Priest gets locked out of church for changing political allegiance

Ahead of this year's election, tensions between the pro-Russian and pro-Western branches of the Orthodox Church in Molodova are resurfacing -- a sign that religious officials might play a key role in the political battles ahead.

Ana Maria Luca
Ana Maria Luca NewsMavens, Central & Eastern Europe
Source: Balkan Insight
Priest gets locked out of church for changing political allegiance - NewsMavens
Moldovan Orthodox Church

Why this story matters:

In Moldova, almost everything comes down to the rift between pro-Russian political factions and their pro-EU rivals. The Orthodox Church is no exception.

For decades now, the country’s pro-Russian and pro-Romanian religious orders have been quarreling over political matters.

The latest clash took place this month in Denereu, a village of 1,000 inhabitants. A priest decided to withdraw his parish from the jurisdiction of the Russian faction of the Orthodox Church and switch to the pro-Romanian branch. Shortly after, representatives of the pro-Russian regional archdiocese forced their way into the church and changed the locks. 

This seemingly minor anecdote reveals how seriously the Russian branch treats its role as local representative of the pro-Russian agenda. The legislative elections are approaching, and we can expect church officials on both sides to hold at least some sway in the matter.

religion, politics

Details from the story:

  • According to official data, almost 97% of Moldovans are officially Orthodox Christians, but they are affiliated with different religious organizations.
  • The Moldovan Orthodox Church is a branch of the Russian Orthodox Church. Its rival is the younger Orthodox Church of Bessarabia (the historic Romanian name for Moldova), which wasn set up in 1992 after the fall of the Soviet Union, and is subordinated to the Romanian Orthodox Church.
  • But the Russian-backed Moldovan Orthodox Church, with around 1,000 parishes registered, has more followers and more influence. Only some 150 parishes belong to the Orthodox Church of Bessarabia.
  • Maia Sandu, the only Moldovan woman to ever reach the second round of presidential elections (in November 2016), was attacked and discredited by clerics of the Moldovan Orthodox Church who backed her pro-Russian rival Igor Dodon. The reason she was “unfit” for presidency was that she was single and thus “strayed from normality.”
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