Romanian Culture

Religion

Primary Author
Nina Evason,

Romania is a very religious country, with Christianity being the largest faith. In the 2021 National Census, 85.3% of the population identified as Romanian Christians, 4.5% identified as Roman Catholics, 3% identified as Reformed Christians, and 2.5% as Pentecostal Christians.1 A further 4.7% identified with another religion (such as another Christian denomination, Islam or Judaism), while 13.9% did not respond.2 Religious affiliation tends to follow lines with the majority of Romanian/Eastern Christians being Romanian, while followers of minority religions generally belong to minorities.

 

Romania does not have a state religion. However, all registered clergy groups draw salaries from the government.3 The powers of churches have varied surrounding historical factors. During communist rule, religion was officially viewed as a personal matter, and belief or membership in a religious organisation was considered to be incompatible with loyalty to the Communist Party. The government made efforts to undermine religious teachings and faith in favour of science and empiricism.4 However, after the collapse of the regime, it became evident that much of the Romanian population had continued to be devoted to their faith in private.5

 

A 2018 poll by the Pew Research Forum found that Romanians are highly religious in comparison to other Europeans, with 50% of participants reporting that they attend worship services at least monthly and religion is very important in their lives.6 or agnosticism is very uncommon. Religious devotion is especially strong in rural areas and visible in much of public life. For example, government and public events often begin with a religious service. However, some argue that the number of practicing Christians is smaller than the proportion identified in statistics, as this is the default religion for Romanians.

 

Romanian Orthodox Christianity

Distinctions of Eastern churches generally occur according to nationalities. Thus, in Romania, Eastern is often referred to as ‘Romanian ’. Almost all Romanians embrace as an element of national belonging, even if they do not practise the religion regularly. According to Romanian legend, the area of Romania was introduced to Christianity by Saint Andrew in the 1st century AD. This legend has been embraced by both the Romanian Church and the government as part of the national identity. Saint Andrew (Sfantul Andrei) is considered to be the patron saint and protector of Romania, with the Feast of Saint Andrew (30th of November) declared a public holiday.

 

Important sacramental moments in the tradition act as significant timestamps in people’s lives, such as baptism, confirmation and Holy Communion. Matrimony (marriage), holy orders (ordination) and (anointing of the sick) are also important practices. Easter is the biggest event of the year for Romanian Christians. Some Romanians may fast in the weeks before Easter (Lent) or on some religious holidays. This involves a restricted diet as well as abstinence from activities such as smoking or drinking.

 

Minority Religions

Most followers of minority religions in Romania belong to minorities. For example, the majority of Protestants and Catholics are Hungarians or German minorities.7 The Reformed Church (part of the Calvinist Church) has the biggest Protestant following, with around 95% of its followers being Hungarian.8 Hungarian is also the main language of this church.9 Some Roma have also been attracted to the Pentecostal and Evangelical denominations of Protestantism since the end of the communist era. 

 

Unlike Eastern Christians, Protestants and Catholics put a greater emphasis on the celebration of Christmas than Easter. Most Protestant and Catholic believers typically reside in the northern region of Transylvania (this includes a small population of Greek Catholics), but many are also located around Bacau county in Moldovia. People belonging to the Muslim minority generally live in the southeastern part of the country, whilst approximately 40% of the Jewish population lives in the nation’s capital Bucharest.10

 

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1 Central Intelligence Agency, 2024
2 Central Intelligence Agency, 2024
3 Kimutai, 2017
4 Cucu et al., 2024
5 Cucu et al., 2024
6 Evans & Baranavski, 2018
7 Office of International Religious Freedom, 2022
8 Pariona, 2017
9 Pariona, 2017
10 Office of International Religious Freedom, 2022

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