Vassula's visit to Bucharest, ROMANIA, December, 2000
Vassula's recent trip to Romania was her fourth visit since the Conference on Ecumenism and Spirituality in Iasi in 1994 which was hosted by the World Council of Churches and Metropolitan Daniel Ciobotea. Vassula was invited by the Romanian Orthodox Patriarchate to attend the Pope's meeting in Bucharest last year (see the report) and returned to Romania in June 2000.
Patriarch Teoctist with the Pope in 1999
The two meetings held in December in Bucharest were organised by Mrs. Liana Petrescu, former foreign policy editor first of "Cotidianul" and later of "Romania Liberï¿½" and presently editor of Tipofin Production that publish religious titles. She and a group of friends have been inspired by the messages of TLIG and of Medjugorje to live a truly ecumenical spirituality as Orthodox, learning the riches of the Catholic heritage such as the Holy Rosary while living with devotion the spiritual heritage that Christ conferred to their own Orthodox world of faith. It was the same group of volunteers that had worked hard prior to the meetings, placing advertisements in major newspapers and putting up posters announcing the meetings on bus stands, buildings, and billboards in all Bucharest. Vassula was received in the airport on Saturday 2 November by Liana Petrescu together with a TV crew who asked her questions on the purposes and expectations of her visit to Bucharest. Vassula said she had come to give to the Romanian nation a message of peace from the Lord and that she hoped it would reap a harvest of conversion and grace. This interview proved to be the first in a row of many. In fact, the three major TV-networks made programs on Vassula and her activity, something that never happened before in her apostolate. The first meeting was held on Sunday 3 November in the Aula Magna of the Faculty of Medicine in Bucharest. A good 400 people were seated behind the beautiful old wooden desks that normally are occupied by medical students with their notes and books on the anatomy of the body. Now simple believers and priests in black robes were seated on the same benches diligently taking down notes regarding the anatomy of the soul. The response to Vassula's talk was profound and enthusiastic. Vassula gave the background of her experience, talking about the intimacy of God, the importance of frequent confession and participation in the Eucharist, as well as on Christ's desires for the unity of the church.
At the end of her talk, Vassula presented a message that directly concerned Romania. The message was of Christmas Eve 1989, shortly after the fall of communism in Romania:
My Cross shall be erected again on every church, do you see? A universal peace is soon to come. Peace is about to be born, pray for this birth of Peace and Love. Today the earth feels the beginning of its birth-pangs; these, My beloved ones, are My early Signs of Love. I am the Master of heaven and earth and I shall with My Power demonstrate to every nation that I am all-powerful. I have said that I shall overthrow with My Breath all those who reduced you to slavery - let your nations realize that everything is subject to My Power and what I did with one breath is for My Glory. No man is able to efface My Law. Let the nations realize that it is I, the Lord, who came to free these captives from prison and lift them to Me; it is I who reduced your enemies into everlasting shame and this is not all, I shall, with your sister Russia, sign a covenant of Peace and Love and her crimes shall be forgotten by me and I shall make her My Bride again and out of her heart shall come out this song: I will keep my love for Him always, and my covenant with my God shall stand.
Vassula explained that the erection of the crosses on the churches implied a promise of Christ that he would raise up again His Church in Romania. After the talk was over, people asked if they could present questions to her, which she accepted, and so for 30 minutes, questions were raised on the most burning issues that the believers carried in their hearts.
The meeting was assisted by Father Galeriou who suffered in jail for many years on behalf of his faith during communism. He is considered by many Romanians as an important spiritual father of the nation and is tremendously respected. Just as Vassula, so did Fr. Galeriou give TV-interviews on the importance of Unity and the messages of Vassula.
The second meeting was held in the Main Hall of the Polytechnic Faculty in the other extreme end of Bucharest. Another 300 people showed up, among these many priests. Like the night before, people were obviously moved, especially by Christ's words to the Romanian nation. I watched a young security guard observing every word and gesture of Vassula, obviously relishing the message. After the meeting he approached Vassula and asked her urgently to give him the books.
The last day contained a marvellous meeting with His Beatitude Patriarch Teoctist. This wonderful man of God who was the first to invite a Catholic Pope to a nation of Orthodox majority has played an important role to the unity of the church. The Romanian people are considered together along with the people of Armenia the most ecumenically advanced of all the Orthodox churches. This can be explained partially by the fact that the Romanian people are of Latin origin and constitute a Latin island in the mainly Slavic Eastern Europe. They speak a language that apart from a Slavic tone has a completely Roman structure and vocabulary. Knowing French or Italian one is able to read Romanian newspapers. Hence Romanians always experienced closer bonds to the Mediterranean world than other Orthodox nations. Unfortunately other Orthodox churches have been less enthusiastic than the Romanians about the Patriarch's opening towards non-orthodox Christians. Apart from Vassula's desire to confer the Lord's messages on the unity of the Church directly to the Patriarch, one of Vassula's main concerns for the meeting was to encourage His Beatitude to proceed on the path of Unity and not shrink back from criticism and setbacks.
The Patriarch welcomed us with grace and received Vassula's books and reports on her activities with evident joy. He happily admitted that the Lord was known always to confer charisms to his children for the benefit of the church and that his own church was full of examples of people who had similar experiences as Vasssula's. At the same time, he also expressed two concerns:
His first concern was that the term "revelations" could be confused with the normative Deposit of the Christian Faith, also known simply as the "Revelation" (with capital R) that was ended with the last Apostle. Vassula, having been enlightened by Christ himself on this important distinction, is aware of the differences between prophetic inspirations such as her own versus Revelation and Sacred Scripture. While confirming the fact that the Lord himself has given all that she has written down through the charism of prophecy knowing no theology at the time of her calling, she nevertheless appeased his concerns, quoting the Words of Christ: "My message is nothing but a reminder of the Truth and a timely actualisation of the Gospel," she told him.
The Patriarch's second concern regarded the many false messages that he reported to circulate widely in his nation. Vassula expressed understanding for this concern as she constantly is approached by individuals who claim to have messages that they want her to promote. She agreed that Satan gives false messages and that they are not only given to confuse God's people but even to discredit the true divine charisms. Therefore, whilst acknowledging the Church's need for caution, she encourages the need to keep a constant spirit of discernment that will ensure both the rejection of the false and the reception of the true divine charisms in accordance with the words of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians: "Test everything and hold on to what is good" (1. Thess. 5.19-21).
Friends of Vassula had expressed a desire to open a house to feed poor people in Bucharest, a so-called Beth Myriam of which the Lord has already established several throughout the world. Vassula proposed this project to His Beatitude who was very pleased with the idea. He told us about similar projects run by people close to the Patriarchate and asked that we contact the responsible for this issue, Father Cipriano Spiridon. Before leaving, Vassula extended cordial greetings to the Patriarch from an old friend of his, Mons. Eleuterio Fortino, secretary of Catholic-Orthodox relations in the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.
Following the Patriarch's proposal, we met with Fr. Spiridon after the Patriarchal audience. Fr. Spiridon is a very friendly young priest who studied for several years in Thessalonica in Greece and spoke with Vassula in Greek. He told her about a convent in Bucharest where the nuns had been praying for a long time to be able to give food to the poor, without being able to finance this project. Fr. Spiridon said that Vassula's proposal came as if sent from heaven. The nuns will be able to run the Beth Myriam. The premises are there. There is a large shed that with some work can be turned into a perfect soup kitchen. It has two doors - one opening towards the street and one opening towards the convent. This gives the nuns free access to the hall without having to leave the monastic enclosure. In this way they can serve the poor without having to abandon their secluded vocation. The project has now been handed over to the local Romanian True Life in God collaborators who will strive to realise this vocation of serving Christ through his smallest and weakest brothers in union with the sisters: "In truth I tell you, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brother of mine, you did it to me" (Matt. 25,40).
Niels Christian Hvidt