Nicolae Corneanu, born in 1923, is the Romanian Orthodox Archbishop of Timisoara and Metropolitan of the Banat, one of six Romanian Metropolitanates.
Timisoara is known for its good relations between different confessional groups. Besides the Romanian Orthodox, the city's population includes people of the Serbian Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Greek Catholic faiths, as well as a few Jews.
Corneanu came to Timisoara in 1948; in 1962 he became archbishop and metropolitan.
Right after the fall of communism, he returned ownership of the cathedral of Lugoj to the Greek Catholic Church. (The communist regime, having banned the Greek Catholic Church, had handed the cathedral over to the Romanian Orthodox Church.) Corneanu is also on good terms with the Roman Catholic Bishop of Timisoara, Martin Roos, and counted among his friends the late Ernest Neumann, the last Rabbi of Timisoara.
Nicolae Corneanu made headlines when he admitted to having been an informer of the Securitate – the Communist secret police – for 41 years. It started in 1948, when he was caught sheltering a German fugitive.
"Almost every month I was visited by Securitate agents who wanted statements from me about people so they could arrest them. I always tried to pass on only information that I assumed would not harm anybody. What weighed on my conscience, however, was the fact that I had to remain in contact with the people from the Securitate. Because there were those who said: 'No, I will have nothing to do with you,' and who were then sentenced to imprisonment."
Many people, also among the clergy, had been Securitate informers. Estimates put the figure at above 400,000. But Nicolae Corneanu stands out in having publicly admitted his relationship with the Securitate.
"I seized the first opportunity after the revolution, which was a newspaper interview, to talk about the incidents which had happened to me regarding the Securitate.
"I feel relieved, in some way it was liberating [to be] freed from guilt, to put it another way… my conscience was clean again."