Elder Cleopa of Romania (1912-1998)
Elder Cleopa was born Constantin Ilie in Sulița, Romania in 1912 into a pious family. Uninterested in the things of the world from a young age, he entered the monastery of Sihastria together with two of his brothers at the age of seventeen. He was tonsured with the name of Cleopa in 1937. Against his will, he became abbot of Sihastria in 1942 at the age of thirty. He was not abbot for long when the political situation worsened in Romania with the rise of communism. He was repeatedly arrested by the secret police, and often fled into the mountains to evade them. However, the elder always considered those years of solitude as the most blessed times of his life.
With his return in 1964, after living as a hermit, Elder Cleopa continued to give spiritual advice to monks and lay people. As a spiritual father he ministered not only to the monks of his monastery, but also to the inhabitants of the region ranging from people of influence to common folk. His reputation began to spread throughout Romania and the whole world and he was visited by the Patriarchs of Constantinople and Romania. After the fall of the communist regime he was a symbol of Romania’s spiritual revival. Elder Cleopa reposed in the Lord on the 2nd of December 1998, having predicted the time of his death. His funeral was attended by around 10,000 people, and the New York Times printed his obituary.
His impact on Orthodoxy in Romania was such that his influence continues to this day, including through Patriarch Daniel of Romania who was one of his spiritual children. The soil of the tomb of this abbot, spiritual father, missionary, confessor and hesychast has worked many miracles, and so many people take this soil that the monks have had to carry wheelbarrows of earth to Elder Cleopa’s grave, to fill in the hollows left by the faithful. May he intercede for us!
Source: Lychnos December 2019 – January 2020