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Cluj-Napoca, Aug ZZ /Agerpres/ - Cluj is among the very few world cities that can claim being the birthplace of a religion. Unitarianism is a religion born in the 16th century, when, and before it found a name it was simply called 'the religion of Cluj.' Through a series of circumstances, the Unitarianism also crossed the Atlantic, and several Founding Fathers of the United States - including Benjamin Franklin and President Thomas Jefferson - ultimately lived in its spirit.
The founder of the new belief was Ferenc (or Francisc) David, born in Cluj around 1520 from a Hungarian mother and Transylvanian Saxon father.
Young Francisc began his studies in Brasov and Alba Iulia, before being sent to Wittenberg (Germany) around 1551; there he became familiar with the ideas of Protestantism.
We must remember that the 16th century was the age of Reform, which fueled several theological ideas embraced by various European communities. At any rate, before inventing the Unitarianism, Francisc David followed all the steps of a scholar to complete his studies, then raised to the highest position available for a man with his background.
He adhered to Lutheranism before returning from Wittenberg. He taught in Bistrita for some time, then returned to Cluj, where he became Lutherans' superintendent. In 1564 he was elected Bishop of the Hungarian churches in Transylvania, and was appointed pastor at the court of Transylvanian Prince John II Sigismund Zapolya.
'Unitarianism appeared and formed as a church in 16th century, as the most radical wing of Protestant Reformation. Thus, we consider ourselves as Protestants, just like Calvinists and Lutherans, but Unitarian beliefs are the most radical within the Reformation. Our religion was practically formed owing to one man born here, in Cluj-Napoca - David Ferenc [Hungarian version with family name first], or Francisc David. He was elected head of the priests in this city, and served in the St. Michael Church here in the downtown. The church switched from Roman Catholicism to Lutheranism alongside the whole community of the city. Of course, the city was Catholic at first, before turning Lutheran. Subsequently, for a very short period, the church was also a Reformed one,' explained parish priest Norbert Racz of the central Unitarian Church of Cluj.
The Edict of Turda was issued in 1568; it was unique in the world, guaranteeing religious freedom. 'In this first stage of Unitarianism, the most important benchmark we have is the famous Edict of Turda, which first presented this idea of religious freedom to the world, allowing communities to elect their pastor, or priest, according to their faith. Because - the Edict states - faith is God's gift, and no one is allowed to interfere with this freedom. And this Edict also has its political sides. Indeed, if different religious communities have formed, things could have happened like elsewhere in Europe, where Protestants and Roman Catholics practically killed each other. If Transylvania got there, too, it wouldn't have been able to face threats. If we look at the map, we see that at the time the Ottoman Empire was a strong presence on south and west, while the Hapsburg Empire was also trying to take over these territories from north and west. Practically, Transylvania had to find this balance to stay united, to avoid division. It became obvious that if one religion - any of them - was enforced, the others would have rejected those dogmas. It would have probably led to a conflict,' Racz explained.
At that time in Transylvania, the communities - perhaps also owing to the degree of freedom they enjoyed - were less committed to the differences between various forms of Protestantism, and were easily gathered around one personality, one priest they seen as most charismatic.
'We must understand that when we discuss religions, we now see these entities already formed, with bishops, a church, and dogmas. No one would consider nowadays going to a Roman Catholic church and say, 'Let me convince you about something else.' And then that community would get convinced and say, 'Fine, he's right, let's do it like that, too.' But in the 16th century religions were practically not that clearly separated. If one would have stopped anyone on the street and asked them about their religion, they would have declared themselves Christians. Different religions of our days were formed in the 16th and 17th centuries, and only then have they found these final forms,' Racz said.
Unitarianism is defined by considering reason fundamental also for the religious life, and by the wish to return to the purity of ideas of biblical times. Francisc David also begun questioning the existence within the religion of things and ideas that are not present in the Bible; he then asked himself why these exist in the religious practice and faith; also, his ideas were largely concordant with the contemporary events in Europe.
After rejecting the divine nature of Jesus and denying some parts of the New Testament, David lost the support of his protectors, including physician Giorgio Blandrata, who denounced him for heresy, fearing that his ideas could endanger the whole Unitarian community, which vast majority did not embrace this radical approach. David was arrested, indicted and sentenced. He died in the prison of the Deva fortress in 1579. A memorial plate and a small monument still mark his detaining place.
Three hundred years passed when Unitarians discussed David's most radical ideas only in undertones. Only in the 19th century his questions begun to be posed loudly, and nowadays Unitarian theories are closer than ever to the ideas of the priest who founded this religion nearly five hundred years ago.
Not all Unitarian ideas were established for five centuries. Some of them might look modern: Unitarians think the fundamental ideas of their religions must be updated. They are constantly open to the newest scientific discoveries, as they think reason is the main instrument for discovering the world, and religion must change with the world. AGERPRES
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