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The Eastern Catholic Churches / Romanian Greek Catholic Church

Romanian Greek Catholic Church

Number of faithfulapprox. 480,000
Title of First HierarchMajor Archbishop of Făgăraş and Alba Julia
See of the First HierarchBlaj (Romania)
Current incumbentCardinal Lucian Mureşan, born 1931, in office since 1994
Bishops and dioceses9 bishops; 7 dioceses
Liturgical languageRomanian
CalendarMixed calendar (Gregorian/Julian)
Presence in Austriaapprox. 1,000 faithful; 7 parishes, 10 priests
Presence in Germanyapprox. 1,000 faithful; 7 parishes, 6 priests

The Romanian Greek Catholic Church originated on the territory of Transylvania. Since the 11th century, this region, whose population consisted mostly of orthodox Romanians, but whose upper class was made up of immigrated Germans and Hungarians, belonged to Hungary. In the 16th century, the Turkish Ottomans conquered the region, but were driven out by Emperor Leopold I of Austria soon after the unsuccessful siege of Vienna in 1683. From 1687 Transylvania belonged to the Habsburg Empire. At the instigation of the Habsburgs, the Jesuits began to proselytize the Orthodox population of Transylvania and to promote a union with Rome. Supported by corresponding state pressure (Orthodox believers were denied public office and higher education, and the Orthodox clergy did not have the same privileges as the Catholic clergy), there was a growing willingness among Orthodox Christians to enter into union. In September 1700, the union of the Orthodox Christians of Transylvania with the Church of Rome was formally decided by a synod. While almost all the Orthodox initially joined the Union, from 1744, there was a strong return to the Orthodox Church, so that Empress Maria Theresa finally felt compelled to agree to the appointment of a bishop for the Orthodox Romanians in Transylvania in 1759. Initially, the Greek-Catholic Romanians did not hope for an improvement in their social position, which was associated with the conclusion of the Union: their dioceses were subordinate to the Hungarian primate of Esztergom. Only in 1853 did Pope Pius IX raised the diocese of Făgăraş-Alba Julia to metropolitan seat and established its own Greek Catholic metropolis with three suffragan bishoprics.

After World War I, Transylvania became part of Romania. Until the outbreak of the Second World War, the Greek Catholic Church in Romania was able to flourish: in 1940, 1.5 million faithful in 5 dioceses belonged to the Greek Catholic Church. However, when the communists took over Romania after World War II, it suffered the same fate as all Greek Catholic Churches in Eastern Europe: in 1948 the Union was formally repealed, and the Greek Catholic Church was banned. All the bishops and numerous priests of the Greek Catholic Church were arrested. Only 41 years later, after the fall of the Ceauşescu regime in December 1989, could the Greek Catholic Church be revived in Romania. In March 1990, Pope John Paul II appointed bishops for all five Greek Catholic dioceses in Romania. In the period that followed, there were conflicts between Greek Catholic and Orthodox Romanians, especially in regard to the restitution of church property. The Greek Catholics initially insisted on the return of all pre-1948 church buildings, while the Orthodox refused, arguing that this was far beyond the needs of the Greek Catholic Church today. As a background, there were widely differing information about the number of faithful: While the Greek Catholics stated the number of their faithful, at the beginning of the 1990s, to be around 2 million, according to a census from 1992 only 228,000 Romanians professed to the Greek Catholic Church. In the meantime, the Greek-Catholic hierarchy reduced its own numbers to a realistic level. The relationship with the Romanian Orthodox Church has eased up noticeably after the Pope's visit to Romania in 1999 and the formation of a mixed dialogue commission. In December 2005, Pope Benedict XVI appointed the previous metropolitan to the major archbishop, giving the Romanian Greek Catholic Church a more independent status.


  • Sana, Silviu: The Forbidden Church. Greek-Catholics from North-West of Romania under the Communist Regime (1945-1989), Paris 2020.
  • Bocşan, Nicolae: Die Rumänische Unierte Kirche am Ersten Vatikanischen Konzil, Frankfurt a.M. 2013.
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  • G. Feige, Rumänien, in: E. Gatz (Hg.), Kirche und Katholizismus seit 1945,
    Bd. 2, Paderborn 1999, 132-151.
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