Boost to Romanian Orthodox church ahead of Easter fast
PUBLISHED: 15:47 12 February 2015 | UPDATED: 15:47 12 February 2015
Newham's only Romanian church has seen its membership boom in recent months and preparations are now under way for a fast over Easter.
Anti-Jewish attacks drop
The number of Jewish people subjected to racist attacks in Newham has dropped, despite a record high of 1,168 incidents nationally.
Last year saw just four anti-Semitic attacks in the borough, down from seven in 2013, according to a new report by the Community Security Trust, which provides security for Jews.
This was despite a spike in attacks over the summer during the war between Israel and Hamas in the Middle East, which experts say led to a rise.
Met police also recorded a national rise – from 169 offences in 2013 up to 400 last year.
There were 342 people in Newham who identify as Jewish, or 0.1 per cent of residents, in the 2011 census
Father Sorin Paul Grecu, 55, of the Romanian Orthodox Church, Rutland Road, Forest Gate, said his congregation has blossomed in just a few months
“I have 100 to 150 people to pray in a service on Sunday,” he said, “and maybe 300 families, but not coming every Sunday.
“There are many from Barking and Dagenham, Romford, East Ham and Ilford.”
Fr Grecu has been a priest for 22 years, including three years in Romania.
Newham has one of the largest Romanian populations in London according to the Office for National Statistics.
Government data for 2010 shows people from Romania make up 11 per cent of the population.
This makes the borough a hub for Romanian Christians, though the main Romanian Orthodox church in London is in Holborn.
“I’m a bit different,” says Fr Grecu, “because I was working for Barking and Dagenham Council as a plasterer every day from 8am to 4.30pm.”
In a busy week he will perform baptisms, weddings and hear confessions, especially during the long Easter period, which runs on different dates than for other Christians.
“With fasting it’s not everybody keeping the fast,” he said. “It’s not Muslim Ramadan or something like that.”
The fast runs from February 16 to Easter on April 6 but people only fast for a few days, or not at all if they choose.
Usually they skip fish, meat, eggs or milk, effectively becoming vegetarian for a while, explained Fr Grecu.
The Orthodox branch of Christianity split from the Catholic church in what is known as the Great Schism in 1054.
There are around 200 million people worldwide who profess Orthodox Christianity.
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