Andrei Șaguna and ”The Organic Statute” – VIII. Conclusions and perspectives


This chapter includes the basic conclusions we have dropped as a final result of the research on Andrei Şaguna’s life, political activity, canonistical works and ecclesiastical-organizational activity. It also tries to draft some hallmarks for the present religious law and canon law.

VIII.1 Formal results of the research

One of the first visible, formal results of the present research is its somewhat unusual dimension and complex structure. It is so because of some topics which in the beginning was not previewed to be so long treated, but during the work it became useful to do.

Firstly, for an objective, right presentation of Andrei Şaguna’s person, political activity and canonistical works, but also taking into account the actual European context, it was not without importance to outline the Transylvanian social-political and religious configuration in the modern times and to show the fact that Transylvania developed still at the end of the sixteenth century the first state-legally embodied religious tolerance in Europe, four Christian denominations being recognized by law. But it was not without meaning too, to underline the fact that even the Orthodox Romanians – the majority in the principality – were excluded more than three hundred and fifty years from any political or religious right, out of ethnic and religious criteria.

Secondly, it followed an extensive presentation of Andrei Şaguna’s biography as well as of him as a canonist.

In the first part of the thesis some points of Andrei Şaguna’s biography became a special, quite long place, being clarified by sometimes in extenso cited documents, for to counteract and clear misapprehensions that circulated during the time and are still used by some scholars, or for to point out too little known aspects of Andrei Şaguna’s personality.

One of the clarified things is Andrei Şaguna’s Orthodox confession. Baptised Orthodox shortly after his birth, the child Anastasie together with his brother and sister had to convert to Roman Catholicism because of the conversion of his father, according to the laws which regulated the conversions in the Austrian Monarchy, favourable to the Catholic Church. It followed the struggles of the Orthodox mother for the right to educate her children and the difficult reversion of the children to Orthodoxy.

Another clarified thing is Andrei Şaguna’s understanding of his identity, nationality. Rooted in an Orthodox Macedo-Romanian family with strong affiliation to their own religious and ethnic traditions, born and grown up in Hungary and consequently, having Hungarian citizenship, educated in Catholic schools, living more than a decade among the Orthodox Serbians of the Austrian Monarchy, and finally becoming the religious leader of the Orthodox Transylvanian Romanians, the metropolitan understood himself just as a Romanian, considering the Romanian language his mother tongue and the Romanians his people. In spite of this understanding, or even because of his cosmopolitism, he was in no case a nationalist, but a promoter of the individuality of each people, religion and culture within Austrian Monarchy, in equality and respect for law. In actual language, one can describe Andrei Şaguna as an example of European Romanian.

It was also underlined, especially by original quotations from his political petitions and speeches, a little known side of Andrei Şaguna’s personality, that of a gifted lawyer.

The second part of the thesis, apart from the presentation of Andrei Şaguna’s canonistical works and thinking in the context of the Orthodox doctrine and Tradition, of the historical time in which he lived, and of the entire political and ecclesiastical European context in the second part of the nineteenth century, tried to find and describe all the canon law topics which are present in the works of the metropolitan, because during the time he was analysed almost only as a promoter of the ecclesiastical constitutionalism.

Such issues as the theological foundation of the Orthodox canon law, the relationship Church – state in Andrei Şaguna’s conception, and the Orthodox ecclesiology reflected in Andrei Şaguna’s canonistical works and ecclesiastical-organizational activity are extensive presented, because of their importance.

Then, it was clarified the synodal principle and particularly the principle of church constitutionalism as expressed in Andrei Şaguna’s ecclesiastical organization. The criticisms, denials and misunderstandings of Andrei Şaguna’s canonistical-organizational activity are presented as well. The participation of the laymen in exercising the Church power, officially restored in the Orthodox Transylvanian Metropolitanate by “The Organic Statute” of 1868, seems nowadays something natural both for the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, but it was described nearly one century, up to the Second Vatican Council, as Andrei Şaguna’s “Protestant innovation” introduced in the Orthodox Church. While in Romania the critics of Andrei Şaguna are still long successfully defended by the canonist Liviu Stan, on abroad Andrei Şaguna was quickly and long time especially by the Catholic canonists criticised, but by nobody defended, even after the Second Vatican Council itself promoted a more active participation of the laymen in the Church’s life. We considered a moral restoration of Andrei Şaguna’s memory to comprise in the present work both the foreign and Romanian critics and to show their shallowness or tendentious intention.


VIII.2 Andrei Şaguna – a bishop, canonist and ecclesiastical organizer who had to struggle personally for the legal rights of his Church

VIII.2.1 Andrei Şaguna – a priest and bishop by call  

During the second half of the twentieth century, the sacerdotal dimension of Andrei Şaguna’s personality was quite ignored, too little emphasized.[1] Along the last sixty years Andrei Şaguna as a bishop and canonist was surpassed in the scientific researches by the politician Andrei Şaguna. Although, primarily and basically he was a bishop, only secondarily and subsidiarily he was a politician, not one in the proper sense of the word. Moreover, by his writings and especially by his concrete activity Andrei Şaguna revived the episcopal ministry and laid it on the primary foundations of the Church’s Tradition. In an age of clericalism, of the First Vatican Council in the Western Church,

but also of some abuses and disorders in the Church of the East[2], Andrei Şaguna displayed his ministry in the true spirit of the Gospel, serving the faithful in love, not wishing to dominate. “And thus, I have sometimes worked alone to accomplish our ecclesiastical wish, as canons dictated me, but not to introduce and establish any hierarch’s absolutism, which I have always opposed to …”[3]

His sacerdotal quality as a priest and then bishop is the main premise of both his ecclesiastical and social activities. Metropolitan Nicolae Bălan of Transylvania (1920-1955) – Andrei Şaguna’s truthful successor – noticed persuasively: “Şaguna was above all a priest. Not a theologian, a man belonging to school, or a man of public life, but first of all he was a character of a priest, fully shaped on the foundation of the Gospel. Out of the clear and deep consciousness of this divine mission sprang the wealth of great deeds, which – from his place as a priest of the Church – he shed over the Romanian people. This consciousness was the core of his personality; and who does not see this centre of light in his soul, cannot see the rays he sent everywhere.”[4]

From serving the altar he took the force to serve his fellow men: “As a priest Şaguna was a model of piety. Those, who met him personally, those, who had the opportunity to see him celebrating a Holy Liturgy say that his reverence, piety, and majestic tenure when he appeared in the front of the altar made an unforgettable impression. His pastoral letters present him the same way: a priest who believes in his ministry; a priest endowed with a deep sense of responsibility; a priest with an intact spirit, who knows how to kneel and pray.”[5]

The metropolitan himself was conscious of his call: “I hope that Your Highness, who have known me for more than thirty years and have known my life, you won’t doubt the truth that my character suits my call.[6] Just because he knew, followed and accomplished his call, Andrei Şaguna succeeded in imposing another social perception on the Orthodox bishop: “He was a well known personality at Vienna, well seen in the highest circles from there. Very often, when he went out for a walk the Viennese stopped and looked at him with pleasure, some greeted him, others mentioned his name by their accent ‘Zaguna’ and hearing them he bowed his head smiling.”[7]

Under the most different circumstances, Andrei Şaguna had always in his soul the image of his fundamental mission, that of shepherd of souls. He bore in his heart the ideal of redeeming the people whose bishop he was. The feeling of loving and responsible sacrifice toward the clergy and faithful mastered him since the beginning of his episcopal ministry: “I feel I know the size and weight of my episcopal call, and I do my best to accomplish it; I feel in my heart overwhelmed with sorrow for one thing only, namely that the circumstances and my force do not let me do as much as I would like to do for my clergy and faithful.[8] The Orthodox understanding of the bishop as “the bridegroom of the Church” was assumed and lived by Andrei Şaguna at high pitch: “I live for the Church only, for my call and there is not any moment to think of something else but the welfare of our Orthodoxy …”[9]

VIII.2.2 The premises of Andrei Şaguna’s involvement in politics

The politician Andrei Şaguna was not identical with the outstanding Transylvanian intellectual politicians of his time, whose majority was Greek Catholic, first of all because the very basics of their politics were considerably different.[10] If for the intellectuals politics was almost a profession, a way of life, for the bishop it was an additional responsibility of his ministry in the Eparchy of Transylvania. After his researches on Andrei Şaguna’s political activity, Keith Hitchins concluded: “Şaguna was, in fact, not primarily interested in politics as a career or in achieving purely political goals. Nor, it must be said, was he a particularly creative political leader. Although he was certainly the major figure in Rumanian political life of his time, he conducted the affairs of the nation in accordance with the traditional ways of his Orthodox and Uniate predecessors. He did not, for example, tray to organize a regular political party and he seems even to have shunned the practice of politics as divisive and inefficacious. […] He preferred to think in terms of spiritual and moral values rather than political parties and ideologies.”[11]

Objectively, the social-political responsibilities of both the Greek Catholic and Orthodox bishops of Transylvania were a tradition developed at the end of the eighteenth century. As the involvement in politics of the Serbian Orthodox leaders in the Habsburg Monarchy was decreed by the “Illyrian Privileges”, all the more the Romanian ones, who lacked political representatives of their nation, had come in the nineteenth century to take over political assignments, above all in cases of social disturbances, on behalf of the faithful who were in their subordination.

Subjectively, Andrei Şaguna’s political activity had many arguments. The first of them was the necessity to outline his Church a legal framework that other four confessions in Transylvania had consolidated in the last three hundred and fifty years. The legal recognition of the Orthodox Church was condicio sine qua non for its organization on canonical principles, in a modern society. This necessity had to be included in the bishop’s agenda – as he was the official representative of that Church – and the situation had to be improved as a basically political act. As Andrei Şaguna personally confessed to the Austrian minister of the interior during the beginning years of his ministry in Transylvania, the political approach was a zero priority, in order he could hope to accomplish the Church’s mission of his eparchy: “It appears necessary, that the existence of the Church should be ensured first of all from the political perspective, so that it would fully dedicate itself to the accomplishment of its high objective …[12]

The stormy changes in the Austrian Empire in the second half of the nineteenth century had a great impact on the ecclesiastical life in Transylvania too, sometimes disturbing it. So, when in the end, on December 24, 1864, Vienna had legally reactivated the Orthodox Metropolitanate of Transylvania and Metropolitan Andrei Şaguna could deal with its organization on canonical bases, the resignation of the State Minister Anton von Schmerling came up, followed by the moving of the political-administrative centre of the principality from Vienna to Budapest, through the Dualism of 1867. The legal documents issued by the Transylvanian Diet of Sibiu in 1863-1864 were all annulled, inclusive the Article of Law of 1863, by which the Romanian nation and its confessions, the Greek Eastern (Orthodox) and Greek Catholic Churches, were recognized as equal with the other nations and confessions of the country. The plan to organize the Metropolitanate was in danger so long it was not legally recognized by the new state. A provident spirit, Metropolitan Andrei Şaguna was once more obliged to get involved in the political affairs, because only in this way he could hope to create a proper church organization, after the definite legal recognition of the Metropolitanate.

Second, the disastrous situation of the Transylvanian Orthodox Church itself was a consequence not only of the ethnic-confessional society with no room for the Romanians, as legalized in Transylvania in the sixteenth century, but also of the brutal interference of the political power in the religious sphere, through the intention of the Viennese Court to annihilate the Orthodoxy in Transylvania, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, by the encouraged and sustained church Union with Rome. The coming back to a normal status of Orthodoxy might have been carried out by the political power too. As this power should be convinced to do something, no one could better get involved and convince to solve the problems of a confession which a great injustice had been done to, than the ecclesiastical officials themselves. An energetic person like Andrei Şaguna could not wait for anybody else’s involvement in this respect, the more that the Orthodox Romanians had any political representatives at the time; he had no other way but to get involved personally.

Third, the poor condition of the Romanian Orthodox, on the one hand as a distinct religious community yet not legally recognized, on the other hand as individuals belonging to an oppressed nation which was not recognized either, could not be a matter of indifference for the ecclesiastical leadership. To provide corporate rights for the Orthodox Church was a bishop’s natural main concern[13], but he could not omit the political rights of a nation which identified itself with this Church, although not entirely. This was the more so, since all these rights had been denied simultaneously the Romanian Orthodox people of Transylvania, at the beginning of the sixteenth century.

It was also necessary that the state become receptive, so that the Church could accomplish its social-philanthropic mission. The abolishment of the serfdom, the legal granting of the Orthodox people’s religious rights, a new Constitution of Transylvania which would provide the right public responsibilities and taxes, all this supposed approaches to the legal institutions of the time. Furthermore, to offer material and moral prosperity to the faithful in the modern age could not be accomplished by the Church by its own resources, which in the case of the Orthodox Church of Transylvania did not really exist, but the financial state support was a pre-requisite. And this did not occur by itself. Thus, “in spite of the opinions of many of his contemporaries and the subsequent judgments of scholars, who regarded him first and foremost as the consummate politician, he engaged in the art not to fulfill political ambitions but primarily to assure the welfare of the Orthodox Church and its faithful.”[14]

Not in the least, his status as a lawyer and theologian defined the Bishop Andrei Şaguna as an unusual ecclesiastical personality; he was deeply convinced of the necessity of law and order in the social life, as well as within Church: “I have not waited for our rightful statute to come out of somebody’s pity, but out of the law.[15] The legal process of renewal, a political act so necessary to a society frozen in feudal laws, took its benefits from Andrei Şaguna, who participated responsibly and was fully aware to it. Although his goal was not getting involved in politics “his special features imposed him as a leader. A tactful diplomat, a polished, cultural perfectly balanced spirit, ready for both abstract speculations and positive actions, […] he brought along a new psychological element on the line of impetuous and courageous daring, a revolutionary and conspiring temperament, an atavistic relic of Macedonia’s turbulent soul. Endowed with a multiple and rich personality, Şaguna became the guide of our political destinies in Transylvania.”[16]

Finally, “he had more political sense than many of his contemporaries: he has always detested the policy of passivity and his opinion turned out, decades after his death, as the only true and proper one.”[17] Although he avoided politics, once he was involved in it Andrei Şaguna had an efficient work taking advantage – in a just, moral, honest way – of each situation, in order to obtain for the Romanians everything that could be obtained. He was not stoutly tied neither by the autonomy of Transylvania, when it was lost, nor by the national autonomy, when the evolution of monarchy went over it, just like that, nor by the Diet of Sibiu, when it drowned in the tumult of events, neither did he deny the Diet of Budapest. He knew so well that all these were problems whose solution did not pertain to his competences and power. That is why all these changes were almost indifferent to him, his main thought was to wake and fortify his people and Church, in order to survive.[18]

His political vision, as well as the sincerity and morality of all the actions he did, brought Andrei Şaguna the Emperor Francis Joseph’s respect: “We might say that no Romanian, before and after him, until today – as we know the past – has ever enjoyed so much imperial grace, or acquired so high state offices as Metropolitan Şaguna has!”[19]

We should not forget an essential fact, namely that Andrei Şaguna was not a politician in the genuine sense; he never had a political doctrine or a political party. He believed in the independent function of the Church, as a category separated from state or nation as a politically constituted body.[20]

Basically, his deeds and endeavours on the political scene were aimed at accomplishing a threefold ecclesiastical objective: first, the emancipation of the Romanian Orthodox Church of Transylvania by its recognition as a Church having equal rights with the other recognized confessions – corporate religious rights within the state for the Romanian Orthodox Church of Transylvania –; second, the acquisition of the autonomy of the Orthodox Romanian hierarchy from the Serbian one, by the reestablishment of the Transylvanian Metropolitanate; third, the organization of the Transylvanian Metropolitanate in accordance with the canonical provisions and the primary Christian institutions.

VIII.2.3 The principles of Andrei Şaguna’s political involvement

The intransigent morality and the illuminating patriotism were the guiding principles in metropolitan’s political activity. His involvement in politics did not mean at all to take upon himself the political nationalistic ideals of the lay intellectuals of his time: “Generally speaking, I can see that it is not right to mix ecclesiastical and educational with national matters, as they are distinct. So we have to discern between them, as their mixture might bring about damages and harm that we could hardly mend.[21]

Within the context of the nationalistic politics which dominated Transylvania in his time, “his own policy was to foster understanding and confidence among all the peoples of Transylvania, so that they might settle their differences through reason, rather than violence.”[22] Within the general context of the Austrian Monarchy, his “nationalism” “was not of the emotional variety that made the nation or Volk the be-all and end-all of human endeavors and set it up as a law unto itself; he was too cosmopolitan and too rational to indulge in such fantasies.”[23]

Although there is even the opinion that, in fact, Andrei Şaguna did not have the ecclesiastical autonomy as an objective, but the creation within the Church’s autonomy and constitution of the necessary conditions which had to lead to the flourishing of the national life, and consequently, he subordinated the Church and its organization to his nationalistic views[24], yet, recent studies, especially those of Keith Hitchins, deny this theory. Deeply rooted in the genuine, traditional Orthodoxy the bishop saw and faced the danger of nationalism, first of all within the Orthodox Church, for which the nineteenth century was one of the nationalism drawn to the extreme. All the more, he avoided the trap of the nationalism in politics, seeing the danger of the Magyar, Serbian, Romanian, Saxon nationalism within the Austrian Monarchy and that is why he had always controversies with the Romanian ideologists of the nationalism of that time, such as Simeon Bărnuţiu.

As compared to the lay intellectuals, who would have liked that the Church get involved in supporting their nationalistic desiderata, Andrei Şaguna on the contrary, tried to keep the Church away from partisan political strife.[25] He wrote to the faithful of his eparchy, in 1863: “As until now, so you should do in the future, that is to say discuss only religious and scholastic issues in the parish and protopopiate synods and personally take care that no political issue be introduced in such church synods, but always be alert to the nature and distinction of religious or scholastic matters from the clearly political ones. […] Likewise the local rectors are obliged to personally take care of the discussion of clearly religious or scholastic issues only, during the parish synods; seeing that the members of such synods bring in discussion political matters, they should disperse the parish synods and promptly notify such an event to the protopopiate see …[26]

The steadiness concerning the non-involvement of politics or ideologies into religion was one of his constant strategies, till the end of his life: “[…] serving the altar, growing old in this call and wishing to correspond and honour it, I have so many concerns and official occupations, that I do not have time to deal with worldly things and even if sometimes I take part in some of them, I do this especially on the faithful’ request, so that, on the one hand the worldly things do not influence Church’s matters to the detriment of religion and its inner peace, and on the other hand, in such situations to be preached the morality, without which no society can succeed in solving the social problem, to the contentment of the righteous requests of modern times.[27]

In addition to morality, patriotism, and separation politics-religion, we should add Andrei Şaguna’s dynastic loyalty, easy to explain because he had to fight in Transylvania on several fronts and the elements of Transylvania’s public life – the privileged of the old feudal constitution – often laid obstacles on his way, which he could eventually remove only with the emperor’s help. A good connoisseur of the history, Andrei Şaguna settled a strategy as realistic as possible toward the Viennese Court. Taking into account that the Tsarist Empire was the principal rival of the Habsburg Monarchy in the Eastern European area, it was natural that Vienna was cautious and even suspicious toward the Orthodox of Transylvania, close to Russian Orthodox, with whom – in the view of Court – they could ally any time against it. Under the circumstances, the bishop chose a constant loyalty toward the monarchy, the only one which could eliminate suspicion and implicitly determine Vienna to support the Romanians’ emancipation. He stayed loyal to the House of Habsburg during the long fight, because he considered that the Romanians, with their poor resources and experience, could get rid of Magyarization and could accomplish their aspirations only supported by the Habsburgs. He also used his considerable influence in order to fight against them who wanted to abandon the Romanians’ dependence on Austria.[28]

Thus, between two possible attitudes toward the Court: loyalty and insistent diplomatic struggle for the cause of his Church and nation, or opposition and plain war for the same cause with almost nonexistent means, Bishop Andrei Şaguna chose the first one – with highest results as the time later showed.

The fact that he was first of all not a political fighter with inflexible nationalistic targets, but a bishop who served the Church[29], was not forgiven by the intellectuals of his time, even by some of those who judged him after his death. He was not forgiven for his pro-monarchic political attitude either.

VIII.2.4 The “originality” of Andrei Şaguna’s ecclesiastical organization

The ecclesiastical organization conceived by Andrei Şaguna – definitely based on the Orthodox ecclesiology – can be regarded neither as a Protestant innovation nor as a result of the liberal ideas of that time, but only as a revival of the primary Church’s tradition without transgressing the Orthodox canonical frame.

If Andrei Şaguna composed a church constitution containing a mark of originality, which during his lifetime did not exist in the Orthodox Church, its boldness springs from the author’s doctrine on the mobility of the disciplinary canons “performed of course in the spirit of the original Christianity”[30].

Assessing the organization of the Transylvanian Orthodox Church, one should not forget to mention Andrei Şaguna’s conception on canons. He thoroughly dwelt on the problem of canons in his works, unreservedly recognizing their authority as a constitutive part of the Church, quite similar to the word of God:Deswegen lehren wir […] daß der Mittelpunkt der Kirche auf Erden die Heilige Schrift und der allgemeine Kanonen-Codex ist, welche das allgemeine öffentliche Kirchenrecht enthalten, und daß der Mittelpunkt der Kirche auf Erden, durch keinen Oberhirten repräsentiert werden kann, denn er ist geistig, sondern er kann nur durch eine ökumenische aus Oberhirten, Priestern und Laien bestehende Synode unter dem geistigen Oberhaupte, welcher Christus ist, repräsentiert werden.[31] However, Andrei Şaguna did not irrationally understand the canons; on the contrary, he had a balanced and justified opinion regarding their value, which was derived from the object the canon legislates upon. He distinguished the dogmatic and moral canons from the ones regarding the ecclesiastical discipline, dividing them in two categories: dogmatic and disciplinary. The first category – the dogmatic – “stays unchanged and unharmed forever[32]. As for the disciplinary canons, he opined that “they can be changed, but only to the extent that a disciplinary canon should be adapted to the local conditions, but carefully, so that not to harm the original intention of the canon, given to it by the Holy Fathers who made it.[33] The theory of relativity of the disciplinary canons is of great importance, because it offers, principally, the explanation and the justification of the ecclesiastical organization conceived by Andrei Şaguna.[34]

The manual “The Elements of Canon Law” contains the following important explanation: “Regarding the confession of the creed and the article of faith, there can be no difference in the Church of Christ, for He is only one; but the ecclesiastical discipline can differ, subsequent to the time period and conditions, namely if these conditions are related to the Church as a whole or only to a part of it. Because what is not against the dogmas, that can be used from any local Church, when the external conditions urge it. So, if the unity of the creed and dogmas is unharmed and the limbs of the Universal Church remain in the same faith and share the Holy Ghost, then the ecclesiastical discipline can differ from one part or period to another; because this does not alter the unity of faith. Consequently, the disciplinary canons of the local Churches can be different.”[35]

The people who disputed the canonicity of Andrei Şaguna’s ecclesiastical organization evaded the difference mentioned above, between the dogmatic and disciplinary canons, relying either on a strictly formal understanding of canons, without catching the meaning and context of their elaboration, or on the biased interpretation of historical facts or even of the metropolitan’s theoretical and practical work. One should also bear in mind the fact that in Orthodoxy “almost all official dogmatic definitions have been brought about by heresies, and these definitions were limited only to the disputed dogmas, without defining the others in a complete system and connecting them with all the dogmatic consequences and the related dogmas; all the same, its laws of organization and administration appeared progressively, in accordance with the necessities and circumstances, being limited to filling the blanks left behind by the passage of time. The Church has never undertaken a complete and final work of legislation.”[36]

As it was shown, the “Project of Regulation” – Andrei Şaguna’s work – cannot be, by any means, suspected of lack of canonicity.[37] One cannot say the same about “The Organic Statute” – the work of the church congress of 1868, with changes made by the Hungarian Ministry of Public Worship. However, with all its gaps or “derailments” from Şaguna’s initial project, “The Organic Statute” meant a major progress concerning the organization of the Orthodox Church at that time.

Andrei Şaguna’s canonical-organizational doctrine can be summarized as it follows: the Orthodox Church can only have a synodal constitution, based on the principle of hierarchical leadership, with the participation of the lay people in the executive function.

One can find Andrei Şaguna’s special merit in the way he knew how to legislate the rights of the clergy and the people within the framework of the Church leading power.[38] He respected the Orthodox canonical principle according to which the Church power in its entirety (teaching, holifying and leading power) belongs the hierarchy, the laymen’s involvement being limited at the leading power.

Only the hierarchy as a synod can exercise unrestricted the leading power.[39] The highest manifestation of the leading power – the legislative function – was given by Andrei Şaguna only the hierarchy. The second manifestation of the leading power – the judicial function – was also assigned to the hierarchy or clergy, namely to the protopopes, bishops, the local Synods and the Ecumenical Councils.[40] Finally, the third and last manifestation of the leading power in the Church – the executive function – does not belong exclusively to the hierarchy and clergy anymore, but also to the believers, who can exercise it. Only in this aspect of the leading power did Andrei Şaguna accept the collaboration of the clergy, the hierarchy, with the lay people.

Respecting the Orthodox Church’s hierarchical-synodal character, according to which any mixed synod around the bishop or the episcopacy must be considered a consultative forum, not a decisive one, Andrei Şaguna “added to it [the hierarchical-synodal character] a correction, or a completion.”[41] Şaguna’s correction which was added to the hierarchical-synodal principle is that the decisions of the mixed ecclesiastical synods are not limited exclusively to a consultative character. They can have a decisive character, on condition they are not un-canonical and correspond to the interests of the Church. What is more, the hierarchy cannot simply reject a decision of a mixed ecclesiastical synod, without giving reasons for its attitude.

In essence, it is about making the members of the ecclesial body more responsible: both the hierarchy – which is not allowed to take groundless decisions -, and the believers – who are encouraged to involve themselves actively in finding canonical solutions for the problems of the Church, specific to each historical period.

In this way, the church constitution of the Transylvanian Orthodox Churchrespected the hierarchical-synodal principle, which imposes a consultative character to the decisions of the mixed synods, but it also abolished the episcopal absolutism which was supported by this principle, too narrowly understood and far too exclusively applied. […] it was imposed the welfare of the Church above all narrow canonical dispositions, which were even more superficially interpreted by a cluster of retrograde ‘canonists’, both Romanian and foreigners.”[42]

What is and will always remain decisive in Şaguna’s regulation of the participation of the laymen in exercising the Church power is the avoiding of any possible extremes in this case: the exaggerate and not well-regulated participation of the laymen, which consequently can lead to the secularization of the Church up to the point that it becomes alike any other civil society, by erasing the charismatic and christocratic character, by replacing the hierarchical-synodal system with the lay, democratic one, where the power emanates from the people; or the total exclusion of any participation of the laymen in exercising the Church power, the replacement of the hierarchical-synodal character of the Church with an absolutist one. Actually, the Orthodox Church has always maintained a balance[43]  between these two extreme attitudes.

The understanding of the Church’s needs in the spirit of the age, “setting” the Church in the perspective of the historical evolution, facing the future – in opposition with what the Roman Catholic Church did in the same epoch especially through the First Vatican Council – is the key of Şaguna’s ecclesiastical organization. He was not inspired by any political doctrine to do so, but only by his episcopal responsibility.

A righteous assessment of Andrei Şaguna’s activity as a whole, and of his ecclesiastical-organizational one in particular, might have a starting point in the following: “Metropolitan Şaguna was a great talent, just as the centuries make, when the Providence disposes that talents be born within the peoples, by whose work new impulses and a better direction be given to their way to progress and advancement. At the same time, Şaguna was a great far-seeing spirit, quickly observing and providing everything, exactly predicting and combining things – a spirit of genuine creative force.”[44]

VIII.3 The reception in time of Andrei Şaguna’s personality

Even it was not intended in the beginning, after the estimation of the entire bibliography an adjacent result of the present research became evident: the survey of the way in which Andrei Şaguna’s personality was regarded and interpreted by his contemporary and by his posthumous researchers, according to the dominant trends in different epochs. Now, when we celebrate the bicentenary of the metropolitan’s birth, it is worthy to have a general view on his reception, so that the future researchers, especially the canonists, would have a better approach.

From this point of view, we can distinguish the following epochs, more or less similar or different:

I. During his lifetime Andrei Şaguna was differently regarded by the members of the Transylvanian, Hungarian and Austrian societies. Practically, every social class had another expectance from the Transylvanian Orthodox leader, according to its goals.

Thus, the simple believers, his “parishioners” – who did not have any minimal political and social protection, being even oppressed by the state for ethnic and religious reasons – considered him as the real shepherd, the spiritual father who offered them protection, love, appreciation and help. Actually, this was the message the new bishop transmitted to his believers and clergy by his first pastoral letter. This programmatic aim on his agenda was constantly accomplished and this is why after his death the people kept him long time alive in the collective memory.

On the level of the Romanian (thin) intellectual class in Transylvania, deeply influenced by the political nationalism, the sympathy which Andrei Şaguna had gathered in his first two-three years of activity turned to antipathy after the revolution of 1848-1849 and then during the Neoabsolutist era (1849-1860). The main reason of this change was the idea that the bishop had betrayed the nationalistic ideal. Later, during the constitutional experimentation in Austria (1860-1864), the sympathy and appreciation came again, but then disappeared for ever and Andrei Şaguna was subjected to false accusations and hard polemics by some intellectuals.

The political circles of Vienna and Budapest regarded him exclusively from the viewpoint of their own problems and social-political plans. Andrei Şaguna’s loyalty to the monarchy – which attracted the severe hate of the Hungarian ultranationalists – did not automatically imply receptivity from the part of the Viennese Court for his right demands. His major goal – the legal recognition of the reactivated Orthodox Metropolitanate of Transylvania – faced great difficulties and delays, depending on the political context and the interests the monarchy had with one or other confession and ethnic group.

While his skills as a leader were recognized (even more in the political frame) by the political circles, Andrei Şaguna as a canonist and ecclesiastical organizer was less appreciated at that epoch. The comprehension of his church constitution was subordinated by his co-nationals to the political demands of the Romanians in Transylvania. At the international level, the critical opinions and the praise of his canonistical works were connected with the religious context: the Protestants – as a gesture against the Catholic clericalism – praised the ecclesiastical constitutional principle, which was brought to life again by Andrei Şaguna in his Metropolitanate; the Catholics named him Protestant – which was quite natural in that context of the Catholic Church – because of the same above-mentioned principle; the Orthodox Serbians, who experienced a great process of national revival in the nineteenth century, disregarded Andrei Şaguna and his ecclesiastical reforms meant to develop the Orthodox Church in Transylvania irrespective of the Serbian Church.

II. After his death (1873) until the end of First World War, his main biographers (Nicolae Popea and Ioan Lupaş) cultivated the nationalist-patriotic image of Andrei Şaguna. On the one hand, this could be explained by the political nationalistic trend which overwhelmed the Balkans and Romania during the second half of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century. The wish to counteract the acid attacks of the nationalist intellectuals in Transylvania against the bishop – which had poisoned his life until the death – could be the second explanation.

During this epoch, Andrei Şaguna as a canonist was studied only by chance and insignificantly. Thus, we can mention only the Russian Orthodox Church, which paid attention to the church constitution conceived by Andrei Şaguna when it tried, by the Synod of 1917-1918, to change the church organization inherited from the Tsar Peter the Great, an attempt interrupted by the instauration of the Communist rule in Russia.

III. The inter-war period is the most prolific as far as the analysis of Andrei Şaguna’s activity as a canonist and ecclesiastical organizer is concerned.

The commemorative articles and writings of this period are compilations of the pre-war ones, having in addition a higher level of patriotism, which can be easily explained as the inter-war period was the most favourable historical context of the Romanians’ history in the twentieth century.

After the dissolution of the Austrian Monarchy and the unification of all Romanian territories, in 1918, Andrei Şaguna became, for the first time, an important topic for canonists, theologians and intellectuals from all Romania. The major problem which came into discussion was the implication of the laymen in exercising the Church power. The mixed synods that had already been organized for half a century in Transylvania were still unused in the Church of the other Romanian provinces; in addition these synods were sharply criticized by the Catholic and Greek Catholic theologians and canonists, who considered them a Protestant innovation in the Orthodox Church. Finally, the polemics led to at least two major results: first, the elaboration of historical-canonical studies on this issue; second, following this studies after the Second World War the new organization of the Romanian Orthodox Church was agreed, and in 1948 the same church constitution for the entire country issued. That church constitution – “The Statute for the Organization and Functioning of the Romanian Orthodox Church” of 1948 – inheriting Andrei Şaguna’s canonistical conception on ecclesiastical organization helped the Orthodox Church of Romania to stay alive even during the fifty years of Communist dictatorship.

IV. The Second World War, followed by the instauration of the Communism in Romania (1947), interrupted any discussion on Andrei Şaguna. Even when some Romanian theological and historical circles brought the topic back into debate, they did it only on the grounds of the nationalistic-Communist ideology. There was still a foreign exception – Keith Hitchins’s historical writings – which saved Andrei Şaguna from oblivion and put him into the contemporary scientific international circuit. However, Andrei Şaguna as a canonist was not the basic topic of the North American historian’s research. That is why this dimension of the metropolitan’s personality did not become popular in the academic international circles, in spite of the fact that he were worthy to receive – after the Second Vatican Council – at least so much recognition of his canonical-organizational principles, as much criticisms and denials before.

V. After the fall of the Communism (1989), there are some relevant approaches on Andrei Şaguna, but the Romanian and foreign scholarly climate is still influenced by the previous epoch. While Keith Hitchins’ elaborated studies considered almost completely the social-political dimension of the Transylvania’s most famous metropolitan, Andrei Şaguna as a canonist is still waiting for researchers who are interested in studying his canonistical heritage and consequently in adding him the patrimony of the great canonists.

VIII.4 Şaguna’s scientific perspectives for the twenty-first century

From the viewpoint of the above summary of Andrei Şaguna’s reception according to the trends and requirements of every epoch, one could draft some ideas important for present and future.

While the revival of the ecclesiastical constitutional principle and the establishment of the autonomy of the Church toward the state were undoubtedly, in the nineteenth century, the most visionary features of Andrei Şaguna’s thinking – today implicitly recognized by both the Eastern and Western Church -, the classical Orthodox ecclesiology, the metropolitan system of ecclesiastical organization based on the apostolic canon 34 and the pentarchy, persuasively supported by Andrei Şaguna, would be considered the most actual point of his canonistical thinking, for the entire Orthodoxy, but not only for it.

Another important point in his thinking as a canonist and lawyer, which was insufficiently analysed in its original dimension and importance, is the relationship between Church and state. Both the contemporary canonists and lawyers could find important ideas for their research in “Compendium”, “Anthorismos” and in other works written by Şaguna. Within the contemporary globalizing and technical context, the return to his theory on the main goal and role of the Church within state – to provide the spiritual peace to the people – is worth considering.

Especially for the Orthodox it is also important to check the way in which the present ecclesiastical organization suits the canons. Turning back to a more severe canonicity in the organization of the Orthodox Church should be compulsory nowadays, at least with the same intensity as for Andrei Şaguna in the nineteenth century.

The Romanian Orthodox Church could offer to the United Europe, to the Orthodox Diaspora a model of a more visible Orthodox unity, through Şaguna’s view on the reorganization of the Orthodoxy in the Austrian Monarchy in the nineteenth century: the periodical multi-ethnic episcopal synods as an obvious element of the dogmatic, canonical and organizational unity of the Orthodox Diaspora.

One of the most important points of Andrei Şaguna’s thinking is the understanding of the spirit of the age. The contemporary globalizing context represents a challenge for both the politics and religions. While the politicians together with the lawyers are supposed to answer it by efficient legislation, the theologians and the canonists are pressed to clearly and powerfully express the common consciousness of the Church. The latter aspect imposes the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, as well as the whole Christianity a serious reflection on the ecumenical synodality of the first Christian millennium, for to confess credible – in a world which is above all materialist – that the crucified and resurrected Jesus Christ is “the way, the truth and the life”[45].


[1] In this respect, it is worth to be mentioned a very recent contribution: Mihai IOSU, Mitropolitul Andrei Şaguna – Arhipăstorul, in: Mitropolitul Andrei Şaguna – creator de epocă în istoria Bisericii Ortodoxe din Transilvania, Sibiu 2008, 318-327.

[2] “As far as the position of the Church of the Principalities [Moldavia and Wallachia] is concerned, this was showed by the obligations and especially the rights they have been honoured by. The high ranked leaders of the Church, the hierarchs, kept for themselves most of the obligations and especially of the rights of the Church. They were considered the princes’ main advisors and held the main offices in the country’s councils or assemblies. By their involvement in a series of responsibilities – basically strange from their ecclesiastical concerns – they strengthened even more their position and, indirectly, the Church’s position within the state. Also, the hierarchy and the Church, in general, enjoyed a very attractive material standard. The monasteries, the bishoprics, the bishops themselves had important properties and material rights, which they used according to their own wish.” C. DRĂGUŞIN, Legile bisericeşti ale lui Cuza Vodă, 87.

One may not forget the caesaropapist system introduced at the beginning of the eighteenth century by the Tsar Peter the Great in the Russian Orthodox Church, later adopted by the Church of Greece too. As for the Patriarchate of Constantinople, there the millet system introduced by the Ottomans after 1453 was also not the most canonical one.

[3] Protocolul Congresului Naţional Bisericesc…1868, 4 et seqq.

[4] N. BĂLAN, Despre Mitropolitul Andreiu Şaguna, 5.

[5] Gh. TULBURE, Mitropolitul Şaguna, 75-76.

[6] “Andrei Şaguna către Emanuil Gojdu” (“Andrei Şaguna to Emanuil Gojdu”), dated Sibiu, April 29/May 11, 1861, in: A. ŞAGUNA, Corespondenţa I/1, 338-346 here 339.

[7] N. POPEA, Archiepiscopul şi Metropolitul, 348-349.

[8] Andrei Şaguna’s circular letter No. 115/1858, in: Gh. TULBURE, Mitropolitul Şaguna, 432-433.

[9] “A.B.M. 2591”, Bishop Andrei Şaguna’s letter to Metropolitan Josip Rajačić, dated Sibiu, November 13, 1857, in: T. BODOGAE, Un capitol din istoria relaţiilor culturale sîrbo-române, 546-547 here 546. Cf. also A. ŞAGUNA, Corespondenţa I/2, 140-141 here 140.

[10] This difference did not prevent Andrei Şaguna from cooperating well with the intellectuals, politicians of his time, especially when he was invested by the people to represent them, together with the above named. See in this respect “Scrisori dela mitropolitulu Andreiu br. de Siaguna cu incepere din an. 1847 si cateva dela fostii sei secretari adresate lui Georgie Baritiu” (“Metropolitan Andrei Şaguna’s letters since 1847, and some letters of his former secretaries, to George Bariţiu”), in: G. BARITIU, Parti alese din istori`a Transilvaniei, 564-588.

[11] K. HITCHINS, Orthodoxy and Nationality, 283.

[12] “Propunerile episcopului Şaguna presentate ministrului pentru conferinţele episcopesci dela Viena” (“Bishop Şaguna’s suggestions presented to the minister for the bishops’ conferences of Vienna”), November 16, 1850, in: Il. PUŞCARIU, Metropolia, colecţia de acte, 73-87 here 75: “Es erscheint also als höchst nothwendig, dass vorerst politischerseits die Existenz der Kirche gesichert werde, damit sie dann sich mit allen Kräften der Erreichung ihres hohen Zieles widme …”

[13] “Şaguna has the merit to have turned the Orthodox Church of Transylvania into a lawful institution, determining its right place in the state life.” Gh. TULBURE, Activitatea literară, III.

[14] K. HITCHINS, Orthodoxy and Nationality, 278.

[15] A. ŞAGUNA, Memorii, 54.

[16] O. GOGA, Discurs, 23.

[17] R. CÂNDEA, Andreiu Şaguna, 188.

[18] Cf. V. BRANISCE, Andrei, Baron de Şaguna, 18-19.

[19] N. POPEA, Archiepiscopul şi Metropolitul, 337.

[20] Cf. P. TEODOR, Preface at K. HITCHINS, Ortodoxie şi naţionalitate, 11.

[21] “Andrei Şaguna către Emanuil Gojdu” (“Andrei Şaguna to Emanuil Gojdu”), dated Sibiu, April 29/May 11, 1861, in: A. ŞAGUNA, Corespondenţa I/1, 338-346 here 344.

[22] K. HITCHINS, Orthodoxy and Nationality, 53.

[23] Ibid., 175.

[24] See Gh. TULBURE, Activitatea literară, III-IV and 13-16.

[25] Cf. K. HITCHINS, Orthodoxy and Nationality, 175.

[26] Andrei Şaguna’s circular letter No. 134/1863, in: Gh. TULBURE, Mitropolitul Şaguna, 333-335 here 334-335.

[27] “Andrei Şaguna către Emanuil Gojdu” (“Andrei Şaguna to Emanuil Gojdu”), dated Sibiu, April 29/May 11, 1861, in: A. ŞAGUNA, Corespondenţa I/1, 338-346 here 339.

[28] Cf. K. HITCHINS, Andrei Şaguna şi românii din Transilvania în timpul decadei absolutiste, 30.

[29] “Şaguna agiert primär als Bischof für die orthodoxe Kirche und nur dann und solange es der orthodoxen Kirche und den Gläubigen dient, für die sozial-politischen Interessen der Rumänen in Siebenbürgen eintritt.” J. SCHNEIDER, Der Hermannstädter Metropolit, 3.

[30] I. MATEIU, Contribuţiuni la istoria dreptului bisericesc, 194.

[31] A. Freiherr von SCHAGUNA, Compendium, 92; A. Baronu de SIAGUN`A, Compendiu, 95.

[32] Actele Soboarelor…1850 şi 1860, 80.

[33] Ibid., 80.

[34] The above-mentioned conception of Andrei Şaguna on canons could easy counteract affirmation like: “Das Kirchenrecht wird letzten Endes von der orthodoxen Theologie nicht als mittragendes Element der kirchlichen heilbringenden Wahrheit betrachtet, sondern allein als eine kirchlich-soziale Überstruktur, die im Namen einer eigentlich auf dem Bereich des Dogmas liegenden Wahrheit immer wieder überholt werden kann. In der kirchlichen Rechtsetzung wird nicht wie im lateinischen Kirchenrecht der Versuch unternommen, die Wahrheit der Lehre institutionell festzuhalten, damit eine unbedingte Übereinstimmung zwischen Dogma und Recht entsteht.” E. CORECCO, Ordinatio Fidei, 7.

[35] A. Baronu de ŞAGUNA, Elementele dreptului canonic, 21855, 24-25.

[36] L. STAN, Mirenii în biserică, 314.

[37] See the chapters V.2 and V.3 herein.

[38] Cf. I. MATEIU, Contribuţiuni la istoria dreptului bisericesc, 199.

[39] Cf. A. Baronu de SIAGUN`A, Compendiu, 293.

[40] Cf. A. Baronu de ŞAGUNA, Elementele dreptului canonic, 21855, 172-174; A. Baronu de SIAGUN`A, Compendiu, 399-413.

[41] L. STAN, Mirenii în biserică, 198.

[42] Ibid., 199.

[43] “The deviations recorded by history are concomitant with the periods and the moments of crisis that the Church went through.” L. STAN, Mirenii în biserică, 22.

[44] A. HAMSEA, Din vieaţa pastorală a mitropolitului Şaguna, 455.

[45] Cf. John 14.6: “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.’”


mihaela.stan February 10, 2017 Drept si Religie