Images of clandestine Greek Catholic services in Transylvania



Images of clandestine Greek Catholic services in Transylvania


The four images illustrate the religious life of a Greek Catholic community in 1970s Transylvania as recorded by the community in photographs and how it is described by the Securitate on the basis of their surveillance and investigation of the community. These materials represent a rare instance where it has been possible to relate secret police descriptions to photographic materials that can still be found in the community. The first three images come from the private collection of Mihai and Ana Rus and form part of a group of photos related to their regular attendance at religious services in Bishop Todea’s house in Reghin where the bishop had also held their wedding and administered the Baptism and the Confirmation of their children. The Rus family could not pinpoint the exact date when they received the photos nor when they were taken. The fourth image is the first page of a Securitate document dated 23rd January 1971 that describes the situation of the clandestine Greek Catholic community in Reghin, Mureș county, a town near to the Rus family's home village, and the planned measures to be taken against the Greek Catholic community in the area.
The first picture from the Rus family collection is a staged photograph of Greek Catholic Bishop Alexandru Todea in the period after his return from prison (1964) when he lived in the town of Reghin in Mureș county. The picture shows Todea in bishop's vestments in a staged, still photograph. His hands are clasped in prayer and is smiling softly towards the camera. The picture was probably taken at his request and served as reminder for the underground community that he ministered spiritually that he was alive and performing his pastoral duties. Moreover, it showed that his church, which had been dismembered by the communist regime in 1948, was still functioning.
Descriptions of similar photographic devotional materials appear in Todea’s Securitate Informative file. Secret police agents and informers talk about a distribution network of pictures of Alexandru Todea within the Greek Catholic community. The documents also mention that a monetary value was placed on the photos of 3 lei. However this information was not verified in the interviews the Securitate carried out.
The second picture was taken during The Great Entrance stage of the liturgy that was conducted in Alexandru Todea’s house. The picture shows an unidentified Roman Catholic priest dressed in Roman Catholic liturgical vestments holding the chalice (and therefore heading the procession) and a Greek Catholic priest (probably Fr. Augustin Giurgiu) holding the disk (ceremonial plate) with the unconsecrated Holy Body of Christ (the Prosphora). The picture shows that in this particular Byzantine service, the Roman Catholic priest holding the chalice leads the liturgy. The picture also shows a well-attended service with several kneeling women and men.
The third picture was taken during a religious service in Bishop Todea’s house in Reghin. It is a snapshot of a detail of the back of the priest dressed in vestments during the Gospel reading. There is a clear image of three church goers, one kneeling holding a candle, probably the acolyte or alter server (or făt in Romanian).
The fourth image is the first page of the Securitate's description of the religious life we see depicted in the Rus family's personal collection. At the bottom of the page the document states that Bishop Alexandru Todea (secret police code name Toma Aurel) performed religious services all over the town as well as in his house. Wedding ceremonies also took place in his house.
The photographic images come from the private photo collection of Mihai and Ana Rus from Băița village, Mureș county, and were shown to the author during ethnographic fieldwork in August, 2018. The family also described religious life and practices of the community during the period when the photographs were taken. The family photo collection contains several photographs that are described in the secret police files on Bishop Alexandru Todea.

The image of the Securitate document is part of the file CNSAS I3470. The Informative file on Bishop Alexandru Todea contains several descriptions of the altar in his house, the religious services performed there and surveillance pictures of people visiting the bishop.

For related entries see:


Communism--Romania--History--20th century
Romania. Securitatea
Catholic Church--Byzantine rite, Greek
Communism and religion
Material culture--Religious aspects


Anca Sincan


Consiliul Național pentru Studierea Arhivelor Securității (CNSAS) I3470, vol 3
Private photo collection of Mihai and Ana Rus from Băița village, Mureș county


This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme No . 677355




Anca Sincan


Copyright for the document image belongs to CNSAS
Consiliul Național pentru Studierea Arhivelor Securității
Copyright for the photo images belongs to Mihai and Ana Rus










20th century, Romania

Bibliographic Citation

Anca Sincan, "Images of clandestine Greek Catholic services in Transylvania"

Date Created