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Sca Official Says Trifa Case Hurts Jewish-christian Relations

August 16, 1979
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The fact that the Orthodox Church in America has not seen fit to convene an ecclesiastical court in the case of Archbishop Valerian Trifa is the single most painful aspect of Jewish-Christian relations in the United States today, “according to Dr. Michael Wyschogrod, senior consultant on interreligious affairs of the Synagogue Council of America (SCA), the representative body of the major branches of Judaism in the United States.

Trifa heads the Rumanian Orthodox Episcopate of America which is under the canonical jurisdiction of the Orthodox Church in America, the second largest Orthodox body in the U.S. The Greek Orthodox Church headed by Archbishop Tokovos is the largest Orthodox Church in this country.

Trifa has been accused of leading a Rumanian Fascist group during World War 11 and organizing a program in Bucharest in January, 1941 in which hundreds of Jews were killed. He is scheduled to go on trial soon in the Federal District Court at Detroit, Michigan, on charges of having withheld important information in his immigration and naturalization applications.

“The Orthodox Church in America,” Wyschogrod said today, “has taken the position that it will take no action unless Bishop Trifa is convicted in the Detroit trial. For a church to abdicate its religious responsibility to investigate grave charges against one of its bishops and to leave it to a secular court to settle this matter, is to ignore the obligation of religious bodies to adhere to their own teachings. Canon law exists so that churches can govern themselves instead of being governed by secular authorities.”


Wyschogrod pointed out that for over a year, a committee representing the Synagogue Council and the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) examined documents and heard witnesses on the Trifa matter. “At the end,” said Wyschogrod, “the OCA simply took the position that they can do nothing unless Bishop Trifa is convicted in a secular court. They did not claim that the evidence we produced was insufficient. They just kept repeating that only after conviction in the Federal Court would they take action.” The OCA delegation to the joint committee was headed by Father Leonid Kishkofsky, an official of the OCA.”

In May of this year, the SCA called on other Orthodox Churches and non-Orthodox Christian bodies in the U.S. to speak out against the continuing scandal of Bishop Trifa’s holding office in a major American church. More recently, the SCA officially requested the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops, headed by Tokovos, to take up the Trifa case.

“While there are a number of accused war criminals in the U.S.,” Wyschogrod emphasized, “none of them holds any position of prominence. Only Bishop Trifa continues as a bishop in spite of the gravity and documentation of the charges against him.” Wyschogrod today repeated his call to churches and other Christian bodies to speak out on this matter. “In this ecumenical age, all Christian and all human beings are responsible for each other,” he added.

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