Those of us who became part of the Russian Emigration Church half-way through its life, back in the 1970s, have been betrayed by the direction of the post-Soviet Russian Orthodox Church. We knew quite well such figures as Metr Antony Bloom (I was tonsured reader by him in January 1981), Archbishop Basil Krivoshein, Archbishop George Tarasov, Archbishop Antony of Geneva, Archbishop Seraphim of Brussels. Whatever their ‘jurisdiction’, their spirit was the same – that of piety, that of non-possession, that of pastoral care, that of faithfulness to St Sergius of Radonezh, St Seraphim of Sarov, St John of Kronstadt, to the New Martyrs and Confessors. And their spirit was a missionary spirit, a multinational spirit, not a narrow nationalist spirit. Today all those bishops are spinning in their graves, as they see the spirit of materialist possession, nationalism and narcissism that has taken over the Russian Church administration and even filters down among priests. Of them there are two sorts: those who are hireling priests for career and ‘awards’ and those, like us, who cannot be supressed, because we are priests by destiny.
The Russian Orthodox administration, called the Moscow Patriarchate, will inevitably now lose all its churches outside Russia. We were the first to leave. The strangest thing is that the Patriarchate’s strongest ally outside Russia is ROCOR. What was in its first three generations the most spiritually independent, and could still be so, has now become the most loyal servant of compromise with the world. With its history, it should have been the first to ask the serious questions. It refuses and so the task has been left to us.
How sad that a few years after the Russian Church administration had been freed of atheist persecution, it began to behave towards its faithful children not as a mother, but as a stepmother, and began to persecute us. As a result of its political compromises and nationalism, the Moscow Patriarchate has lost all authority and influence with us in the Emigration and in general outside the Russian Federation. It can no longer be the Patriarchate of Orthodox in the Emigration in Western Europe, in the Ukraine, in the Baltic States, in Central Asia, in Moldova, in Belarus. As a result, it will lose all the once Russian Orthodox Churches, Metropolias and Dioceses outside the Russian Federation. The following article confirms exactly what we began to observe since 2016, forcing us in 2022 to leave the Russian Orthodox Church after nearly fifty years of loyalty to it. It had been disloyal to us and had abandoned us. We were left with no other choice. We thank God that we were well-known to many bishops who were happy to help us and ignore the uncanonical and absurd sanctions later taken against us after we had left.
Another 13 parishes leave the Metropolia of Moldova and move to the Metropolia of Bessarabia. Another 50 will follow in the coming weeks
Next week, 13 churches from different districts will officially pass to the Metropolia of Bessarabia, sources close to these parishes told Radio Free Europe. Since the beginning of the Russian invasion in Ukraine, more than 60 priests from the Republic of Moldova have moved from the Metropolia of Moldova to that of Bessarabia.
Two weeks ago six priests were excommunicated by the Synod of the Orthodox Church of Moldova (canonically subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate), because they Had joined the Metropolis of Bessarabia (part of the Romanian Patriarchate), in a few days another 13 parishes will leave the Metropolia of Moldova. Next week, these churches are to receive the re-registration documents from the Public Services Agency.
One of the parishes that has already changed its metropolitan in documents is the church of the Holy Archangels Mihail and Gavril from Malcoci village, Ialoveni district. Its parish priest, priest Andrei Oistric, was until recently Dean of the Faculty of Pastoral Theology at the Academy of Orthodox Theology, part of the Metropolia of Moldova.
“I studied in Suceava and Bucharest and I was always closer to the Metropolia of Bessarabia. I have dedicated more than half of my life to theological education: for 13 years I was a teacher, spiritual priest and deputy director at the “Regina Maria” girls’ high school theological seminary and for another 12 years I worked at the Academy of Theology, of which 10 years I was Dean. My feelings for Romanian Orthodoxy were not a secret. All my colleagues and students knew this,” priest Andrei Oistric told Radio Free Europe.
How does the transition from one Metropolia to another take place?
The parish priest from Malcoci says that he wanted to move to the Metropolia of Bessarabia 15 years ago, when he came to the village, but the people in the community were not ready. “Since the war started, I have had more and more requests from the parishioners: “Father, look at how the war is supported, it is not good like that!”. I was also affected by this war, and so was my family. I have relatives on both sides. I showed this desire at the end of February-beginning of March, and in August the parish of Malcoci village officially passed from the Metropolia of Moldova to that of Bessarabia”, explained the priest.
The transition from one Metropolia to another is done through a legal procedure. Parishes are re-registered with the Public Services Agency. “At our place, in the village of Malcoci, a meeting was held with the parishioners and minutes were drawn up. I submitted it to the Metropolia of Bessarabia, the Ministry of Justice and the Public Services Agency. The agency gave us a new tax code, the right to have a stamp, so all the legal rights”, states the parish priest from Malcoci.
“The Russian Church was not like a mother to us, but like a stepmother”
In practical terms, however, nothing changes in the parish, not even the calendar. The priest says that he will still keep all the holidays on the old calendar. Even before officially leaving the Metropolia of Moldova, he left the Academy of Theology. His resignation was approved at the same Synod on October 25 and he was replaced by Hieromonk Macarie Crudu.
“I retired from the academy. I tried to be as fair as possible in everything. Let someone come with new forces, with new ideas. Like it or not, our roots are Latin, we don’t have Slavic roots. The Russian Church was not like a mother to us, but like a stepmother. Nevertheless, it would have been nice to say now: «Return to your natural mother, we allow you». We want to remain on friendly terms with the Russian Church, as it has been throughout the centuries”, adds the parish priest from Malcoci.
This week, the founder and vice-rector of the Academy of Theology, Viacheslav Cazacu, also declared that he had left the Metropolia of Moldova and joined the Metropolia of Bessarabia. More such announcements are expected in the coming weeks.
“The parishes that want to join the Metropolia of Bessarabia are of an impressive number, but let’s see how they take the steps. About 50 have already applied. I cannot give you the names, because that was the deal, so as not to cause confusion. Certain parishes are now in the transition process, at the documentation stage,” said the representative of the Metropolia of Bessarabia, priest Ion Marian, to Radio Free Europe.
Two weeks ago, the Metropolia of Moldova defrocked six priests who had transferred to the Metropolia of Bessarabia. On the other hand, the Metropolia of Bessarabia considers that the decision to defrock the six priests is not valid, because it has no justification “from a theological and canonical perspective”. In a press release, the Metropolia of Bessarabia urged all clerics and monks who “feel constrained by the Russian dioceses to have the courage to get out of this slavery and return to the tradition and communion of the Romanian Orthodox Church”.
In a letter sent to Russian Patriarch Kyrill in September, Metropolitan Vladimir of Moldova complained that the Metropolia of Moldova is losing ground to the Republic of Moldova due to the war in the Ukraine and that more and more priests are moving to the Metropolia of Bessarabia.
The two Orthodox churches operating on the territory of the Republic of Moldova – subordinated to the Patriarchate of Moscow and the Romanian Patriarchate, respectively – have disputed their canonical status since 2002, when the Metropolia of Bessarabia was registered, following a decision of the European Court of Human Rights.