Sunday, March 10, 2024

Romanian Orthodox Church Getting More Involved in Ukraine, Creating Both Opportunities and Problems for Moscow

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 5 – Moscow has long opposed the Romanian Orthodox Church’s involvement in Moldova, seeing that as directed against Russian influence there; but it is likely to have more mixed feelings what the Romanian church’s increasing focus on Orthodox Romanians in Ukraine.

            On the one hand, neither the Kremlin nor the Moscow Patriarchate is likely to be entirely happy with the increased involvement of an Orthodox church in a NATO country on the territory of a former Soviet republic which the Kremlin is currently engaged in a military campaign to bring to heel or even destroy altogether.

            But on the other, because the actions of the Romanian Orthodox Church are also directed the autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine and against Kyiv’s plans to ban the Ukrainian Orthodox Church because of its links to Moscow, they may be welcome at least in some quarters in the Russian capital

              Bucharest’s creation of a Romanian bishopric in Ukraine is an attempt to defend Romanian believers in Ukraine if Kyiv bans the UOC as more than 90 percent of the Romanian-language parishes in Ukraine are part of that church and not the autocephalous OCU, Milena Faustova of Nezavisimaya Gazeta says (

            (There are more than 150,000 ethnic Romanians and 250,000 ethnic Moldovans in Ukraine most of whom speak Romanian; and both groups are concentrated in the southwestern portion of Ukraine. Believers from these two communities currently form 121 parishes in that area.)

            This move by the Romanian church has a long pre-history, the Russian journalist points out. In 1995, the Romanian Orthodox Church gave its Bessarabian metropolitan responsibility for the eastern Romanian diaspora, including Orthodox Romanians living in Ukraine and Moldova. In 2007, the metropolitanate created three bishoprics in those two countries.

            Complicating Romanian-Ukrainian church relations is the fact that Bucharest has never recognized the autocephaly of the Ukrainian church that the Ecumenical Patriarch granted in 2018. And in part because Bucharest didn’t, the new OCU created its on Romanian vicarate to supervise Romanian-language congregations on its territory.

            If Kyiv bans the UOC, Romanian parishes within that church would presumably be banned as well. Consequently, some in the UOC are pleased with Bucharest’s move because it highlights that risk; but others in Moscow may be worried about what having such an ally may mean in the future.

            That is because if there is a Romanian church in Ukraine, it will tie portions of that country more closely to the West and make it more difficult for Moscow to achieve the dominance over Ukraine that it seeks. Moscow is thus torn and has few good options lest it provoke even more dissent there than it already has.

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