Friday, March 1, 2024

    “ROC in Chisinau becoming absurd”: Is Romanian Church preparing to recognize OCU?

    On October 26, the Romanian Orthodox Church commented on the decision passed by the Synod of the Moldavian Metropolis of the Russian Orthodox Church to depose six priests who quit the Moscow Patriarchate in Moldova. The Bessarabian Metropolis of the Romanian Church officially declared that the Synod of the ROC’s Moldavian Metropolis is “self-styled”, and that its hierarchy is indoctrinated with the ideology of “Russian world”. So how do such developments affect the recognition of the OCU by the Romanian Church? Let’s look at this in more detail.

    “The Bessarabian Metropolis of the Romanian Patriarchate accepted with sadness and deep indignation the groundless decision of the self-styled Synod of the ‘Orthodox Church of Moldova’, subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate, to excommunicate six active priests who courageously moved to the Bessarabian Metropolis, subordinate to the Romanian Patriarchate, in search of church service that would be in line with the Romanian values and ethnic identity,” said the official communique published on October 26.

    They decried the decision to ban these priests is invalid, as it has no real theological and canonical grounds and has a negative impact on believers and public opinion in Moldova, misinforming those who are neither theologically nor historically well-informed.

    The Bessarabian Metropolis emphasized some essential aspects, which were repeatedly stated, but which the hierarchy, indoctrinated by the ideology of the “Russian world”, prefers to ignore.

    “Historically and canonically, the Romanian Orthodox Church, through the Metropolis of Bessarabia, is the only church institution that has had canonical jurisdiction over the modern-day territory of Moldova. Therefore, the actions of the Synod of the self-styled “Orthodox Church of Moldova” or “Metropolis of Chisinau and all of Moldova” contradict the very canons of the Church and history of the church jurisdiction to which it hastily refers,” the Romanian Church emphasized.

    “The Russian organization in Chisinau becomes absurd and ridiculous even because of its name, assuming that it will have power in a region with an Orthodox history, culture, and identity deeply rooted in Romanian spirituality. This unfair statement creates an image of contempt for the canons and church laws that regulate the activities of the Orthodox Church. Instead of following the example of unity and respect between the Orthodox Churches, the decisions passed by this church organization deviate from Christian teaching, expressing a lack of understanding and respect for the identity of our people and for priests who identify themselves as Romanians. Such an approach to the current conflict undermines trust in the Russian Metropolis in Chisinau and exposes the weakness of its arguments,” the communiqué stated.

    The actions of the Russian Orthodox Church in the region were characterized as “disrespect” for believers.

    “We will make every possible effort so that all Orthodox communities in the Republic of Moldova can return to the bosom of the Mother Church. This means not only formally joining it, but also ensuring that every priest, deacon, monk, nun, or lay faithful can enjoy an authentic ministry, free from the constraints dictated by ideologies foreign to our people. The Bessarabian Metropolis is determined to protect and support all clergymen and monks who share the same vision, the same values, and the same identity with the Church of our people,” the communiqué emphasized.

    All those who feel constrained by the Russian dioceses are urged to have the courage to leave this “slavery” and return to the tradition and communication of the Romanian Orthodox Church.

    Earlier, Metropolitan Petru of Bessarabia stated that the Moldovan Metropolis of the Russian Orthodox Church is an “occupation organization” and its members are Russian intelligence assets, which should be countered.

    At the end of September, at a meeting with the cleric, Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu of Romania, vowed annual government assistance in the amount of EUR 2 million. Part of this money will finance the transition of priests from the ROC Moldavian Metropolis. So, for leaving the canonical Russian Orthodox Church, each priest is now paid about EUR 2,000, and then another EUR 450-600 per month.

    The Moldovan authorities promote the influence of the Bessarabian Metropolis in opposition to the Moldovan one. The Spiritual Front of Ukraine earlier reported that pro-Russian outlets, including pseudo-church ones, are being blocked in Moldova. Relations between the local branch of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moldova and the Kremlin Center of the Moscow Patriarchy are also deteriorating. In fact, Russian influence on the church in this country has turned against it with some negative consequences. Metropolitan Vladimir (Kantaryan) of the Russian Orthodox Church has no choice but to pen angry letters to Kirill, in which he complains about the latter’s inaction. He said, we are being “engulfed” here, and you are not doing anything. The letter also proves that the Moldovan Metropolis is facing the growing influence of the Bessarabian Metropolis of the Romanian Church, which is supported by the Republic of Moldova and Romania, and the fact that the Romanian authorities and those in Moldova openly support the Bessarabian Metropolis gives the impression that the ROC in Moldova is becoming increasingly unpopular because of its Russia tiesa. The authenticity of the correspondence is officially confirmed by high-ranking representatives from the Russian Orthodox Church in Moldova, but Kirill still has not done anything about it.

    In order to further undermine the authority and strike a new blow, the Romanian Church can drag the recognition of the OCU onto the geopolitical map, which will have long-term implications.

    Promises fulfilled?

    We should recall that in February 2019, the Romanian Orthodox Church spoke for the recognition of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine in exchange for guarantees of the freedoms of Romanian believers in Ukraine. In July of the same year, the OCU Synod created an Orthodox Romanian Vicariate, giving it self-government rights. However, the recognition process stalled. In February 2020, its synod spoke in favor of a consensus between the Ecumenical and Moscow Patriarchates on the issue of the Ukrainian Church.

    Let us emphasize that on August 19, 2023, a message from Metropolitan Petru on the approval of the recognition of the Romanian language as the official language of the Romanian national minority in Ukraine appeared on the website of the Romanian Orthodox Church’s Bessarabian Metropolis. “This change is a significant step in promoting cultural and linguistic unity between Romanians in Romania and Romanians in Ukraine, while strengthening the rights of national minorities, which is a key aspect in the process of accession to the European Union. This is proof of Ukraine’s commitment to respect for European values and international standards of human rights,” the hierarch of the Romanian Church said in a statement.

    The Metropolitan is “pleased to see concern for the rights of Romanian Orthodox priests and guarantees of continued religious services in the Romanian language.” Hierarch Petru is sure that this decision made by Ukraine “opens new horizons for cultural and linguistic relations between Romania and Ukraine, strengthening ties between the two countries and their communities.” “We hope that this historic moment will promote solidarity and prosperity, as well as serve as a positive example for other communities around the world,” he concluded.

    Isn’t the recognition of the Romanian language in Ukraine similar to these long-sought freedoms for Romanian believers, which the Romanian Orthodox Church spoke about in 2019, promising in return to recognize the OCU?

    The recognition of the OCU by the Romanian Orthodox Church would be of great importance for Ukraine. This would be another step towards the full recognition of the OCU in the Orthodox world because the Romanian Church is large and quite influential. The recognition would also have geopolitical consequences and strike a blow to the positions of the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine and around world. It would also send a signal to Russia that the policy of blackmail and threats had brought no benefit.

    Of course, the recognition of OCU by the Romanian Orthodox Church is not yet guaranteed. However, given the current state of affairs and the course of the Romanian Church, the move is only a matter of time.

    Greeks visiting Romanians

    On August 11, Metropolitan of Belgium, Patriarchal Exarch of the Netherlands and Luxembourg, Athenagoras (Peckstadt) led the Divine Liturgy in the city of Targoviste, the center of the local diocese of the Romanian Patriarchate. The reason for the visit was the celebration of the name day of Metropolitan Nifon of Targoviste, the head of church diplomacy of the Romanian Orthodox Church. On August 12, Patriarch Daniel of Romania received the delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate at his residence in Bucharest. The delegation included Metropolitan of Belgium, Patriarchal Exarch of the Netherlands and Luxembourg Athenagoras (Peckstadt), his brother Protopresbyter Bernard Peckstadt. and priest from the Romanian Patriarchate in Brussels Sorin Selaru.

    From August 23 to 27, Metropolitan Ignatius of Dimitrias visited the Suceava Diocese of the Romanian Patriarchate. The trip was a response to the invitation of the local bishop, Archbishop Calinic. On August 27, the metropolitan presided over the liturgy, where he ordained the local faithful to his priesthood and deaconship.

    It is worth noting that Metropolitan Ignatius is one of the most pro-Ukrainian bishops of the Church of Greece. It was he, as the head of the department of external church relations, who drafted the recognition of the OCU at the Council of Bishops in the fall of 2019. He also cooperated with Ukrainian clerics and hierarchs on several occasions, for which he was put on the “black list” by the Russian Orthodox Church. Russian pilgrims are prohibited from visiting the Dimitrias Metropolis.

    Such a warm reception of the Greek metropolitan in Romania may indicate at least a non-serious attitude of local bishops to the Russian Orthodox Church’s thesis that one who serves with the OCU instantly loses grace and turns into an “impostor wearing priest’s clothes.” In addition, the Romanian Church shows that it is not afraid of joint co-service with those hierarchs and Churches that co-serve with the OCU. This is at least an indirect recognition on the part of the Romanian Church.

    It is worth noting that the Romanian Patriarchate has always had warm relations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate. It was Patriarch Bartholomew who consecrated the Cathedral of Saint Andrew the First-Called in Bucharest in 2018.

    Ecclesiastical Bucharest takes a wait-and-see position regarding the recognition of the OCU. Metropolitan Nestor of Ternopil said that Metropolitan Nifon, during their conversation at Phanar, informed him that the Romanian Church will recognize the OCU only when the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine ceases to exist or when the majority of parishes and bishops transition to the OCU.

    OCU priest Ivan Petrushchak for the Spiritual Front of Ukraine.