The Making of a Holy Nation: Pastoral Activity, Pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and Nationalism in Interwar Romanian Orthodoxy

Gheorghe Gelu Pacurar 1
  • 1 Indiana University, , U.S.A., Bloomington

Abstract

After the end of World War I and the creation of Greater Romania, various actors tried to influence the official policy of the state by proposing political visions suitable to consolidate the Romanian identity and character of the country. The Orthodox Church, one of the most vocal of these actors, envisioned a variety of activities and programs with the goal of promoting the future development of the country alongside religious principles. In particular, in 1925 the Metropolitan of Ardeal organized the first “mass” pilgrimage to the Holy Land in the history of the Romanian people. Among the participants was Iosif Trifa, a close collaborator of the Metropolitan and the initiator and organizer of a widespread spiritual movement called the Army of the Lord. During the pilgrimage Trifa wrote notes that later constituted the basis of his travelogue Pe urmele Mântuitorului [In the Footsteps of the Savior], a book that, I will suggest, proposes a national – spiritual model for the building of the new political project inspired by the mythical image of the holy places. Trifa vested these pastoral concerns with political preoccupations that ultimately claimed the Holy Land as an ideal pattern for Greater Romania. Through a gradual literary process that morphed Palestine into the Christian Holy Land and reclaimed it for Orthodox Christians only, Trifa established a close connection between the holy sites and Romania by presenting the group of pilgrims and their itinerary as a symbol of the nation walking in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. A close reading of the narrative will show that Trifa aimed at using it as an exhortation to prompt Romanians’ commitment to Orthodoxy as the only successful solution to the national project.

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