Romanian Greek Catholic Church Ad-hoc Collection at CNSAS
The collection reflects, on the one hand, the oppositional activity of the Romanian Greek Catholic (Uniate) Church towards the communist regime, and, on the other hand, the intense surveillance and harsh repression of this Church carried out by the repressive apparatus of the communist authorities. The Romanian Greek Catholic Church Ad-hoc Collection represents the most comprehensive collection of documents, which illustrates the multilayered resistance to dictatorship of one of the most repressed religious groups in communist Romania and its vivid underground religious activity from 1948 to 1989.
București Strada Matei Basarab 55, Romania 030167
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Provenance and cultural activities
The Romanian Greek Catholic Church Ad-hoc Collection is one of the most complex and comprehensive collections at CNSAS regarding the oppositional activity of a religious group. The collection, which covers the entire communist period, reflects the obstinate resistance of the Greek Catholic (Uniate) hierarchy and a significant number of priests and parishioners of the Romanian Greek Catholic Church to its forced unification with the Romanian Orthodox Church and its official dissolution in December 1948. The files in the collection illustrate the clandestine religious practices of those Greek Catholic believers who refused the forced unification with the Romanian Orthodox Church and in this way opposed the religious policies of the communist regime. However, these practices are represented in the files of the Securitate from the perspective of the secret police, who gathered information about those underground Greek Catholic religious practices in order to repress those opposing the forced unification (especially during the period from 1948 to 1964), or to keep them under surveillance and “influence” their hierarchy. The history of the files of this collection and its turning moments reflect, on the one hand, the evolution of the Greek Catholic Church during its underground existence and, on the other hand, the institutional reorganisations of the Securitate.
Taking into account the inner logic of the Securitate’s bureaucracy, there are three categories of files which reflect what was considered by the Securitate to be the “Greek Catholic issue” (problema Greco-Catolică). The first category is made up of the files of the Documentary Fonds (Fond Documentar) dealing with the “Greek Catholic issue,” which were created by the central and regional (later county) departments of the secret police that were focused on keeping both official denominations and other religious minorities under surveillance. The second category comprises the so-called “criminal files” of those Greek Catholic hierarchs, priests, or simply parishioners who were arrested by the Securitate and sentenced for their religious beliefs. Taking into account that the most intense repression of the Greek Catholic Church took place between 1948 and 1953, most of the “criminal files,” involving Greek Catholics were created in this period. The third category represents the so-called “informative surveillance files” on the aforementioned groups and reflects the intense surveillance activity of the secret police. These files cover the entire communist period because the Greek Catholic hierarchs and priests who practised their confession underground were among the targets of the Securitate’s close surveillance from the late 1940s until the fall of the communist regime. Due to the fact that the first category of files synthesises the information from the last two categories and sometimes includes key original documents or duplicates from their files, this description of the provenance of the collection will focus on the files pertaining to the Documentary Fonds.
The Securitate had among its main tasks during the entire communist period to keep under surveillance and repress those groups among the officially recognised churches and various unrecognised religious minorities who were considered to be in contradiction with the polices of the communist regime and were usually labelled as “hidden enemies.” According to the organisation of the Securitate at its establishment in July 1948, the central structure of the secret police (called General Directorate of the People’s Security – or DGSP after its Romanian acronym) had among its branches the 1st Directorate in charge of gathering information from inside the country (after July 1956 renamed the 3rd Directorate). This directorate included at that time a special department entitled “Nationalists, Churches and Sects” (Serviciul Naţionalişti, Culte şi Secte), which was in charge with dealing with national minorities, churches, and religious minorities (many of them included in the category of „sects”). Within this department, there were special working units (birouri), each of them specialised in one issue. The first working group was in charge of the Orthodox Church, the second working group was in charge of the Roman Catholic and Greek Catholic Churches, and the third one dealt with protestants and with those religious minorities labelled by the state authorities as “neo-protestant denominations” (Oprea 2003). This structure was also reproduced by the regional directorates of the Securitate, subordinated to the central body of the institution.
The departments of the central and regional directorates of the Securitate (from the late 1960s replaced by county inspectorates of the Securitate) produced files that synthesised the activity of the secret police in that field of activity labelled in the inner bureaucratic discourses as an “issue” (problemă) for a limited period of time. These files were later archived by the Securitate’s specialised staff in the files of the Documentary Fonds. These were used by the leadership of either central or regional directorates to evaluate the impact of the policies of the secret police on the issue in question and to conceive plans for future activities.
Due to the practical aims behind the creation of the files, the secret police would sometimes merge earlier files in new ones while carrying out its main operational activities. These mergers of files were usually done due to the reorganisation of the secret police or due to a change in the approach of the Securitate to the issue in question. Consequently, the files of the Documentary Fond concerning the Greek Catholic issue (among others) encapsulate other files and have the structure of a matryoshka doll. The months of October 1958 and June 1973 were among these pivotal moments when earlier files were merged in new files.
For example, in October 1958, two groups of files of the Documentary Fond created during the 1950s were merged: 1. those files created on the “Greek Catholic issue” by the Directorate of the Securitate of the Romanian Capital City; 2. files with the same name created by the 3rd Directorate (at that time entitled the 3rd Directorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, after the 1956 reorganisation of the Securitate) (ACNSAS. FD 69, vol.1, f.3). As can be seen in this case, the frequent reorganisations of the secret police also had a strong impact on the structure of its files. In June 1973, due to the fact that that in the period from 1955 to 1958 the activity of the secret police on religious denominations was considered to have been “too dispersed,” the leadership of the Securitate decided to include all this activity within a larger “issue” entitled: “Hostile elements active among the religious denominations” (Elemente ostile ce îşi desfăşoară activitatea în rândul cultelor) (ACNSAS. FD 69, vol.1, f.1). Consequently, after June 1973, the files pertaining to the “Greek Catholic issue” were merged with those pertaining to the “Roman-Catholic issue.” This decision reflected the change of secret police strategies, which emphasised the connection between the two issues (ACNSAS. FD 69, vol.1, f.1).
The files of the Documentary Fonds dealing with “the Greek Catholic issue” comprise key documents about the policies of the Securitate during the late 1940s and the 1950s, but also about the obstinate and multilayered resistance of the Greek Catholic hierarchy, priests and parishioners. However, the surveillance activity became more intense and complex after the late 1960s, when the Securitate turned from an institution focused on repressing those considered enemies of the regime into one that emphasised preventive measures, especially broad and complex surveillance. Consequently, while for the late 1940s and the 1950s the majority of files regarding the Greek Catholic Church are “criminal files,” the files created during the 1970s and the 1980s are more concerned with surveillance activities. This predominance is reflected also in the content of the files of the Documentary Fonds. Most of these files from the late 1940s and the 1950s make reference to various repressive actions and their effects, while those which deal with the period from the 1970s to the late 1980s are dominated by the Securitate’s plans to penetrate the Greek Catholic hierarchy with informers, keep it under close surveillance and influence its decisions.
Besides, the Securitate’s policies, the files of the Documentary Fonds reflect in detail the initiatives of the Greek Catholic Church, which acted underground during the entire communist period. This reflection is shaped by the Securitate’s aims of obtaining key information about the relationship between the priesthood and its flock, but also about the contacts of the Greek Catholic hierarchy with the Vatican. The Securitate collected especially those documents and cultural artefacts, which proved the “anti-State activity” of this religious group. Due to the harsh repression and close surveillance under communism, the Greek Catholic hierarchy and priests avoided keeping in their private possession items which might prove their opposition to the communist regime. Consequently, the Securitate archives paradoxically became the main repository of these artefacts, which reflects the manifestations of their cultural opposition to the communist regime.
The history of the collection also reflects the pivotal moments in the relations between the communist regime and the Greek Catholic Church in Romania. The first files of the Documentary Fonds cover the period from 1946 to 1947 and were created by the Siguranţa (the pre-communist institutional predecessor of the Securitate), which gathered information about the activity of the Roman Catholic and Greek Catholic Churches and their correspondence with the Vatican. In the period from 1945 to 1947 the Siguranţa was already infiltrated by Soviet spies and the institution became an instrument of the communists in their endeavour to seize power in Romania (Deletant 1999, 71–72).
State policy towards the Roman Catholic and Greek Catholic Churches in the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc was already defined in February 1947, when the Council for the Affairs of the Russian Orthodox Church (CAROC) decided to take measures against the Vatican. One of these measures was “the total liquidation of all Greek Catholic parishes from the Soviet Union” and the countries of the Eastern Bloc (Vasile 2002, 315). Following the Soviet model of dissolving the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in 1946, the Romanian communist regime dissolved the Romanian Greek Catholic Church in December 1948. All the Greek Catholic bishops and hundreds of priests, who refused forced unification with the Orthodox Church, were arrested (Bucur 2003, 181–182). The arrested bishops died “either in prison, in an Orthodox monastery or under house arrest” (Vasile 2002, 318). All the properties of the Romanian Greek Catholic Church were confiscated by the state. However, the Vatican managed “to ordain in secret another six bishops,” who together with other priests who refused to join the Orthodox Church, continued to practise their confession underground (Vasile 2002, 319). Consequently, a significant part of the files concerning the “Greek Catholic issue” cover the period from 1948 to 1953, when the state focused on eliminating resistance to the forced unification of the Greek Catholic hierarchs and priests with the Orthodox Church. The decrees concerning the release from prison of most political prisoners from 1962 to 1964 and the relative liberalisation of the late 1960s encouraged Greek Catholic believers to practise their confession in a more overt way. Contacts with the Vatican became more effective and discussions about a restoration of official status took place between the Vatican and representatives of the communist regime. During the 1970s and the 1980s the unofficial hierarchs of the Greek Catholic Church launched various initiatives by which they hoped to obtain from the state authorities the official recognition of the Church and the return of its confiscated property. However, the Securitate kept the activity of the Greek Catholic hierarchs and priests under close surveillance, carried out complex operations of penetrating this religious milieu with informers and did its best to influence the key persons of the Church in their clandestine activity.
Since the transfer of these files from the custody of the SRI to CNSAS during the 2000s, dozens of researchers and students have accessed them. During the 2000s and early 2010s several monographs, using the former Securitate’s archives as their main archival sources, and edited volume of documents concerning the Greek Catholic Church under communism have been published (Vasile 2003a; Vasile 2003b; Bucur 2003, Stoica 2017).
Description of content
The collection is made up of two categories of documents: 1. documents created by the Romanian state authorities (mainly the Securitate) about the underground activity of Romanian Greek Catholics; and 2. documents and artefacts created by the Greek Catholics and confiscated by the Securitate in order to collect information and to keep under surveillance or repress the priesthood and the parishioners of this church. Among the documents in the first category to be found in the Romanian Greek Catholic (Uniate) Church Ad-hoc Collection at CNSAS may be mentioned: reports of various echelons of the Securitate concerning their activity on the Greek Catholic communities, orders and instructions from the headquarters of the secret police on this issue, “informative notes” provided by informers, transcripts of tape-recorded conversations, statistics of the number of parishioners and priests of the Romanian Greek Catholic Church, photos taken during surveillance activity, documents relating to the criminal investigation of Greek Catholic parishioners and priests for so-called “counter-revolutionary crimes” (such as minutes of the Securitate’s interrogations and sentences issued by military courts). The second category of documents is made up of open letters of protest against the repressive policies of the communist regime concerning the Greek Catholics, manuscripts, confiscated religious publications, private letters intercepted by the Securitate and religious artefacts. All these kinds of documents were confiscated or intercepted by the secret police and afterwards archived by the Securitate in the files of the Documentary Fonds, in “informative surveillance files” (dosare de urmărire informativă) and in “criminal files” (dosare penale). These categories of documents reflect the resolute and courageous opposition to the communist regime of parishioners and priests of the Romanian Greek Catholic Church from 1948 to 1989. The Romanian Greek Catholic Church was dissolved in 1948, and its bishops were imprisoned together with many of the priests, who refused to accept “forced unification” with the Romanian Orthodox Church. However, many parishioners and priests continued to practise their confession underground, thus assuming serious political risks.
- grey literature (regular archival documents such as brochures, bulletins, leaflets, reports, intelligence files, records, working papers, meeting minutes): 1000-
- manuscripts (ego-documents, diaries, notes, letters, drafts, etc.): 10-99
- photos: 10-99
Geographical scope of recent operation
Creator(s) of content
Important events in the history of the collection
- completely open to the public
Author(s) of this page
- Pintilescu, Corneliu
Bucur, Ioan Marius. 2003. Din Istoria Bisericii Greco-Catolice Române (1918–1953) (From the history of the Romanian Greek Catholic church). Cluj-Napoca: Accent.
Deletant, Dennis. 2002. „Studiu introductiv” (Introductory Study). In Banalitatea răului: O istorie a Securităţii în documente 1949–1989 (The Banality of evil: A history of the Securitate in documents 1949–1989). Edited by Marius Oprea, 9–46. Iaşi: Polirom.
Deletant, Dennis. 1999. Communist Terror in Romania: Gheorghiu-Dej and the Police State, 1948–1965. London: C. Hurst & Co. Publishers.
Oprea, Marius. 2003. “Problema 132: Biserica Româno-unită în atenţia securităţii” (Problem 132: The Romanian Greek Catholic Church under the observation of the Securitate). In Istoria Bisericii Greco-catolice sub regimul comunist, 1945–1989: Documente şi mărturii (The history of the Greek Catholic Church under the communist regime, 1945–1989: Documents and testimonies). Edited by Cristian Vasile. Iaşi: Polirom.
Oprea, Marius. 2002. Banalitatea răului. O istorie a Securităţii în documente, 1949–1989 (The Banality of evil: A history of the Securitate in documents, 1949-1989). Iaşi: Polirom.
Stoica, Sergiu. 2017. Cardinalul Todea în arhivele Securităţii: Note informative (Cardinal Todea in the Securitate archives: Informative notes). Cluj-Napoca: Mega.
Ştirban, Codruţa Maria, and Marcel Ştirban. 2000. Din istoria Bisericii Române Unite, 1945–1989 (From the history of the Romanian Uniate Church, 1945–1989). Satu Mare: Editura Muzeului Sătmărean.
Vasile, Cristian. 2002. “The Suppression of the Romanian Greek Catholic (Uniate) Church, East European Quarterly. 36, 3: 313–322.
Vasile, Cristian. 2003a. Istoria Bisericii Greco-catolice sub regimul comunist, 1945–1989: Documente şi mărturii (The history of the Greek Catholic Church under the communist regime, 1945–1989: Documents and testimonies). Iaşi: Polirom.
Vasile, Cristian. 2003b. Între Vatican şi Kremlin. Biserica Greco-Catolică în timpul regimului comunist (Between the Vatican and the Kremlin: The Greek Catholic Church under the communist regime). Bucharest: Curtea Veche.
Moldovan, Silviu, interview by Pintilescu, Corneliu, September 14, 2018. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection