Dumitru Staniloae was a priest of the Church of Romania who is renowned as an Orthodox theologian, academic, and professor. In addition to commentary on the works of the Church Fathers and a Romanian translation of the Philokalia, his 1978 masterpiece The Dogmatic Orthodox Theology established him as one of the foremost Christian theologians of the later half of the twentieth century.
Dumitru was born on November 16, 1903 in Vladeni, Brasov County of Romania to Irimie and Rebecca Staniloae. His mother Rebecca was the niece of a priest. He was the youngest of their five children. At the age of thirteen he began studies at the Andrei Saguna Confessional Humanist Lyceum. The following year he received a fellowship from the Gojdu Foundation. In 1922, he received a fellowship from Cernauti University but found the course of study unsatisfactory and withdrew after one year. From 1923-1924 he attended classes at the Faculty of Letters of the University of Bucharest.
Having returned to Cernauti University, he graduated in 1927, completing a thesis entitled Baptizing Children under the supervision of Professor Vasile Loichita. In the fall of 1928, Dumitru received his doctorate degree after completing his dissertation Life and Work of Dosoftei of Jerusalem and His Connections with Romanian Principalities. Over the next several years he studied Byzantology and Dogmatics under a fellowship from the Metropolitan Center in Sibiu as well as attending courses taught by Professor August Heisenberg in Munich. In 1929 and 1930, he researched documents concerning Gregory Palamas in Berlin, Paris, and Constantinople.
On October 4, 1930, he married Maria Mihu, who presented him the following year with twins, Maria and Dumitru. His son Dumitru died shortly after his birth. His daughter Maria survived until April 1946. On October 8, 1931, Dumitru was ordained deacon, followed by his ordination to the priesthood on September 25, 1932. On October 8, 1933, another daughter, Lydia, was born to the couple.
With the end of World War II, the government of Romania was taken over by communists and began to oppress the Orthodox Church there. Under political pressure, Fr. Dumitru was forced in 1946 to step down from the rectorship of the academy, although he continued teaching as a professor until the next year, 1947. He then transferred to the University of Bucharest, assuming the Ascetics and Mystics Chair as a member of the Faculty of Theology. In 1949, however, this chair was abolished. Still, Fr. Dumitru continued to teach graduate students as a professor of dogmatics.
In 1950 Fr. Dumitru began to attend meetings of the Rugul Aprins (Burning Altar) group. This was a group formed in 1940 by a number of academics, including hieromonks Ivan Kulighin, Benedict Ghuis, and Sofian Boghiu and priests Andrei Scrima and Ion Marin Sadoveanu. The group met at the Cernica and Antim Monasteries and was a center for rejuvenation of Orthodox Christian life in Bucharest. In 1958, coinciding with the withdrawal of the Soviet Army from Romania, a wave of political arrests were made, including members of the Rugul Aprins group. Fr. Dumitru was among those arrested. On September 5, 1958, he was confined to prison to await his trial, which began on November 4, 1958.
Over next several years, Fr. Dumitru was moved among a number of prisons. He was held in isolation for months at a time until he was released in 1963. He then began working for the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church. In 1965 he was asked by the Romanian State Department of Cults to write articles and take part in studies as the government attempted to project an image of religious freedom in Romania. Fr. Dumitru was permitted to travel and attend worldwide conferences.
In 1968 he was permitted to attend conferences in Freiberg and Heidelberg. The same year he lectured at Oxford University in the United Kingdom. Then, in 1973, he retired but continued as a consultant professor for doctoral studies. During the succeeding years he was honored often, including receiving Doctor Honoris Causa degrees from the University of Thessaloniki in 1976, St-Sergius Orthodox Institute in Paris, France in 1981, from the Faculty of Orthodox Theology of Belgrade in 1982, from the University of Theology of Athens in 1991, and from the University of Bucharest in 1992.
On October 5, 1993, Fr. Dumitru Staniloae died at the age of 90.
Following are the titles of some of his works:
- Catholicism after the War, Sibiu, 1932
- Life and Teachings of Gregory Palamas, Sibiu, 1938
- Orthodoxy and Romanianism, Sibiu, 1939
- Jesus Christ, or Man's Restoration, Sibiu, 1943
- Philokalia (translation); vol. 1: Sibiu, 1946; vol. 2: Sibiu, 1947; vol. 3: Sibiu, 1948; vol. 4: Sibiu, 1948; vol. 5: Bucharest, 1976; vol. 6: Bucharest, 1977; vol. 7: Bucharest, 1978; vol. 8: Bucharest, 1979; vol. 9: Bucharest, 1980.
- Treaty of Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, Bucharest, 1978
- Theology and the Church, New York, 1980
- Priere de Jesus et experience de Saint Espirt, Paris, 1981
- Orthodox Spirituality, Bucharest, 1981
- Moral Orthodox Theology, vol. 2, Bucharest, 1981
- St. Gregory of Nyssa - Writings (translation), Bucharest, 1982
- Orthodoxe Dogmatik, 1985