Saturday, October 16, 2021

    Last chance to retain influence over Moldova: ROC resorts to bribes to keep its parishes from joining Romanian Patriarchate

    In recent months, the pro-European course of Moldova’s newly elected government has seen considerable public support. Against the background of the devastating defeat of pro-Russian political forces in the latest presidential and parliamentary elections, the Kremlin’s ambitions suffered a significant blow amid a drastic reduction in the number of followers of the Moldovan-Chisinau Metropolis of the Russian Orthodox Church and a general decline in the Moldovan people’s confidence in this religious organization.

    The Spiritual Front of Ukraine earlier wrote that the pro-European sentiments of the local population and the general pro-European course of Moldova pushed the Orthodox clergy in this country to seek unity with the Romanian Patriarchate which is closer to them in spirit.

    This situation didn’t go unnoticed in Moscow. Incumbent Moldovan President Maia Sandu has been repeatedly accused of “repeating Poroshenko’s fate” and provoking a “church split” by letting the Moldovan-Chisinau ROC Metropolis switch to the Romanian Patriarchate.

    The Kremlin went as far as calling the moves by the Moldovan leader “revenge on the church” after the ROC clergy supported her rival, a pro-Russian politician Igor Dodon.

    But beyond all the unsubstantiated accusations, it’s clear that Moldova is seeing a strong expression of people’s will as to their spiritual affiliation, which tends away from Moscow.

    These developments left those in the Kremlin’s top offices agitated as Moldova is rapidly escaping from Russia’s influence grip. So the prospect of losing the levers over Chisinau’s socio-political life is now of great concern to Moscow.

    Pro-Russian politicians, after suffering a defeat in the presidential and parliamentary elections, have a catastrophically low influence on the state, which is why the ROC clergy became Moscow’s last hope for maintaining Moldova’s ties with Russia and an important channel for circulating Russian propaganda among Moldovans.

    However, the ROC clergy in Moldova is facing quite difficult times. Those who have decided to stick with the Moscow Patriarchate have begun to lose their parishioners. Moldovan believers are voluntarily choosing the opportunity to pray in the temples of the Romanian Patriarchate.

    Now, amid losing parishioners, the ROC in Moldova’s churches are experiencing an acute shortage of funds due to a lack of donations and other revenues. As a result, even the most loyal clerics, in the face of these grave times, are thinking about the prospects of transition to the Romanian Patriarchate.

    According to the Spiritual Front of Ukraine’s own sources, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moldova, Metropolitan Vladimir (Kantaryan), has reported to the Patriarch Kirill (Gundyaev) on the current situation.

    He sent a letter to Moscow in which he raised alarms that the Romanian Patriarchate intended to secure the transfer to the Bessarabian Metropolis of several hundred parishes of the ROC in Moldova. At the same time, he added the Romanian Church encourages transition with significant support, including the financial one.

    In this regard, the Moscow Patriarchate has crafted a set of measures and, since year-start, has been regularly allocating financial support to more than a hundred Orthodox parishes in Moldova, which are rapidly losing parishioners – and money, as a result. At the same time, there are two main goals being pursued in this regard: first, to prevent the transition of ROC-controlled Orthodox parishes to the Bessarabian Metropolis of the Romanian Patriarchate, and second, to preserve the Kremlin’s only instrument of influence over the Moldovan people – the Moldovan-Chisinau Metropolis.

    It is not easy to predict whether regular financial infusions from Moscow will be able to keep the ROC clergy in Moldova from reunifying with the Romanian Patriarchate. However, it is safe to say that in countries where pro-Russian politicians are politically defeated, the Russian Orthodox Church immediately intensifies its efforts, imposing on the population the ideas of “brotherhood with Russia” and “decay of the West,” trying to spread toxic ideas of the “Russian World” and broadcasting other narratives created in the Kremlin.