Metropolitan Daniel of Moldavia and Bucovina, who studied in the West and taught at an ecumenical institute near Geneva while his country was under communist rule, has been elected Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church - writes Stephen Brown.
"We look forward to the Romanian Orthodox Church remaining under your leadership a committed partner to the other churches of Europe," Archdeacon Colin Williams, general secretary of the Conference of European Churches, said in a letter to Daniel after the announcement of his election on 12 September 2007.
Daniel, widely regarded as being open to Christians of other denominations, received 95 votes out of 161 in a final ballot against Metropolitan Bartolomeu Anani, seen as a more traditionalist candidate.
"There is no doubt that in you there has been elected a Patriarch ... who will see far into the challenges of living out the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Romania," Williams stated in his letter.
Daniel is a member of the presidium of CEC, which groups most of Europe's Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox churches. He has also been a member of the central committee of the World Council of Churches.
The election followed the death of Patriarch Teoctist on 30 July, aged 92. "I want to serve the church as Teoctist did," Daniel was quoted telling reporters after his election.
The church said Daniel would be enthroned on 30 September in Bucharest's Patriarchal cathedral.
Born Dan Ilie Ciobotea on 22 July 1951, the newly-elected patriarch received his doctorate from the faculty of Protestant theology in Strasbourg in eastern France in 1979, after studies in Romania, France and West Germany.
He then spent eight years as a lecturer at the WCC's Ecumenical Institute at Bossey near Geneva before returning to his home country in 1988.
Daniel has been archbishop of Iasi and metropolitan of Moldavia and Bucovina since 1990, the year after a revolution overthrew Romania's communist leader, Nicolae Ceausescu.
Since then, he has founded more than 300 parishes, 40 monasteries, and initiated and supported the building of over 250 new churches, the Patriarchate said on its Web site http://www.patriarhia.ro/CV%20eng.html.
Daniel's election came shortly after the conclusion of the Third European Ecumenical Assembly in Sibiu in central Romania, at which he underlined the role of the church in guarding the faith under communism, "to the extent to which the Romanians remained one of the most religious people of Europe".
The election took place during a wrangle between the church and the official body for the archives of the communist Securitate secret police about the naming of clerics who collaborated with the communist dictatorship.
The Associated Press quoted Mircea Dinescu, an official studying the Securitate archives, as saying that the secret police file of Daniel had been burned during the 1989 revolution.
The German Protestant news agency epd quoted Daniel as saying that involvement with the secret police needed to be condemned when it served private interests and harmed other people. "When it served the church and prevented harm to the church and the faithful, then it needs to be seen in a more nuanced way," he added.
Almost 87 per cent of Romania's 22 million people belong to the Orthodox church.