Sunday, August 17, 2014

In Defense of the Cathedral for the Salvation of the Romanian People (Catedrala Mântuirii Neamului Românesc)

The current Romanian national cathedral is a structure which was built in the 17th century. Since that time, Romania has grown to be the second largest Orthodox national church, after Russia. I've been in the national cathedral. The Lutheran church where I grew up in Madison, Wisconsin is bigger, and actually more beautiful, especially in terms of internal lighting.

And my point is simple. The Romanian Orthodox Church needs, nay, deserves a new cathedral which matches her size and significance within world Orthodoxy.

I am a convert to the Eastern Orthodox Church of ten years. After I became Orthodox I met the Romanian-American woman I then married. We are school teachers and have spent most of our summer vacation in Romania in that time. I have learned to speak competent Romanian. I know and love Romania. 

Artist Depiction of the Cathedral under Construction
The Romanian Orthodox Church is currently building a new national cathedral. It will be called the "Cathedral for the Salvation of the Romanian People" (Catedrala Mântuirii Neamului Românesc). 

It is everything they deserve in terms of the grandeur of their Church. But, not surprisingly, there has been criticism of the project from many quarters. In this post, I will address the issues and explain why the new cathedral is so worthy of support.

The Cathedral for the Salvation of the Romanian People (Catedrala Mântuirii Neamului Românesc)

One of the common criticisms you will hear is that, the Romanians are building a huge new cathedral while people are in need. Why don't we instead spend all that money on schools, hospitals, and other support for the poor?

This immediately reminds me a quote from Gilbert Chesterton:

"Those thinkers who cannot believe in any gods often assert that the love of humanity would be in itself sufficient for them; and so, perhaps, it would, if they had it."

The point is, only the Church is criticized for spending any money not on the poor. Where are the soup kitchens that the Atheists run? (The new cathedral, by the way, will run a soup kitchen for a thousand.) Some businessman builds a new stadium for a soccer team and no one protests it telling him he should instead have built a hospital. For that matter, count up the free clinics built and operated by the Orthodox Church in Romania. They were under no legal obligation to build so much as one. And yet they built many. And the moment they decide to build a new cathedral, they are attacked for not building more hospitals? 

If you don't like the new cathedral, put your so-called ideals where they really belong. Don't blame the Church for not building one more hospital. Build one yourself. You'll find it enormously complicated. And if you actually do try to build one, you'll emerge with respect for the Church for her efforts over the centuries. 

I suspect, however, that the critics won't really try. Building hospitals is hard. Criticizing others for not building hospitals is easy.

Another criticism I have heard in Romania regards the location of the new cathedral. It is right next to the Palace of the Parliament, a monstrosity built by Ceausescu for an estimated 5.7 billion US dollars. And so, the criticism is that the new cathedral looks, next to it, like just one more building that drew enormous expense off the people.

Let's address the issue of location. If you've ever been in Bucharest, you'll notice that the Ikea store that was built after Communism is not in the downtown.  It's on the way to the airport, in an area that was completely undeveloped when I first started coming to Romania.

Why is the Ikea not downtown? For the simple fact that there is absolutely no place downtown where you could possibly have fit it in!

And, guess what? There is nowhere downtown where you also could have put a cathedral worthy of the Romanian Church. 

Imagine if they had decided to build the cathedral in that undeveloped area on the way to the airport. Then there would have been a public outcry saying, "They're building the new cathedral too far away from the city!"

Yeah, that's right. No matter what they did someone was going to criticize it.

Now, it just so happens that the only place anywhere remotely close to the city center with undeveloped land capable of housing a project as significant as the cathedral the Romanian Orthodox Church deserves to the Palace of the Parliament. Building it there is not just practical. It's a necessity.

As for the cathedral being built at the expense of the people, the government donated land that was not previously being used for the project. They did so knowing that this project would eventually generate money for the nation in the following way.

Romania is growing yearly in tourism potential. When completed, the new cathedral will be a major attraction for visitors to Bucharest. Admission to the cathedral will be free. But if the Church sells candles, icons, and other items, the cathedral will end up paying for itself in the long run.

And there's nothing wrong with that.

So, in the final analysis, I could not more enthusiastically support the current construction of the Cathedral for the Salvation of the Romanian People (Catedrala Mântuirii Neamului Românesc). Until  the day of its consecration (estimated sometime in 2016), I will be donating all the proceeds from my novel A Place of Brightness to that building project.
This novel is set almost entirely in Romania and follows the story of a faithful Orthodox family struggling against Communism in the 1960's and then pulled into international intrigue in the early 2000's as they must once again fight against an atheistic tyranny they thought was long defeated. 

Please note, do not buy this novel if you do not want to support the new cathedral project.

If you would like to donate directly to the new cathedral, please visit their website.

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