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The Greek-Catholic Ecclesiastical Books and the Transylvanian Society 1850-1948

This project is aiming to reconstruct the history of the Greek-Catholic religious books written or published in Transylvania between 1850 and 1948. A second level of our research is going to focus on the various and complex influences that the religious literature of all types had in time over the Romanian society.
Our investigation will take into consideration the main stages of evolution of the Greek-Catholic religious books from this period of time. First of all, the stage that began in 1853, when the Romanian Greek-Catholic metropolitan seat was founded and lasted until the beginning of the rule of archbishop Ioan Vancea (1869). It was a period of transition and reorganization of the Greek-Catholic Church after the revolution from 1848-1849 and after the foundation of the new dioceses of Lugoj and Gherla and the inclusion of the old diocese of Oradea under the jurisdiction of the metropolitan from Blaj.
The second stage lasted from 1869-1870 until 1918, when Transylvania was united with the Kingdom of Romania after the end of World War I. It was the period of the Vatican I Council but also of the three most important provincial councils of the Greek-Catholic Church from Transylvania. It was the time when the administrative and institutional structure of the Uniate Church started to become uniform and when there were defined the main directions of future dogmatic, ritual, institutional or cultural development.
The third stage lasted between 1918 and 1948, after the unification of Transylvania with the Romanian state, until the suppression of the Greek-Catholic Church by the communist regime. It was a period of cultural development and institutional stability for this church but also of adaptation to the new political and national context.
All these elements had great influence over the evolution of the Greek-Catholic religious literature from Transylvania taking into consideration all the aspects regarding the contents, fields, types of books, liturgical language, the dialogue with the society in general and with every believer as an individual.
The research suggested by this project is to refer to several important fields which have been ignored so far by the historians or theologians. We are going to focus on the different types of religious literature written by the Greek-Catholics from Transylvania in the aforementioned period of time. We shall try to identify the main fields that were promoted, the main themes and the connections between them. We shall analyze the sources of this literature and the ideological, historical and cultural context in which it was created. We also want to establish the external influences over the Romanian Greek-Catholic literature: from the Roman-Catholic theology; from the other Greek-Catholic literatures – the Ruthenian one for example; but also from the Orthodox literature of the time.
Therefore we are going to analyze the dogmatic, canonical or ritual writings, which were very important mostly in the period after the Vatican I Council and the provincial councils. This analysis is very relevant for the proper understanding of the position of the Romanian Uniate Church in the Catholic Church in general, but also for a better defining of the specific identitary character of the Romanian Greek-Catholicism.
If this first level of our research refers mainly to the ecclesiastical elite, the cathechetic, homiletic and historical literature has a more profound and direct relation with the believers and the society in general. The catechisms, the popular calendars, the sermons and the historical writings played a fundamental role in the education of the people and also of the parochial clergy. We take into consideration the important spiritual, cultural and identitary education of the believers which is fundamental in a society that was divided from the confessional and national point of view. These writings reveal a permanent dialogue of the church with the society. These aspects are very much connected to issues like: the cultural and educational development of the Romanian society; the collective mentalities; the inter-confessional relations. Their purpose was to strengthen the degree of assimilation by the believers of the specific values of the confessional identity. Starting from these aspects, we are going to analyze the writings with polemical character which give relevant hints regarding the characteristics of the inter-confessional dialogue of the time.
A second direction of our research is going to be the analysis of the liturgical language used in the liturgical books printed all along this period. We also wish to see how the linguistic and national theories of the time influenced the evolution of the liturgical language. The liturgical language is also an important element of the confessional identity directly connected to the political and national struggle of the Romanians from Transylvania until 1918 but also to the competitive relation with the Orthodox liturgical books that were spread all over Transylvania.
Strongly connected to the first two directions of our research, we must refer to a third fundamental problem: the confessional identity built around some key-elements: doctrine, ritual, traditions, history, language, denomination and alterity. This discourse of identity constantly promoted by the clergy was disseminated through books, sermons and catechisms – religious education. We must analyze its evolution in its specific historical context and also in comparison with the Roman-Catholic and Orthodox discourses of identity. The success of the activity of dissemination of this type of discourse can be observed at the level of the individual communities.
At the same time, our research will focus on the technical aspects of the history of books: the evolution of the main ecclesiastical printing houses (Blaj, Gherla, Oradea); the book production; aspects regarding the official legislation; the number of copies printed; etc. It is a history of the printing industry, of the book spreading but it is also a cultural history.
Taking all these aspects into consideration, we want to realize an inter-disciplinary research combining methodologies, terminology and other elements specific to the study of history, theology, pedagogy or linguistics. We also aim to realize a comparative perspective of this topic, referring not only to the realities specific to the Greek-Catholic Church but also to those specific to the Orthodox Church. Our research which opens a new direction in the study of ecclesiastical history, in spite of all the recent interest of some prestigious Romanian historians for the past of the Greek-Catholic Church, is focused on several key-expressions: confessional identity; confessions building; religious education; inter-confessional dialogue; dogmatic, canonical and ritual theology.