Our Patriarch Has Passed into Eternity
On the afternoon of July 30, 2007, all Romanian Orthodox believers, both in the country and the Diaspora, were troubled by some sad and unexpected news: Patriarch Teoctist had passed away. The one we had all known to be in good health, with a hearty appetite for life and work, an untiring servant of the Holy Altar, had departed from among us unexpectedly, leaving us all orphans. Hierarchs, priests, theologians, and faithful-all of us felt we had lost a loving parent, a special soul, a father who always had a word of encouragement or advice for the spiritual children of the Church which he pastored.
I was numbered among those who had the chance to be close to Patriarch Teoctist. I first met him when I was a theological graduate seeking to serve in the Church during my short time of preparation for the admissions exam for my doctorate. From the start, he received me with love and good-will. Later, when I found myself through the will of God studying in France, I used the occasion of my vacations to seek a blessing from the Patriarch. Even though he was very busy, he always saw me, and persisted in urging me to complete my studies and then return to Romania to serve the Church. After seven years I returned and again knocked on His Beatitude's door. Great was my surprise and joy to experience the parental love of the Primate of our Church for one of "the little people", temporarily estranged from the ancestral homeland. I came back to Romania trusting myself to God's care, but the one who fulfilled God's will for me was Patriarch Teoctist himself. He arranged for me to be tonsured as a monk at the Radu Vodă Monastery in the presence of three hierarchs. He later called me to the position of assistant secretary of the Patriarchal Chancery, thus offering me the opportunity to get acquainted with the administrative workings of our Church at its most important point, the Patriarchal office. Every meeting, pastoral visit, or church consecration was an opportune occasion for the Patriarch to encourage me to pay attention to what was going on.
His Beatitude did everything with much love, dedication, and wisdom. As he often shared, from early childhood he carried in his soul an unending love for ministering in his Savior's Church. The Patriarch's presence at a service was always an example for all those present, the clergy as well as the faithful. His sacramental gestures were sure and natural, his singing harmonious, his words kind and full of instruction. His Beatitude chose his words carefully and spoke them in a pleasing manner, as a Moldovan who had spent time in all the Romanian provinces and finally settled in the capital, where one was expected to speak the Romanian of the Academy. His beautifully chosen words were always recorded, so that they could later be published.
His Beatitude worked with great dedication. Everything he said, every action gave witness to his determination that things would be done well. Nothing seemed insignificant in the eyes of the Patriarch when it came to the Church's mission. It is remarkable the way he would write down his well thought-out phrases, then would check them over many times to make sure that no little error would find its way into a letter which bore the signature of the Patriarch of Romania.
In every thought and all his deeds the wisdom of a person who had gone through many trials could be seen. We all know that His Beatitude, Patriarch Teoctist, was called to the ministry of Primate of the Romanian Orthodox Church in 1986, at the height of the communist persecution, after many years of hierarchical service, first as the Patriarchal Vicar Bishop, then Bishop of Arad, Metropolitan of Craiova and Iaşi. The freedom that came to the Romanian people in 1989 brought about a change of times for the Orthodox Church as well, a change that was not without its trials and temptations. Patriarch Teoctist went through all kinds of times with faith in God's help, and a belief that the ministry of the Church could not be destroyed through the vicissitudes of the times. The Savior's words about the steadfastness of His Church on the rock of faith in His Deity were his anchor against the storms of life. Because he had gone through so much, he had wisdom to understand and solve problems. Those who were close to him were witnesses of that wisdom. The Patriarch always found the good side of things, even in the most terrible situations, and always found a balanced solution to the most unexpected crises. Through this he proved himself to be an irreplaceable mentor for his disciples.
Five years ago, the Patriarch led the delegation of the Romanian Orthodox Church for our ordination and enthronement as Archbishop in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Montreal. Also included in the delegation were Metropolitan Iosif of Paris, locum tenens at that time, Metropolitan Teofan of Oltenia, the previous locum tenens (immediately after the retirement of Archbishop Victorin), Metropolitan Serafim of Germany, and Bishop Ioan of Covasna and Harghita. We were all surprised at the liveliness and clarity of His Beatitude's words, at his memory of the names and places he had visited in Canada some 40 years previously, and his love for the children of our Church living across the ocean. The Patriarch came loaded with gifts for the priests and faithful of the Archdiocese, and for the parish priest and faithful of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. Of course the most precious gift was the presence of His Beatitude at that historic moment for our Archdiocese. Thus was crowned a series of seven visits to Canada by our Patriarch, beginning in 1963. We all hoped that the July 2002 visit would not be the last. But our Heavenly Father decided otherwise, and called our Patriarch to Himself, also in the month of July, the 30th day, in the year of salvation 2007.
At this time of his passing from this world toward the Kingdom of Heaven, it behooves us all to pray for our Patriarch, that God will grant him rest after his long years of service in the Church, that He will number him among the Saints and in the ranks of the righteous, of those who have received the Word of the Gospel and fulfilled it during their earthly life in word and deed. And let us all rest assured that our father, Patriarch Teoctist, continues to pray for his spiritual children from his new place in the Church Triumphant, together with all the bodiless heavenly powers.