Senior Romanian Church Bishop Faces Corruption Probe

Senior Romanian Church Bishop Faces Corruption Probe

1 Dec 2023 ( DW )

Prosecutors are looking at secretly filmed footage of an archbishop who appeared to offer a fake businessman a hefty bribe for securing funding for his archdiocese.

Romania’s National Anticorruption Directorate, DNA, announced the start of a criminal investigation into a senior cleric of the Romanian Orthodox Church, Archbishop Teodosie of Tomis.

On November 21, the portal Recorder published images from a hidden camera filmed by a priest who claimed to be a businessman, and who proposes to the archbishop a way to obtain 800,000 lei in funding for the archdiocese from the State Secretariat for Cults.

In exchange, he seeks a commission of 20 per cent of the amount obtained.

Teodosie appears in the footage to accept the deal and says: “It’s a godsend for us.” Teodosie then puts the fake businessman in touch with his adviser to discuss the details, including how this 20-per-cent commission can be paid.

According to the DNA prosecutors, in July 2023, “The suspect Petrescu Teodosie [Archbishop of Tomis] allegedly promised 160,000 lei [32,000 euros] to a businessman who is a witness in this case. The amount represented a percentage of 20 per cent of the amount of 800,000 lei [160,000 euros], which the businessman should have obtained for the Archdiocese of Tomis.”

In addition to Teodosie, a councillor from the archdiocese is also being prosecuted for conspiracy to buy influence.

Representatives of the archdiocese said that when they see the file, they will return it with new information.

The Romanian Orthodox Church Patriarchate said that both judicial and Church authorities are interested in detecting real corruption and combating this societal scourge is a moral duty.

On December 2, the Church’s governing Holy Synod issued an official communique presenting the canonical measures and sanctions applicable in the Church against corruption.

Every year, the Romanian state allocates tens of millions of euros to churches through the State Secretariat for Cults. The distribution and spending of this money has always raised suspicions of corruption.

On the other hand, the State Secretariat said it promptly made all the requested documents available to the investigators and added: “We express confidence that they will be able to contribute to the natural approach of the institutions empowered to fulfil their duty, in the interest of the law.”

Archbishop Teodosie is one of the most vocal prelates in the Romanian Church regarding conspiracy theories. He stood out during the COVID-19 pandemic by refusing to restrict services to protect parishioners. He is known also for his eurosceptic and anti-NATO stances.

Teodosie has also been active in politics. In September, he participated in the launch of a branch of the Romanian Republican Party in Constanta. The party stated that it intends to ally with the far-right Alliance for the Union of Romanians, AUR, for the 2024 elections.

Teodosie has a close relationship with George Simion, co-president of the AUR. On August 27, 2022, he officiated at his wedding.