News by email Donate


Top Stories

Most Read

Popular Videos

World News

Romanian Orthodox Church welcomes Moldovan priests wanting to join

by Reuters Journalist

Romania's Orthodox Church says it will keep welcoming priests  bolting from Moldova's Russian-linked Orthodox Church to join a growing rival body subordinate to Bucharest as it believes the ex-Soviet state's future lies with Europe.

Disputes within Moldova's Orthodox community, which makes up 90% of the population in the country lying between Ukraine and Romania, are heating up just over a week before Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter.

But parishioners are divided between two churches: the Moldova Metropolis, subordinate to the Russian Orthodox Church, and the Metropolis of Bessarabia, which reports to the Romanian Church. Neither has autocephaly, or full independence.

More than 60 priests from the Moscow-linked church have switched sides since last year, with the Romanian-linked church increasingly associated with the drive by Moldova's pro-European authorities to join the European Union by 2030.

The much larger Russia-linked church last year chose to retain its links to Moscow after acknowledging that the Russian Orthodox Church's enthusiastic support for the Kremlin's war in Ukraine was denting its popularity. 

"The phenomenon of departures from the Moldova Metropolis - - directly linked to the Moscow Patriarchate - will continue to spread," Vasile Banescu, press secretary of the Romanian Orthodox Church, told U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe in an interview broadcast on Thursday.

"This phenomenon foreshadows a thaw in the church. The priests understand that, in essence, Moldova's future is with Europe, with Romania."

The Romanian church, he said, would continue to take in Moldovan priests and open new churches.

The tensions reflect Moldova's turbulent history, with most of its current territory having belonged at various times in the past to the Russian Empire or the Soviet Union and "Greater Romania." 

Although Romanian is the sole state language, Russian is widely spoken throughout much of the country.

President Maia Sandu, who has called a referendum on EU membership for later this year, has carefully steered clear of the disputes, upholding the separation of church and state. 

The Moldova Metropolis has defrocked priests who have left to join the rival church. 

Its head issued an impassioned plea on Wednesday for them to return to its ranks, urging them to "consider their mistakes, repent deeply and return to the bosom of the church."

The rival Bessarabia Church said in response it could not understand just what the Moscow-linked church wanted.

"They strip them of their clerical duties and then bring them back," Bessarabia Church press secretary Constantin Olaru told a television interviewer on Thursday. "We cannot explain what they are trying to achieve and what their final aim is."

A Monthly Gift Of $11 Makes A World Of Difference

In a world of fake news there’s never been a greater need for quality Christian journalism. Premier’s mission is to provide the Church with the most up to date and relevant news, told from a Christian perspective. But we can’t do it without you.

Unlike many websites we haven't put up a paywall — we want to keep our journalism free at the point of need and as open as we can. Premier’s news output takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce. No one in the USA is sharing news like we are across radio, magazines and online so please help us to continue that today.

For a monthly gift of $11 or more we’d also be able to send you a free copy of the brand new Premier Bible, a wonderful Anglicised version of the NLT packed with exclusive bonus content, reading plan and resources to help you get the most out of scripture.

Your monthly support will make a world of difference. Thank you.

Support Us
Continue the conversation on our Facebook page

Related Articles

Sign up to our newsletter to stay informed with news from a Christian perspective.

News by email