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    STUDIA THEOLOGIA ORTHODOXA - Issue no. 1-2 / 2003  

  Abstract:  Archbishop Valerian D. Trifa, a Controversial Personality of the USA Romanian Orthodox Diaspora. In 1947-1952 the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America breaks up the canonical relations with Romanian Orthodox Church. From 1952 to 1984 the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America was headed by Bishop Valerian Trifa. This study is a try to reveal his controversial life and mission. In June 28, 1914, Viorel Trifa was born to Dionisie and Măcinica, five kilometers outside of the small town of Câmpeni. After he attended grammar school (1920-1924) in the canton of Dealul Capşei and gymnasium in Câmpeni (1924-1927), he attended the Gheorghe Lazăr Lyceum in Sibiu (1927-1931) were he lived in his uncle’s home, Fr. Josef Trifa, the head of the religious revivalist organization, “Oastea Domnului” (Army of the Lord), and editor of the two largest and most popular Romanian religious newspapers. The young Trifa had the opportunity to meet prominent religious and academic Romanian leaders, to read the books from his uncle’s extensive library and to do missionary work too. Forgoing the local theological academy, he enrolled with a scholarship in the newly-opened Theological Faculty in Chişinău (1931-1935). Soon thereafter, he was elected president of the Faculty of Theology’s students and later, of all university students in Chişinău. In July 1935 he became a lay missionary in his uncle’s “Oastea Domnului”, traveling throughout the country preaching and organizing new chapters. He was also assistant editor of “Oastea Domnului” and “Lumina satelor” weekly papers as well as business manager of the print shop. In September 1936 he registered at the Faculty of Theology in Bucureşti for a doctorate and shortly he was elected president of the University Students Center Bucureşti. In April 1938 many students, journalists, professors and workers were arrested under the pretext that they were complotting to overthrow the government. Viorel Trifa secretly left Romania and remained in Poland a short while, and then in Germany. In September 11, 1940, he returned in Romania and in September 27, 1940 he was elected general president of the National Union of Romanian Christian Students. The purpose of the organization was to help the students with their problems. As president, in January 20, 1941 he led a peaceful mass demonstration demanding the reinstatement of the Minister of Internal Affairs who had been ousted. The demonstrations dispersed in orderly fashion. Next day, January 21, Horia Sima incited a rebellion against the Ion Antonescu faction and many Jews were killed. Viorel Trifa had no role whatsoever in these plans. Nevertheless, he was hunted and again had to go into internal hiding. With the help of the Germans, he was taken to Germany (March 12, 1941) and placed under house arrest in Berkenbrueck. Then, he was sent to the concentration camp at Buchenwald (December, 1942) and, in March 1943 he was transferred to the Dachau concentration camp. August 30, 1944, he was freed from Dachau and sent to Vienna where a Romanian government-in-exile was being set up. He refused to be a part of it and opted to be secretary to Metropolitan Visarion Puiu. With the collapse of the Third Reich, he stole across enemy lines and made his way to Italy. Once there, he immediately applied for emigration to the west and especially to the United State. He arrived in Cleveland, Ohio, USA, on 17 July 1950 and started to work for “Solia” the newspaper of the Romanian Episcopate. Next year, on July 2, 1951, layman theologian Viorel Trifa was elected Vicar-Bishop of The Romanian Ortodox Episcopate of America, and one year later, on July 4, 1952, he was consecrated Bishop by Metropolitan John Theodorovich, taking over the reigns of the Romanian Episcopate in America. Soon, he was accused by his opponents as Jewish murder. The newspapers, especially “Tribuna”, informed their readers that Trifa was, among other things, a Romanian army deserter; had abandoned a wife and children in Romania or Italy; was a top commander of the bloody Iron Guard; was not only a murderer, but a mass murderer. In spite of such accusation, Bishop Valerian has had a very fruitful mission among the Romanian orthodox from USA. Shortly he was able to organize The Romanian Orthodox Episcopate and to improve the quality of Christian life in his Diocese. During his thirty-two years of service, Archbishop Valerian has personally attended or presided at all Church Congress, AROY, ARFORA, and Orthodox Brotherhood Conventions, and has bean present at many important events in the lives of the parishes, summer courses and camps, inter-Orthodox and inter-denominational gatherings, and has made innumerable pastoral visitations. He was more than just a remote spiritual leader; he was a good personal friend. This interaction between shepherd and flock has helped to consolidate the Episcopate and bring about a true appreciation of Archbishop Valerian as a man. Because of the accusation against him, on October 7, 1980 Archbishop Valerian surrenders his American citizenship and ordered to voluntarily leave the country, but this fact not means that he was guilty. In August 13, 1984, he left country for Portugal. Archbishop Valerian died here in exile, far from his beloved friends, Wednesday, January 28, 1987 and was buried at his Vatra, Jackson, Mi., headquarter of the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America.  
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