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Cablegate: Ambassador's Meeting with New Romanian Orthodox Patriarch Daniel

DE RUEHBM #1314/01 3321604
R 281604Z NOV 07





E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/27/2017

Classified By: Ambassador Nicholas F. Taubman for Reasons 1.4 (b) and ( d)

1.C) Ambassador accompanied by Polcouns and USAID Director met November 26 with Romanian Orthodox Patriarch Daniel. Patriarch Daniel prefaced the meeting by remarking that the United States has a strong economy and Romania needed to learn the lessons of economic success from Americans. The Ambassador responded that while there was some current pessimism regarding the Romanian economy, he disagreed with the pessimists; Romania had a wonderful potential and the economy was doing very well. He added that he was aware that the Orthodox church was the most respected institution in Romania and underscored his personal admiration for the late Patriarch.

2. (C) Ambassador noted that while this was a courtesy call, he nevertheless had two specific issues on his plate including trafficking in persons and legalization of prostitution. He said the USG was continuing efforts in partnership with Romanian authorities in combating TIP, and expressed concern that, with increased prosperity, Romania could change from being a transit country to a destination country. He noted that the issues of trafficking and legalized prostitution frequently went hand-in-hand, as legalization created new problems; it had a corrosive social effect and made countries destinations for sex tourism.

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3. (C) Patriarch Daniel thanked Ambassador, remarking that his comments were "encouraging to us." He said the church stood with the United States in resisting efforts to emulate some other European countries by legalizing prostitution. Legalizing prostitution did not address the problem of human dignity and turned people into consumer objects. The Patriarch noted that proponents of legalization frequentlycited the public health benefits, but failed to look at other costs. He said that it was good to see other countries were resisting legalization, and agreed with the Ambassador's observation that prostitution was not a victimless crime. The Patriarch said that the Romanian Orthodox church had many media tools at its disposal in this battle including ownership of television and radio stations and a newspaper (Lumina) which was now being published in Bucharest. He invited the ambassador to speak on TIP and other subject using the Church's media outlets, adding that this could be yet another example of the U.S. Embassy "positively influencing" developments in Romania.

4. (C) Patriarch Daniel also remarked on the common Judeo-Christian background of Romania and the United States, noting that he had recently discussed with the Israeli Ambassador a possible joint project of organizing a seminar on Judeo-Christian contributions to European identity. His goal as Patriarch was to develop the links between American and Romanian churches, including better relations with the ecumenical council of churches in the United States. Noting the Romanian Orthodox Church's historical position as a "majority" church, the Patriarch said his church needed to learn how to function in an increasingly pluralistic society and to deal with other churches on an equal basis. He added that churches everywhere faced the same challenges in dealing with an increasingly secularized society. The Patriarch said that his vision was to foster an ongoing dialogue with sister churches on how religions could act and contribute positively to society.

5. (C) The Patriarch said had spent many years abroad in academic settings, including eight years in Geneva as a professor. He said that he was "nostalgic" for that international and ecumenical atmosphere and wanted to recreate it here in Bucharest. He sought the Ambassador's support for future events, including inviting members of the Ecumenical council in the United States and bringing young people here on exchanges. Patriarch Daniel added that this might be a "good complement" to what the Embassy was doing on the diplomatic track. Ambassador responded that he would look into ways where the Embassy might assist. When Ambassador noted that young people were sometimes particularly fervent in proselytizing for their faith, the Patriarch responded, "It's better to have discussions than to blame each other; and far better to be verbally aggressive than to make war on each other" The Patriarch added that ties created by these exchanges of young people were not merely symbolic, but rather a way to turn symbols into reality. He underscored, too, the dangers religions created by "absolutizing" minor differences in matters of creed and liturgy, noting the old religious joke that "you worship God in your way, we worship Him in His way..." In closing, Patriarch said that Romanians still had much to learn from the United States in promoting dialogue, tolerance, and coexistance between religions.

6. (C) Comment: After decades under the aging Patriarch Teoctist, there is a fresh breeze blowing in the Romanian Orthodox Church. Patriarch Daniel has abundant international experience, is fluent in English and other languages, and experienced in dealing with others in an ecumenical setting-qualities that were not always the first to come to mind in dealing with Church elders here in Romania. The media-savvy Patriarch is also quite aware of the power and influence of his church as a shaper of public opinion. The Embassy has made common cause with the Orthodox Church in opposing the legalization of prostitution here, and it appears we may continue to have an active ally in this effort going forward. In the past, however, the Embassy parted ways with the Orthodox church on the thorny issue of restitution of Greek Catholic properties seized during the Communist era.

The Patriarch's remarks regarding the need for dialogue and coexistence between churches here is an encouraging sign. End Comment.

7. (C) Biographic Note: Orthodox Patriarch Daniel was born in Dobresti-Bara (Timis County). Daniel, aged 56, was elected to the position of Patriarch of the Orthodox Church in early September 2007 after the death of his predecessor, Patriarch Teoctist. He was previously the Metropolitan of Moldavia and Bukovina for 17 years, a position which placed him from the start among the favorites in the race for the new Patriarch. By tradition, the metropolitan of Moldova is next in line to the Patriarch's seat, although it is not a pre-condition to obtain this position.

A graduate of the Orthodox Theology Institute in Sibiu in 1974, Daniel continued his studies at the Protestant Theology Department of the School of Humanities in Strasbourg (France) for two years and at the Catholic Theology Department of "Albert Ludwig" University in Freiburg im Breisgau (Germany) for two more years. In 1979 he took his Ph.D. in Strasbourg and in 1980 in Bucharest. Between 1980 and 1988, Daniel was a lecturer at the Ecumenical Institute in Bossey, Geneva (Switzerland) and associate professor in Geneva and Fribourg
(Switzerland). After he returned to Romania in 1988, he succeeded to getting promoted from patriarchal counselor to metropolitan in just three years.

Daniel is viewed by most experts as a relatively young and energetic Orthodox hierarch, open to the West and ecumenism, and with reformist views. However, some critics alleged that Daniel,s studies abroad and his period of teaching in Switzerland during the communist period could only have been possible if he had ties with the Securitate. Such suspicions were fueled also by the fact that his Securitate file was reportedly "lost" right after the fall of communism. He was reportedly instrumental in helping the Metropolitanate of Bessarabia in its struggle to separate from the Orthodox Russian Church. The Moscow Patriarch reacted angrily to Daniel's efforts to strengthen the Bessaradian church. Daniel is a good manager, and the Metropolitanate of Moldovia and Bukovina reportedly flourished from a business point of view during his tenure. A diplomatic and affable, Daniel has had good relations with all the post-1989 governments in power.

During the short period of time since his election, Patriarch Daniel has been very active, concluding an agreement of cooperation regarding social issues with the government, awarding the Patriarchal Cross to President Basescu, and inaugurating radio, television, and print media outlets for the Patriarchate.


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