(Photo source) After my initial howls of helpless laughter, the news of Patriarhul Daniel and his holy roller-on-a-pole blessing technique (zic BBC) used to inaugurate the studios of church-owned Trinitas Radio and Television has left me with a terribly dismal feeling in the pit of my stomach. The whole silly charade has become a viral internet sensation both at home and abroad, leading to finger-pointing and lots of guffawing on an international scale - see the BBC, Gawker, Business Review, The Daily Mail, The Daily Star and VICE News to name but a few - and check out the comments for the full effect.
The Romanian Orthodox Church (BOR) has responded (for once) to the mocking press coverage:
"It’s not the first time Patriarch Daniel has used the 'sanctification rod', one of a number of tools of his trade, as it helps anoint rooms with higher walls and ceilings which would otherwise be difficult to reach", Basilica.ro (the Church’s press agency) specifies in an article entitled 'Sensationalism through liturgical ignorance'.
Yes, yes - and when it comes to tools of the trade, hands up all those who remember the Phillips screwdriver.
The Daily Mail, who clearly couldn't pass up such an opportunity, quotes Patriarch Daniel himself: "It might get people talking about faith and maybe move some to come to church more regularly. Then they can see my sanctification rod up close and I can explain to them how God moves in mysterious ways.’ Um...yes.
Sorry, but really, I am not convinced. It's a paint-roller. It may well be holy, but it is definitely a paint-roller.
(Image source) It's one thing to believe in the powers and miracles of moaste (holy relics), but this is something else entirely. It is such ridiculous fraud it's grotesque. If the Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church thinks that his people are that gullible (some are, I grant you) to believe a paint-roller on a stick is in fact a 'sanctification rod', then either he is profiting from their naïvety, or he has no respect for them. Or both. And that is profoundly disturbing.
Such obvious guff is nothing short of insulting to a people continually bludgeoned by corruption, lies and injustice on a daily basis, disappointments raining down upon them more often than not. Everybody expects to be ripped off and disrespected by arrogant politicians and officials these days. But shouldn't the Patriarch have at least a modicum of decency?
Romania's reputation abroad is riddled with negative opinion whether true or not: The prime minister is a fraud, the hospitals are third world, the diplomas are fake, all Romanians are gypsies, the justice system is a joke and the corrupt politics are best avoided in general. Now there's a new opinion bullet point for the list - BOR is represented by stupidity and medieval wizardry, followed by impressionable idiots, and a reason to have a huge belly laugh. Marvellous. Why don't we just rip the stomach and heart out of an entire people, stamp on the mess and roar with mirth as we do it?
(Image source) This is all about one supremely rich, arrogant businessman in a position of enormous power who is as manipulative, as condescending and as lacking in respect as the politicians are towards his own people. And of course, he's answerable to nobody... To quote a friend of mine (who is Romanian Orthodox, incidentally), "if Dante were alive and writing the Inferno now, this caricature and travesty of "patriarch" would be placed where it belongs." Enough said.
For readers with a soft spot for the BOR, please forgive my bluntness.
There must be hoards of Romanians out there feeling deeply hurt/angered/humiliated/saddened and a host of other adjectives by this whole embarrassing episode. Thank God it is a people blessed with a sense of humour.