Protopope Ioan Duma, a pillar of the Church brought down by the communists

Ioan Duma was born on 30 March 1884 in the village of Boian, Târnava Mică County, as one of 14 children of Vasile Duma, a ploughman, and his wife Rafilei. He attended primary school in his native village, then in Saroș, in Hungarian. Between 1889 and 1903, he attended the gymnasium in Blaj, and between 1903 and 1909, he attended the Theological Academy in Sibiu, graduating as valedictorian. He completed his theological studies in Bucharest, where he also attended the Faculty of Letters and Philosophy. He then studied at the University of Budapest, at the Eötvös College, on a scholarship, graduating from the Faculty. In order to support himself, he published a number of articles on literary criticism.

This publishing activity brought him into contact with the progressive movement in the Hungarian capital, and he became an advocate of conferences on Romanian-Hungarian understanding. In 1912 he married Elena Stanca, the daughter of Avram Stanca, a protopope from Petroșani. He became a parish priest with his father-in-law in Petroșani. On 16 June 1926, he was appointed protopope of Valea Jiului, and on 9 June 1936, he was appointed iconic abbot[1].

As a priest in Petroșani, he was active in the cultural, social, educational and economic fields since 1912 and since 1 December 1918. He contributed to the establishment of the “Ardeleana” bank branch in Petroșani, held a series of cultural conferences, organised domestic and adult literacy schools. He set up choirs and charity meetings to help the poor with money, food and clothing. He was accompanied by his family, his wife and children, who were “mothers and brothers of all the oppressed”[2].

At the ecclesiastical level, he took part in the meetings of the Eparchial Assembly of the Archdiocese of Sibiu, as Protopope of Petroșani and Rapporteur of the Ecclesiastical Commission. Thus, from 17 to 19 May 1936, he participated in the annual session of the Eparchial Assembly, where he presented a report on the ecclesiastical situation of the Diocese of Sibiu, noting “the development of a new current” in the pastoral-missionary activity of the Orthodox Church, He referred to the construction of many churches and cathedrals, the appearance of liturgical and theological books, the return to Orthodoxy of some Greek Catholics in Valea Lungă, the work of theological formation, the confession and covenant of the faithful, the state of personnel and disciplinary matters[3]. At the local level, he organised monthly priests’ conferences, in which he and all the priests of the proto-diocese of Petroșani discussed the various problems of religious pastoral care and the most effective pastoral methods for this region, especially since sectarian propaganda was developing here and tendencies such as socialism, communism and anarchism were gaining ground. For example, on September 24, 1936, Father Duma organised a priestly conference in the office of the Protopope, and on November 19, 1936, he held a catechetical conference in the primary school of Aninoasa with the priests and teachers of the locality[4].

In his capacity as Protopope, he also patronised the religious circles organised by the priests of the Jiu Protopate in various parishes, in order to find the most effective pastoral methods, and he presided over the religious examinations of the pupils of the schools of the Jiu Valley, such as those of May-June 1942, where the deserving pupils received as prizes books worth several thousand lei[5].

After 1919, as a member of Parliament, he fought for the Romanianisation of the management of the Petroșani mining company and for the organisation of the miners into a national trade union, separate from the internationalist one, where the Hungarians still had influence[6].

From the establishment of the Astra branch in Valea Jiului until its merger with the Royal Foundation, he was its vice-president and president. He was vice-president of the “Romanian Anti-Revisionist League”, Petroșani branch, a cultural organisation founded in 1933 with the aim of countering the chauvinist tendencies of Horthist Hungary through publications, conferences and events[7].

Although he was not a politician, he was the only member of the Parliament of Greater Romania to stand as an independent since 1919, making him one of the most representative men of the Jiu Valley. For this, and for his position as Orthodox Protopope of the Petroșani tract, Father Duma was courted by various politicians to enter the political fray, such as Grigore Iunian, Dr. Nicolae Lupu, Octavian Goga, D. R. Ioanițescu. Later, Gheorghe Tătărăscu proposed to him to join the PNL, but he refused, also because of the opposition of the united priest Dr. R. Miocu, leader of the liberal organisation Petroșani and mayor of the city. However, in 1926, at the insistence of some of his university colleagues, he joined the organisation in Bucharest, only to resign soon afterwards because he wanted to “work in the ecclesiastical, cultural and social-charitable fields”, as he confessed in a statement given to the Securitate on 17 June 1949[8].

Bomb attack on the Protopope

During the National Legionary government, Protopope Ioan Duma did not participate in any way in the policies of the new order, as he stated in the above-mentioned statement and as the Security Service investigation was to confirm: “I did not render special services [to the Legionaries], nor did I preach. I have always tried not to mix political or other matters with religious doctrine”. In the same vein, Father Duma continues: “On the basis of this ‘distinction’, persons or cases that received some form of Church assistance were also treated equally, regardless of rank or nationality. Russian prisoners were treated with all Christian love and piety, both in cases of life and death. This fact led to the fact that in 1944, when the Russian prisoners were liberated, they disobeyed a personal enemy of mine who invited some of these prisoners to come to me one night to taunt me. Their good sense and my correct attitude defended me”[9].

Regarding his relationship with the priests of the diocese he led for more than two decades, we learn from the same testimony: “With the subordinate priests of my diocese I behaved like a father and a brother: I praised or rebuked, as the case might be, those who did their duty and those who did not, or behaved in a manner unworthy of a priest, but never in 23 years did I report or denounce any of them to the higher ecclesiastical authority. This explains, among other things, why I have no disciplined priests. We have reconciled things here at home. I also have relatives among them […] with all these family or other more intimate ties not made between us, so as not to be suspected of protectionism or nepotism. [I repeat: my relations with these priests – as with the others – are those imposed by canon law and by the good Christian tradition of the Ardeal region”[10].

During the war, he took the oath of the military unit based in Petroșani that was to go to the Eastern Front. Before the departure of the Maniu guards against the Hungarians occupying Transylvania, he celebrated a Holy Liturgy in front of the Petroșani Town Hall[11]. After 23 August 1944, he continued his social and charitable work, but now under the “political umbrella” of the Communist faithful. He took part in the relief committees for the drought victims in Moldavia under the leadership of the “Patriotic Defence”. According to the investigation of the Security Police of 15 March 1949, our priest was the second protoparish in which all the priests under his subordination joined the Union of Democratic Priests. He was also a member of the steering committee of the Romanian Association for Relations with the Soviet Union (ARLUS)[12].

However, in November 1946, when our priest was asked by the regional PCR of Valea Jiului to sign the appeal “to all priests of all denominations to urge the citizens of the town of Petroșani to join the Communist Party Bloc with their votes”, he “categorically refused and did not want to sign the appeal, claiming that he could not do so without the Church Committee”[13].

In fact, the dispute with the representatives of the Proletarian Party seems to have begun as early as 1945, when the priest received several threatening letters, culminating in October of that year in a bomb that was placed under his bedroom window at night. The explosion destroyed his entire room, but he miraculously escaped[14].

Removed from his post and arrested by the Communists

At the beginning of 1949, Father Duma was given an information file by the Petroșani Security Bureau, as we learn from an address to the Deva County Service, requesting information about his relationship with Sârbu Vasile, an “illegalist” from Petroșani. At the same time, Father Duma was being followed by the Securitate, according to notes from April 1949, which revealed his links with intellectuals in the city[15].

In parallel with the Security Service’s action against the priest Ioan Duma, the higher authorities proceeded to purge the Orthodox protopopes, some of whom either proved to be loyal to the regime or could become so in the future. This is what happened in our case, when priest Duma, according to an informative note, said: “I hear that they want to remove me as protopope and put a communist priest in my place, but nothing will happen. I’m sure it won’t take more than 1-2 months, because war is coming”. Of course, the informer exaggerated a little in this context, precisely in order to give a more aggressive tone to the language used by Father Duma and to appear “spiteful” in the “watchful” eyes of the Security Service[16].

However, contrary to what Father Duma had said, the Petroșani Security Service later informed the Deva County Security Service on 19 March 1949, with the following content “In a conversation with one of our informants, the priest Duma Ioan said that every priest had to give some data, which had to be checked by the PMR and then sent to the Ministry of Religious Affairs, and that these data would decide in advance the situation of every priest. In view of the above, the mood of the priests seems to be agitated on this issue, they feel insecure, they keep having meetings to discuss and analyse their situation. […] The above will be followed up by us and any new findings will be reported”[17].

As a result of the reaction to the change of protopope, on 1 June 1949, Father Duma lost his post as protopope of Valea Jiului, and in his place, the priest Sergiu Lozanu was appointed by Bishop Andrei of Arad[18].

Finally, on 12 June 1949, the Petroșani Security Police arrested Father Ioan Duma, following the investigation of 15 March 1949 to which he had initially been subjected. However, his arrest was not registered until 27 June, and it was only on 4 July that the Sibiu Security Police requested his authorisation, which they received on 6 August 1949[19].

The arrest of Father Ioan Duma took place at a very difficult time for the Romanian Orthodox Church. At a high level, there were the first conflicts between the Church and the political leadership on the issue of the appointment of bishops in vacant dioceses, then of protopopes, especially in Bucharest; the compression of budgetary posts for priests; the transfer of clerical and administrative staff to diocesan centres; the unionisation of priests; the arrests orchestrated by the MIA bodies, etc.[20] On the other hand, the party launched a campaign against the arrest of Father Ioan Duma. On the other hand, the party launched a widespread persecution of Church people, in the context of the change of local leadership and the establishment of “provisional committees”. In other words, the political pressure on the Church was very strong.

In our case, there seems to have been an order that all those responsible for the mistreatment of Jews in the period 1940-1941 should be arrested, investigated and tried. This order was given orally by Gheorghe Crăciun, head of the DRSP Sibiu, and Lieutenant Rușet of the Petroșani Security Service. Thus, our father was to be included in the group of “Legionnaires of the Jiu Valley”, which included former Legionnaires, most of whom were tried and sentenced in 1941[21].

If the former prisoners of 1941 had “evidence” to support the accusations against them, in the case of our priest the Security Service needed something solid. In this regard, the investigators collected 17 statements from workers, loyal members of the PMR, “showing that the priest Ioan Duma from Petroșani, during the legionary government, incited the legionaries against the Jewish and Hungarian population of the Jiu Valley, held services in the church where he showed that the war in the East was a just war, and slandered the USSR and the CP (b). He also reportedly swore an oath to the soldiers of the Petroșani units going to the Eastern Front, showing them that they had to fight to destroy communism. In 1944-45, he gave a speech to the hooligans of the Maniu guards, urging them to leave and not to leave a single Hungarian foot in Transylvania. For these reasons, the DRS Sibiu arrested him on 27 June 1949″[22].

On 13 July 1949, in an address from the Regional Security Directorate of Sibiu to the Security Service Headquarters, shortly after his arrest, Father Duma Ioan was described as follows: “He is engaged in hostile activities against the present regime. In his speeches in church he is expansive and implies things against the current regime. Through his religious sermons, he tries to infiltrate the population’s distrust of current events. At present, the priest in question is being held for investigation at the Petroșani Security Office, together with a group of legionnaires who took part in the mistreatment of Jews in 1940-1941. The mood of the population is satisfactory, commenting favourably on his imprisonment, saying that he deserved it more[23].

Imprisoned for “crimes against humanity”

But the reality was very different. As far as Father Duma’s activity against the regime is concerned, it was not as great as the Security Service made it out to be. Of course, this does not exclude the anti-communist feelings he may have had, as we have seen above. On the other hand, the fact that he was arrested and included in a group investigated for “mistreatment of Jews in 1940-1941” is at least forced, if not absurd. Moreover, the investigation will later prove even the unreasonableness of our father’s inclusion and any connection with the other suspects.

Finally, as far as the state of mind is concerned, it seems that it was completely hostile to the political regime, as long as the head of the Petroșani Security, who ordered the arrests, was later dismissed and even removed from the structures of the communist repressive bodies (15 September 1949). This is stated in a memo dated 14 July 1949, which refers to a report from the Hunedoara County PMR to the CC of the PMR Organising Directorate, in which it is stated that “Tov Ruset, head of the Petroșani Security ServiceBureau, created panic among the population by mass arrests of priests”. Referring to the two priests from Lonea and the one from Petroșani (Duma Ioan) who were arrested, the document continues with the reasons given by the head of the Petroșani Security Bureau, such as “we have instructions” or that “they do not agree with Marxism-Leninism”, adding that he has provisions to arrest 3-4 more Reformed and Catholic priests[24].

We can therefore conclude that Father Duma was arrested out of zeal, at a time when political repression was in full swing.

Despite the dismissal of the head of the Petroșani security service and the hostile mood of the regime, the investigation of the group continued with a view to bringing them to justice. During this time Father Duma was held in Deva prison.

He was detained for a long time, and probably after several interventions, Father Duma’s wife, Elena Duma, at the beginning of June 1950, managed to send a letter to Petru Groza with the following content “On 12 June 1949, a year ago, he was taken from the church after the Holy Liturgy by the militia. Since then I have heard nothing from him, except that he is in the prison of the court in Deva. I don’t know the reason for his arrest, no one will give me any explanation. My husband is now 67 years old and has a stomach ulcer and rheumatism. I don’t think he can last much longer in prison, so I am asking you to kindly intervene with the competent authorities to speed up the clarification of his situation. I have been alone for several years, ill, mostly in bed, with extensive ulcers on my legs […]. I would be happy if, with your help, I could bring him back home to the comfort of the people he cares for. Our family has lived in Jiu for more than 75 years, my father was the protopope of Petroșani for 40 years, he was in close contact with the people of the countryside and with the many miners he looked after: for his deeply democratic sentiments, he and his family were appreciated and loved by the workers, peasants and other inhabitants, regardless of race or religion. It was in these sentiments that we, his children, were brought up. After my father’s death in the refugee camp in 1916, my husband, Fr. Ioan Duma, succeeded him as protopope. Dean Ion Duma, the son of a peasant, was committed to the services required by his profession and by the higher authorities. He was always at home or in the church, he had no contact with anyone except the citizens who asked him for some service of an ecclesiastical or administrative nature. Suffering from stomach and rheumatism for many years, he retired from public life in order to preserve his health and secure his livelihood”[25].

On 19 June 1950, Petru Groza made the following decision “Ministry of Internal Affairs: The arrest of Protopope Duma in an inappropriate place and at an inappropriate time is still under consideration. The useful time for his possible punishment has passed – and in view of the insistence of the Church as well as of his family – his situation must be urgently reviewed, P. Groza”. From here the memorial, accompanied by the resolution, went to the Minister, Teohari Georgescu, who sent it on 24 June to the Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, Gheorghe Pintilie[26] .

The next step was the direct examination of the case of the priest Ioan Duma by the General Directorate of National Security. On 25 August 1950, Major Stănescu H., Head of the Divine Service of the DGSP, analysed the case in a report which concluded with the statement that “the case is closed” and should be sent to the Cluj Tribunal, War Crimes Cabinet, because “he is guilty of provocation by speech to support and continue the war against the Soviet Union; of crimes against humanity by approving inhuman methods and treatment applied to the civilian population”, i.e. “crimes against peace”, provided for and punished by Article 2, letter c, of Decree-Law 207/1948. However, the following resolution was to be added to this report “14 September 1950, will be brought to Bucharest”[27].

On 21 September 1950, at 15.30, Father Ioan Duma was placed in the custody of the DGSP, after having been brought from the Deva penitentiary, and the file prepared for the trial was withdrawn from the military court in Cluj[28]. Here, on 26 September 1950, the priest was examined by Gheorghe Enoiu, of the Criminal Investigation Department of the DGSP, after which a report was drawn up listing all the charges originally brought against him, and he was proposed for trial[29].

However, after this series of investigations, the next day, 27 September 1950, the situation would change radically in favour of Father Ioan Duma. In a memorandum, Gheorghe Enoiu listed all the accusations mentioned above, practically the same report he had written the day before, but with the conclusion that he should be released. On the same day, Alexandru Nicolschi, Deputy Director of the DGSP, made a decision in favour of this proposal, and on 29 September 1950, Mișu Dulgheru, Head of the Criminal Investigation Department[30].

In any case, on 15 March 1951, the case of the “Legionaries of Valea Jiului”, to which Father Duma belonged, was sent to the Cluj Military Tribunal and was closed by the Cluj Prosecutor’s Office because “it does not fall under the provisions of DL no. 207/1948”. All the accused were released from the arrest warrants of 7 September 1950, in particular Duma Ion, who was already at liberty[31].

According to Cicerone Ionițoiu, Father Duma was arrested again on 5 December 1951, in order to be investigated again by the Securitate bodies, until 23 September 1955, when he was placed under compulsory residence in Târgu-Jiu[32].

After his release from detention, Father served at the Church of St. George the Elder in Bucharest[33].

He died on 11 July 1957, suffering from an illness that had been greatly aggravated by the regime of imprisonment during the investigations[34].

(Adrian Nicolae Petcu – Rost Magazine no. 31, September 2005, pp. 55-60)

1. ACNSAS, Criminal Fund, file 688, vol. 3, f. 147; cf. Cicerone Ionițoiu, The Golden Book of Romanian Resistance against Communism, vol. 1, Hrisovul, 1995, p. 321; Vasile Manea, Orthodox Priests in Communist Prisons, Patmos, 2001, pp. 101-102.

2. ACNSAS, Criminal fonds, file 688, vol. 3, f. 147.

3. “Telegraful Român”, year LXXXIV, 24 May 1936, p. 2-3.

4. Ibidem, no. 52, 19 December 1936, p. 2.

5. Ibidem, year XC, no. 25, 21 June 1942, p. 4.

6. ACNSAS, Criminal fonds, file 688, vol. 3, f. 147v.

7. ACNSAS, Criminal fonds, file 688, vol. 1, f. 12-13; vol. 3, f. 161v; AMJDIM, Criminal fonds, file 118.165, vol. 2, f. 118-120; Calendarul Ligii Antirevizioniste Române, Secția Ardeal, pe anul 1936, Editura LAR, Comitetul Regional pentru Transilvania, Cluj, p. 52.

8. ACNSAS, Criminal fonds, file 688, vol. 3, f. 147v, 161.

9. Ibidem, f. 162.

10. Ibidem, f. 162v.

11. Ibidem, vol. 1, f. 13.

12. Ibidem, vol. 3, f. 147-147v; AMJDIM, fonds Penal, file 118.165, vol. 2, f. 21.

13. ACNSAS, fond Penal, file 688, vol. 3, f. 164. The statement, which recalls this moment, is given by Muntean Simion, PCR member, responsible for mass organisation at the Petroșani Organisation, dated 13 November 1946.

14. Cf. Cicerone Ionitoiu, The Book…, loc. cit.; Vasile Manea, op. cit. p. 102.

15. ACNSAS, Criminal fonds, file 688, vol. 3, f. 171-175.

16. Ibid, f. 153.

17. Ibid, f. 177.

18. Ibid, f. 155.

19. AMJDIM, Criminal file, file 118.165, vol. 2, f. 98-100.

20. Cristina Păiușan and Radu Ciuceanu, Biserica Ortodoxă Românã sub regimul comunist, vol. 1, INST, 2001, p. 94-96, 98, 105, 107-108, 231-235; Adrian Nicolae Petcu, Ministerul Cultelor și slujitorii altarului în anii “democrației popolare”, in “Pro Memoria”, no. 3/2004, p. 305-307.

21. AMJDIM, Criminal fonds, file 118.165, vol. 2, f. 55. They were: Iercan Ludovic, Holda Romulus, Preda Titus, Novăcescu Petru and Murgu Traian. In this wave of arrests we mention that the priest Jura Marcu Păun from Lonea was also arrested, who was released after investigation (Ibidem).

22. Ibidem, f. 98-100.

23. Ibid, f. 22.

24. Ibid, f. 161.

25. Ibid, f. 29-30. The letter is registered with the Presidency of the Council of Ministers on 19 June 1950 (Ibidem).

26. Ibid, f. 27. In Vasile Manea, op. cit., p. 102, it is claimed that his brother-in-law, Dr. Constantin Stanca, intervened with Minister Teohari Georgescu in the release of the priest, an aspect that is not reflected in the files I consulted.

27. Ibidem, f. 98-100, 110-111, 228.

28. Ibid, f. 221.

29. Ibid, f. 118-120, 162-163.

30. Ibid, f. 121-123, 225-227.

31. Ibid, f. 232-236.

32. “Wake up, Romanian! Organ de lutte nationale”, year II, no. 5-6, September-November 1988, Paris, p. 5. This reference was brought to our attention by our colleague Nicolae Videnie of the IRIR, to whom we would also like to express our thanks.

33. Vasile Manea, op. cit. p. 102.

34. Ibid. According to Cicerone Ionitoiu, The Book…, loc. cit. our father lost 30 kg during his imprisonment, “so much so that he was unrecognisable”.


Unpublished sources: ACNSAS, Criminal fonds, file 688, vol. 1, 3; AMJDIM, Criminal fonds, file 118.165, vol. 2;

General works: ***Calendar of the Romanian Anti-Revisionist League, Ardeal Section, for 1936, LAR Publishing House, Regional Committee for Transylvania, Cluj; “Wake up, Romanian! Organ de lutte nationale”, year II, no. 5-6, September-November 1988, Paris; IONIȚOIU, Cicerone, The Golden Book of Romanian Resistance against Communism, vol. 1, Hrisovul, 1995; MANEA, Vasile, Orthodox Priests in Communist Prisons, 2nd edition, Patmos, 2001; “Telegraful Român”, year LXXXIV, 24 May and 19 December 1936; year XC no. 25, 21 June 1942.

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