Romanian Culture

Religion

Romania is a very religious country. Christianity is the largest faith, with roughly 81.9% of the population identifying as Romanian Orthodox Christians, 6.4% identifying as Protestant Christians and 4.3% identifying as Roman Catholics in the 2011 census.1 A further 1.1% identified with another religion (such as another Christian denomination, Islam or Judaism), while the remaining 6.3% did not specify a religion.2 Religious affiliation tends to follow ethnic lines with the majority of Romanian/Eastern Orthodox Christians being ethnic Romanian, while followers of minority religions generally belong to ethnic 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 Atheism 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 Orthodox Christians is smaller than the proportion identified in statistics, as this is the default religion for ethnic Romanians.

 

Romanian Orthodox Christianity

Distinctions of Eastern Orthodox churches generally occur according to nationalities. Thus, in Romania, Eastern Orthodoxy is often referred to as ‘Romanian Orthodoxy’. Almost all ethnic Romanians embrace Orthodoxy 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 Orthodox 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 Orthodox tradition act as significant timestamps in people’s lives, such as baptism, confirmation and Holy Communion. Matrimony (marriage), holy orders (ordination) and unction (anointing of the sick) are also important practices. Easter is the biggest event of the year for Romanian Orthodox Christians. Some Orthodox Romanians may fast in the weeks before Easter (Lent) or on some religious holidays. This involves a restricted diet as well as abstinence from indulgent activities such as smoking or drinking.

 

Minority Religions

Most followers of minority religions in Romania belong to ethnic minorities. For example, the majority of Protestants and Catholics are ethnic 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 Orthodox 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 half of the Jewish population lives in the nation’s capital Bucharest.10


Central Intelligence Agency, 2011

2 Central Intelligence Agency, 2011

Kimutai, 2017

4 Cucu, Hitchins, Latham & Turnock, 2019

5 Cucu, Hitchins, Latham & Turnock, 2019

6 Evans & Baranavski, 2018

7 U.S. Department of State, 2010

8 Pariona, 2017

9 Pariona, 2017

10 U.S. Department of State, 2010

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