Church in Romania takes its flock into cyberspace

By Time of article published Jun 27, 2011

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BUCHAREST: The Romanian Orthodox Church, known as a bastion of conservatism, has broken a taboo by embracing the internet and tending to its flock via cyberspace.

Believers are now invited to send prayers via the internet, seek their soulmate on orthodox-only matrimonial websites and watch the funerals of their loved ones online.

Since the dynamic and comparatively young Patriarch Daniel, 59, became the shepherd of about 19 million Romanian Orthodox believers in 2007, God’s word has been increasingly delivered via sermons broadcast live.

The church has even set up its own media group, Basilica, including a radio and a TV station, a news agency, a newspaper and a “pilgrimage agency”, Basilica Travel.

Scores of websites and blogs disseminating Orthodox teachings and facilitating exchanges among believers have also mushroomed, creating what analysts here are calling the “internet church”.

A sociologist specialising in religions, Mirel Banica, said such websites may raise eyebrows, but they answer a need.

“People are busy, and many Romanians live abroad and no longer have time to perform all the Orthodox rituals the way their parents used to,” he said.

Nearly 3 million people from this former communist state, which joined the EU in 2007, have emigrated over the past few years looking for better-paid jobs in the West.

With Orthodox churches sometimes far away, “they resort to the internet when it comes to commemorating their dead relatives, for instance”, Banica said.

For the sociologist, “the development of the Orthodox blogosphere is religion’s answer to the challenges of modern times”.

One widely visited website, – which had a record 72 000 visitors on Christmas Eve – invites believers to send prayer requests online. – Sapa-AFP

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