“Chernivtsi region is preparing to take the next step towards unification with Romania” – such headlines became popular in the Kremlin media and spread in z-Telegram channels. Propagandists claim that the “Bucharest authorities” offered the parishes run by the UOC (MP) to come under the protectorate of the Romanian Orthodox Church. So, it is as if Romania is beginning to “softly encroach” on part of the territory of Ukraine.
As evidence, they cite the “Appeal to Romanian priests in Ukraine and Metropolitan Longin (Mykhailo Zhar), who are under the jurisdiction of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (in unity with the Moscow Patriarchate) on the transition to the traditional canonical jurisdiction of the Romanian Orthodox Church”, signed by six Romanian non-governmental organizations , including the “Rost Association”, and published in the online edition ROSTonline. As noted on the association’s website, it is engaged in cultural projects through which it seeks to promote “national values, creative appreciation of Romanian traditions, preservation of national identity, and awakening of civic spirit,” reports Ukrinform.
The appeal states that 121 parishes in Ukraine, where religious services are held in the Romanian language and which are under the patronage of the Moscow Patriarchate, should be transferred to the Romanian Patriarchate, and that Metropolitan Longin of the UOC (MP) should lead this entire process.
This statement came a day after Longin gave an interview to the Romanian channel Antena3 CNN, in which he accused the Ukrainian state of “persecuting the church” and spoke about the “armed people” raiding the monastery, “shattering windows” and “bringing clerics to their knees.”
Therefore, the basis of the fake story about the “unification of Chernivtsi region with Romania” is the appeal of several Romanian non-governmental organizations, not the position of the Romanian authorities or the Romanian Orthodox Church. Neither the Romanian government’s website, nor the official platform of the Romanian Orthodox Church ever posted this letter, messages about the call, or information about the intention to take the UOC (MP) parishes under their wing in Ukraine.
This was confirmed by the head of the Union of Ukrainians of Romania (SUR) Mykola-Myroslav Petretskyi.
“The Romanian Orthodox Church has never made any statements about being willing to take under its control the parishes run by the UOC (MP) in Bukovina. On the contrary, reacting to the recent words of Bishop Longin (Mihail Zhar) from the Banchensky Monastery, who said on Romanian television that armed soldiers allegedly raided the homes of clergymen in Chernivtsi and that the Ukrainian authorities are persecuting local Romanian priests, the spokesman for the Romanian Orthodox Church, Vasile Benescu, clearly stated that ‘priests of ethnic Romanian communities in Ukraine do not canonically belong to the Romanian Patriarchate, but are mostly under the jurisdiction of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which maintains an ecclesiastical-canonical relationship with the Russian Orthodox Church,’” Petretskyi said.
The head of the Association of Ukrainians in Romania also emphasized that the Romanian Orthodox Church fully supports Ukraine and calls on representatives of Romanian national minorities not to follow Russian propaganda.
“Vasile Benescu also stated that ‘the highest reason for adequacy is objective truth, confirmed by brutal direct reality, not ideologized and not manipulated by the propaganda of those who try to justify, including religiously, war and mass murders.’ I think that with this the Romanian Orthodox Church has clearly formulated its position,” Mykola-Myroslav Petretsky emphasized.
The sincerity of Longin’s words should also be questioned. Although he was one of the few representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (MP) who condemned Moscow Patriarch Kirill (Gundyaev) for blessing the war in Ukraine, he did so only in June, four months after Russian missiles and bombs started striking peaceful Ukrainian cities. He also led a sermon in which he declared that Ukraine “started a war against God and the Ukrainian people.”
Before the war, Longin was spreading fake news. In March 2021, in the Hertsaiv district of Chernivtsi region, where the clerics at the Banchensky Monastery, led by Longin, conduct awareness campaigns, the majority of doctors working in the district hospital snubbed coronavirus vaccination, citing religious beliefs. On the UOC (MP)’s social media, Longin’s statement was circulated that the “powerful vaccine” against the coronavirus is the “holy communion” that “kills any infection.”
During the Yanukovych rule, in 2011, Longin hosted Kirill, who consecrated the newly created temple he headed in the Banchensky Monastery.
Longin is a long-time ally of Metropolitan Meletiy of Chernivtsi and Bukovyna, whose home was earlier searched by the SBU. During the raid, the operatives found Russian passports of the “leadership of diocesan bodies”, including the said cleric’s.
The President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyi, suspended Meletiy’s citizenship, as well as that of 13 other UOC (MP) priests.
The Romanian Orthodox Church runs no parishes in Ukraine. The only Ukrainian church connected with Romania is the Orthodox Ukrainian Vicariate, which is a structural unit of the Romanian Orthodox Church, created in 1990 for Ukrainians living in Romania. Divine services there are held in Ukrainian and partly in Romanian.