fell asleep in the Lord on January 28, 1987, and was succeeded by Abp. Nathaniel (Popp) who had been consecrated to the episcopacy on November 15. His see is located at Vatra in Michigan. Bp. Irineu (Duvlea) was consecrated on November 2, 2002, as Bishop of Dearborn Heights and auxiliary bishop to Abp. Nathaniel.
- Constance. J. Tarasar, Gen. Ed. Orthodox America 1794-1976 Development of the Orthodox Church in America, The Orthodox Church in America, Syosett, New York, 1975.