Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America (OCA)

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The origins of the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America began with the arrival in America of Orthodox Romanian immigrants from Transylvania, Bukovina, Banat, and Macedo-Romania in the years before World War I. As many of these immigrants arrived with the intent of returning to their European homelands after working in America not many organized parishes or built churches. With the founding of an independent Romania after World War I, many of these immigrant did return to Europe.


The first priests to service the Romanian community did so on an itinerant basis. The oldest Romanian Orthodox parish was organized in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada in 1902, while the first parish in the United States was established in Cleveland, Ohio in 1904. These parishes were affiliated with, for Canada, the Metropolitan of Moldava and, for the United States, the Metropolitan of Transylvania. These metropolitans provided some priests with theological training, but a class of untrained priests formed in America who were ordained by Bishops Stephen (Dzubay), Adam (Philipovsky), and Arseney of Winnipeg. These two groups formed separate factions that caused fragmentation and conflict.

In 1928, the Metropolitan of Transylvania sent Fr. Trandafir Scorobet to survey and report the status of the Romanian Orthodox parishes in America. At a meeting on January 30, 1928 with the Romanian clergy in Cleveland, Ohio, he recommended reorganizing the church in America with the establishment of an episcopate. Then, on April 25, 1929, at a general congress of clergy and laity in Detroit, Michigan an Autonomous Missionary Episcopate was formed under the canonical jurisdiction of Holy Synod the Church of Romania. The resolution of the congress was accepted by the Romanian Patriarchate with Decree No. 10210 in November 1930 and the Romanian Holy Synod proclaimed the establishment of the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America.

On January 26, 1935, the Holy Synod of Romania elected Archimandrite Polycarp (Morsca) as the first bishop of the new episcopate. After his consecration in Europe on March 24, 1935, Bp. Polycarp arrived in the United States and was enthroned in Detroit during the Church Congress on July 4, 1935. A statute for the episcopate was also enacted at the congress. Bp. Polycarp was able to heal the factional disputes by accepting what he found, but expected order and discipline hence forward. He establish the foundations for many church organizations and, in 1937, was instrumental in the acquisition of property in Michigan, called Vatra, that became the headquarters for the episcopate. After formally inaugurating the headquarters, Bp. Polycarp returned to Romania in 1939 for a session of the Holy Synod, but was prevented by the start of World War II from returning to the United States. During the time of World War II the administration of the episcopate operated in a subdued manner awaiting the return of Bp. Polycarp. After the war, his return was again stopped, this time by the new Communist government. While prevented from returning he advised his community by a letter of July 30, 1947 that he still considered himself the bishop of the Episcopate. But, later in the year, by a letter of December 8, 1947, he advised that by a law (No. 166 of 1947) funding for the episcopate had been eliminated and the Episcopate was dissolved in the view of the government, and that he, Bp. Polycarp, was placed in retirement.

Yet, the next moves were typical of communists of the time. In a letter of April 4, 1949 to the Episcopate Council of America, Bp. Polycarp wrote that under a new law for the Church of Romania the leaders for Romanian Orthodox communities outside Romania would be sent by the Patriarchate “…with the approval of the government.