Amazingly, the Romanian Orthodox Church is the only church within orthodoxy to have as a native tongue a Romance language. With more than 85% of the Romanian population being Orthodox, the Romanian Orthodox Church is only surpassed by the Russian Orthodox Church in members.
Besides the 16 million Christians living in Romania, Romanian orthodoxy also expands to neighboring countries of Moldova (720,000), Serbia and Hungary and even more, the United States (11,203) and Oceania.
The Orthodox doctrine is often called the “true faith” or the “right/correct belief” by its members.
The three most significant events in a person’s life are the birth, the wedding and death. These are all usually “celebrated” through certain customs varying from church to church.
Orthodox Romanians baptize their children while they are still newly born, unlike other faiths where they are baptized later in their life. There may be many pairs of godparents and the engagement godparents must baptize the first child. Also, it is the godparents’ obligation to each hold lit an ornamented candle matching the child’s gender. At the end of baptizing, the godfather must put a silver cross necklace on the child and the godmother must swaddle him.
When it comes to the holy marriage and wedding, the man courts the woman and asks her hand to her parents. After she accepts and they get engaged, they decide on their godparents, as these are considered extremely important. The bride is readied by the godmother and afterwards meets the groom who gives her the flower bouquet. During the ceremony, Orthodox Christians have this custom to steal de bride and for unmarried girls to catch the bouquet.
When a person dies, the Orthodox customs of burial are the following: the deceased’s hands are crossed holding a cross, all persons coming to the wake must say “God forgive him!” The relatives of the deceased must wear black for 40 days and man should not shave and must not leave the soulless body alone. Wailing is manifested in some parts of the country as sign of respect towards the deceased. If the day of the burial is a rainy one, this signifies that the dead person did not want to die.
The Romanian Orthodox Church’s most important holidays and days of rest, besides the Birth of Jesus and the Resurrection Day, are the Beheading of St John the Baptist, Feast of the Cross, the Pentecost (Rusalii), Nativity of Mary, Assumption of Mary, Transfiguration of Jesus, Palm Sunday (Florii) and the Epiphany (Boboteaza).
The most loved and prized saints of the Orthodox Romanians are John the Baptist, the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel, Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, Saint Nicholas and Saint Andrew.
As many wonder, there are some but slight differences between Catholicism and Orthodox, which were once the same Christian faith. In Romanian, they use different nouns for the Holy Spirit – Orthodox use “Duh” while Catholics say “Spirit”. Moreover, they make a cross the other way round. Catholics believe in the existence of a purgatory, a place or a state where a man waits for the Last Judgment, whereas Orthodox do not believe such thing exists. While Orthodox use bread as the body of Christ, Catholics use wafers, like Jews. Although Orthodox priests are permitted to have a family, Catholics are prohibited to get married and have children. Lastly, Catholics are known for the papal supremacy, considering the Pope as the replacer of Christ on Earth.