By Anthony Barich
The Romanian Orthodox Church has set up a new Eparchy for Australia and New Zealand, with Dr Mihail Filimon enthroned as its new bishop at the Cathedral of Ss Peter and Paul in South Carlton, Victoria on June 29.
He was enthroned by Mitropolit (Archbishop) Laurentiu of Ardeal.
His consecration took place in the Cathedral of Ss Constantine and Helen in Bucharest on February 20, Palm Sunday according to the old calendar, by Mitropolit Nifon of Targouiste.
The decision to create a special episcopate of Australia and New Zealand was made at the Holy Synod in Bucharest on March 5, when it was deemed their population warranted their own bishop.
The new bishop will oversee significant growth in the Romanian Church, with new parishes to be established in Hobart, Darwin, Parramatta and Newcastle, while a new priest must be found for Auckland after Fr Michael Cumbias died during prayer on July 4.
A new priest will also be assigned for Tokyo, which also comes under the Eparchy, as there are significant numbers of Romanian nationals studying and working in Japan who require a place to worship.
Previously, all priests of the Church were ordained in Romania and a bishop would only visit Australia every two to three years.
But Fr Doru Bucur, Perth parish priest and Protoierei (coordinator of all Australian priests) – who was present at the enthronement with priests from Sydney, Adelaide and New Zealand – said the tyranny of distance and rising Romanian population made it necessary to have a bishop.
He said Romanian Orthodox members consider bishops an important link between the past and present, as they are the successors of the Apostles, and he often gets requests to meet the bishop.
A bishop is needed locally for important feast days, patron saints of churches, ordinations, and consecrations of churches and to deal with government authorities.
The first Romanian Orthodox parish in Australasia was established in 1972 and in 2006, Fr Dumitru Coman, a parish priest in Melbourne, was made the Vicar of the Romanian Orthodox Vicariate of Australia and New Zealand, which was raised to the status of Eparchy earlier this year.
The Perth branch started in 2000, and Fr Doru was appointed parish priest in 2003. Worshippers used St Luke’s Anglican church in Maylands until 2006 when they moved to a building they bought in Koondoola in Perth’s northern suburbs.
Parishioners of his Holy Trinity Church raised $120,000 to buy the building, which used to be a veterinary clinic behind the local shopping centre.
It is humble beginnings, but Fr Doru says the parish is growing, and the enthronement of a new bishop will re-energise the Episcopate.
They welcomed the new bishop at a special Mass on June 22 attended by over 150 and concelebrated with Fr Doru at Holy Trinity with Catholic Archbishop Barry Hickey of Perth assisting.
Fr Doru said the new bishop won over the locals’ hearts with his “kindly nature”, and said his parishioners now feel more spiritual protection knowing they have their own bishop.
Fr Doru said Archbishop Hickey congratulated Bishop Filimon on his new mission and said he appreciates the Romanian bishop’s efforts to promote the Romanian family tradition, faith and language in Australia’s multicultural society.