Orthodox Vespers service highlights

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Orthodox Vespers service highlights

By Heather Walker

ROME — The Lay Centre community experienced a Romanian Orthodox Vespers service last month, thanks to Lay Centre resident Adrian Oancea from Buzau, Romania.

“The idea to organize Vespers actually came from the community, because all of them were asking me about the tradition of the Orthodox Church and its services,” said Oancea, a Romanian Orthodox Christian. “For them — and also for me — it was a wonderful experience because I had never experienced Vespers in three languages: Romanian, Italian and English. I was really excited.” 

The Vespers service Nov. 10 was presided by the Rev. Father Nicolae Strugaru, pastor of the Romanian Orthodox Church of St. Demetrius of Basarabi, located in the Roman neighbourhood Borghesiana.

In addition to serving the Romanian Orthodox diocese in Italy as an archpriest, Father Strugaru runs numerous projects, including assisting Romanian children at Bambino Gesù Hospital with their healthcare needs and helping poor families with basic necessities, legal paperwork and integrating into the local Romanian community.

The Romanian Orthodox diocese in Italy is relatively young, having been established only in 2007. Bishop Siluan Span was elected in 2008 to lead the diocese, which provides spiritual care for all Orthodox Christian Romanians and Romanian-speaking Moldovans in Italy, Malta and San Marino. The diocese includes 280 parishes, four monasteries, two hermitages, five episcopal chapels and three pastoral centres, served by about 300 clergy.

The Vespers service Nov. 10 commemorated the Holy Martyr Menas, whose feast day is celebrated the next day, Nov. 11, in the Orthodox and Catholic churches that follow the Gregorian calendar. In Eastern Christian churches — Orthodox and Catholic — that follow the Julian calendar and in the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, St. Menas is celebrated Nov. 24.

Menas was an Egyptian soldier in the Roman army, who was martyred because he refused to recant his Christian faith. Many miracles are attributed to his intercession and prayers.

Oancea, an Orthodox theology scholar, has been in Rome since Sept. 1, where he is studying Jewish-Christian relations and Judaic studies at the Cardinal Bea Centre of the Pontifical Gregorian University.

“I chose to come here first of all to learn more about the Catholic Church and its work and to experience life as a student at the most well-known pontifical university, the Gregorian,” he said. “Second, I was really interested in Judaic heritage and Judaism in general in my undergraduate studies, and this is a wonderful opportunity after many years.

“Judaism is the most important key to Christianity and helps us understand much better the Scriptures, the writings of the first century of Christianity,” he continued. “We must have a strong knowledge of Judaism, its culture, heritage, writings and, of course, its language. I am learning all these things right here. So, lucky me, right?”

Oancea had earned his undergraduate degree from the faculty of Orthodox theology at the University of Bucharest and a master’s in Biblical and hermeneutic exegetics from the same faculty. From 2018 until the pandemic started in 2020, his graduate studies in Athens focused on the history and culture of the Greek Orthodox Church.

Oancea said when he decided to move to Rome and heard about The Lay Centre and its emphasis on community, he loved the idea immediately.

“I have always loved meeting new people and getting to know new cultures, and this is a wonderful way to do it, to learn from one another, new things and new experiences,” he said.

“In my opinion, we can learn from our diversity. We are enriched by the culture of others, putting any differences aside and trying to see our common background,” he said. “If we do this we can have dialogue and actions that bear fruit.”


Photos courtesy Adrian Oancea and Mirticeli Medeiros




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