A proposal of Romanians for UOC: a wake-up call for Ukrainian authorities

06 February 2023 10:53
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The Romanian-speaking communities of the UOC are invited to move to the Romanian Church. Photo: UOJ The Romanian-speaking communities of the UOC are invited to move to the Romanian Church. Photo: UOJ

Romanian public organizations called on the Romanian-speaking parishes of the UOC to join the Romanian Church. Why is this a signal for the Ukrainian authorities?

At the end of January, a number of Romanian public and political organizations published an appeal to the Romanian-speaking Orthodox parishes of Ukraine with a call to join the Romanian Patriarchate. Among the signatories are the Romanian East Association, ProVita Bucharest Association, ROST Association, MORE Association and others.

The reason is the repressions of the Ukrainian authorities against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. After all, out of 120 Romanian-speaking parishes in Ukraine, 110 belong to the jurisdiction of the UOC. So given the pressure that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is under today in Ukraine, the possibility of Ukrainian Romanians going under the leadership of the Romanian Patriarch appears quite probable. So what is really happening with these parishes, and is it only about them? Let's figure it out.

Persecution of the UOC and the reaction of Romania

Tough statements from Romania about the persecution of the Orthodox in Bukovyna by the authorities are becoming increasingly louder. On January 15, 2023, ex-MP Gelu Visan spoke on Romania TV about "the crimes that they (the Ukrainian authorities) commit against the ministers of the Lord." A week later, his rhetoric became even tougher. On television, he compared Zelenskyy's actions against the UOC with the policies of the Nazis.

“I see that Zelensky, as the commander-in-chief of the army and law enforcement agencies, is committing an act of Nazism. This footage (SBU searches in the dioceses of the UOC – Ed.) should be sent directly to the European courts, because the most flagrant violation of religious and human rights, ethnic and religious cleansing can be seen here. All this is extremely serious,” the politician said.

At the end of January, Romanian politicians began to study the situation on the ground. MP Dumitru-Viorel Focsa came to Ukraine on purpose to meet with priests. He recorded several video interviews with them, blurring their faces and changing their voice.

According to Foksa, Zelenskyy's repressions against the UOC are "complete madness." He said that "Romanian priests are being terrorized and forced to leave the autonomous canonical church of Ukraine to enter the new political church." The deputy of the Romanian parliament also said that the interviewed clerics of the UOC are “very scared” and “in need of protection”, but remain faithful to their Primate and do not want to go over to the Romanian Church.

But maybe Foksa is exaggerating and, in fact, no one touches the Romanian-speaking believers and their parishes in Ukraine?

No, he isn’t.

Because most of the "Romanian" churches in our country are located on the territory of the Chernivtsi-Bukovyna diocese. And we all remember very well that it was precisely this diocese that was demonstratively "nightmarized" by the SBU officers – with breaking down doors, stripping everyone who was in the diocesan premises to underpants, throwing dirt on the Chernivtsi bishop, and so on. We also remember that simultaneously with the “searches” of the security forces, an incredible number of almost identical publications appeared in the media discrediting the clergy of the Chernivtsi diocese.

It is quite obvious that the searches and, moreover, the publications, and later also the scandalous video of Quarter 95, are links in the same chain. In other words, a political order.

And if so, is it possible to say that the defendant (Chernivtsi-Bukovyna diocese) of this order was chosen by chance? Of course not.

Firstly, this diocese is led by the head of the DECR UOC, Metropolitan Meletiy, who has already opened several dozen parishes of the UOC in Europe.

Secondly, this diocese is notable for its fidelity to Orthodoxy. For reference, there is an UTC in the Chernivtsi region where not a single Uniate or Catholic parish is registered, and the parishes of the OCU exist only on paper.

Thirdly, this diocese is the birthplace of His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry.

Fourthly, it is in the Chernivtsi-Bukovyna diocese that one of the most famous (including abroad) bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Longin (Zhar) of Bancheny, serves. To list all the merits of this man, the Hero of Ukraine, is a thankless task. Suffice it to say that he fostered more than 300 children (many of whom are disabled) and that he is in charge of an orphanage in Molnytsia village.

An ethnic Romanian himself, Metropolitan Longin enjoys great prestige and respect among the local Romanian-speaking population, regardless of religion. Therefore, it is precisely for this reason that the blow to the Bukovynian diocese, to the metropolitans Meletiy and Longin, and indirectly to His Beatitude, echoes so painfully in Romania.

Thus, the authors of the appeal mentioned at the beginning of the article are sure that “taking note from the media of the dramatic reality that Metropolitan Longin (Zhar) faced”, he should “immediately become the head of the Romanian priests and believers in Ukraine and, together with them, demand the re-jurisdiction with the Romanian Orthodox Church.”

MP Dumitru-Viorel Focsa published a video in which a priest of the UOC, an ethnic Romanian, said that representatives of the OCU “behave like nationalists.” “We did not unite with them, because we realized that this is a religious-political movement, and we are Orthodox. We don't do politics. We preach Christ. We do not go against the state, but we cannot violate the Word of God and His commandments,” says the clergyman.

He also said that no one supports the Ukrainian schismatics, and therefore they decided to "destroy us, because when we are gone, they will come instead of us."

“In this chaos provoked by the war, using nationalist slogans, with the help of the military, they are trying to instill fear in us. Ukrainian parishes are subjected to even more harassment, but we also hear threats, and we were promised that as soon as the war ended, they would take over us too,” the priest said.

Focsa, in turn, reminded the audience that the OCU is backed by the President of Ukraine, while “armed people and SBU officers come to the temples of the UOC with searches and threats, instill fear in the priests, forcibly undress them and take pictures” (note that all this took place precisely in the Bukovyna diocese – Ed.).

Summing up the results of his visit to Ukraine, Foksa says that violence is used against the UOC, and many priests are “threatened to be expelled if they use the Romanian language in worship.” He also said that they are accused of being pro-Russian and pro-Putin.

“This is Stalinist rhetoric without evidence, shameful and stupid. So I will report to the European Parliament Commission on Violence. Ukraine does not know how to respect minorities, and the European Commission, the European Parliament should know what these Kyiv politicians are doing,” the Romanian MP said.

How "patriots" are pushing Ukrainians into the arms of Romanians

It is clear that the situation evolving around the UOC clearly plays against the image of Ukraine in Europe and in the world. Such appeals, and most importantly, moods are supposed to somewhat moderate the ardor of the "patriots" and cool the "hot heads" in the Ukrainian politicum. But we do not notice either the former or the latter.

Thus, the Bukovynian publication "BukInfo" devoted an entire "revealing" article to Metropolitan Longin "The double game of Metropolitan Longin, or Who did the dirty on whom in Bukovyna." The authors, without any scruples, accused Vladyka Longin of lying and further stated that he “decided to simply skedaddle to the Romanian Orthodox Church, using Romanian right-wing radical organizations and journalists who are fed by the Kremlin.”

Of course, such publications only “add fuel to the fire” of the Romanians’ dissatisfaction with everything that is happening today in Ukraine regarding the UOC and its Romanian-speaking parishes. All this leads to the Romanian media urging the President of the country, Klaus Iohanis, to ban Ukrainian citizens from entering the country, and to send all Ukrainian refugees, “especially rich and in luxury cars” back to Ukraine. At the same time, Romanian journalists believe, "Romanians from Northern Bukovyna, Gertsa and Odessa region should leave Ukraine for Romania until the situation in this country is resolved."

“We have shown more than humanity, we have shown brotherly love for Ukraine, and this is how Kyiv reacts: they persecute Romanian parishes and priests, and the children of Romanians are sent to war,” say outraged journalists.

In the light of the foregoing, it is not difficult to guess that if the authorities of Kyiv still ban the UOC, then none of the Romanian-speaking parishes, priests and parishioners will transfer to the OCU. Given the attitude of Romanians towards the Orthodox faith and the Church, as well as the Ukrainian schismatics, they will definitely prefer to accept the proposal of Romanian politicians and ask Patriarch Daniel for soliciting. Moreover, the Council in Feofaniya gave such an opportunity and even the right of each diocese to decide its own fate.

However, it can also be assumed that the ban on the UOC may eventuate not only in the migration of Romanian-speaking parishes to the Romanian Patriarchate, but also in the migration of Transcarpathian communities to the Serbian Patriarchate, and Galician communities to the Polish Orthodox Church.

Moreover, our compatriots are directly pushed to such a migration by those who consider themselves “patriots” of Ukraine. For example, Volodymyr Viatrovych, MP from the European Solidarity faction, said that those who reject the OCU should leave Ukraine or answer according to the law.

What will happen to Ukraine in this case? And how will our country look in the eyes of the world community? The answer is obvious.

Not less obvious is what a Christian, if necessary, is going to choose between the Church of Christ and the "religious organization" created by Poroshenko. Because the Church for people who believe in God is not a part of political or national discourse, but a question of the eternal destiny of their souls. In the literal sense of the word.

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