Bukovina, Ukraine, September 25, 2019
The Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church met on February 21, discussing, among other things, the ongoing Ukrainian church crisis. In their report, the hierarchs noted that they are especially concerned about the 127 Romanian-speaking parishes in Bukovina, neighboring Romania, and the preservation of their ethnicity and language.
To this end, the Synod decided that “it is necessary to obtain written guarantees from the Church authorities that … they will have the opportunity to organize into a Romanian vicariate and to cultivate their spiritual connection with the Romanian Patriarchate,” noting that a Ukrainian vicariate has operated in Romania since 1990.
The Synod did not explicitly state if it was referring to the authorities of the canonical Ukrainian Church under His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine, or those of the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” (OCU) under “Metropolitan” Epiphany Dumenko, or both, but the schismatics were quick to jump on the opportunity, announcing in early March that they were prepared to create such a vicariate.
The Synod of Bishops of the OCU resolved on July 27 to create this vicariate, though, to date, it does not include a single one of the 127 Romanian parishes. The schismatics are planning to change that, however, with the help of their usual tactics.
A source in the Romanian Orthodox Church told the Ukrainian outlet Vesti that “the OCU is putting strong pressure on the priests and laity to fill up the Romanian vicariate, and it could lead to the creation of rival Romanian-speaking structures in Ukraine.”
The Ukrainian schismatic movement has existed as a rival group to the Church for 30 years, only last year gaining the Patriarchate of Constantinople’s blessing for this contentious existence. As the hierarchs, clergy, and faithful of the Ukrainian Church have attested many times, if the OCU cannot pressure people and parishes into joining, its people will often resort to violently seizing churches or illegally re-registering them.
According to the Romanian source, the Romanian-speaking diaspora plans to appeal to Bucharest and to the Romanian Orthodox Church for support, and to declare its loyalty to the canonical Ukrainian Church.
Following the Romanian Synod’s session in February, individual Romanian parishes in Ukraine began declaring their loyalty to Christ in the Ukrainian Church and to its primate Met. Onuphry.
The press service of the Chernivtsi Diocese of the Ukrainian Church has also reported that Romania is afraid of aggressive actions by the OCU against the Romanian diaspora in Ukraine.
As the press representative explained, Romanians and Ukrainians live together in harmony in Bukovina and often come to one another’s aid as their fellow Orthodox brothers, when the schismatics launch physical attacks against their churches. He specifically noted the recent example in the village of Mikhalcha in the Storozhinetsky Region in the Chernivtsi Province where the Romanian faithful came to the aid of their brothers in the Ukrainian Church, helping them to protect their local parish church.
He also recalled the sad incident in late March in the village of Tovtry in the Chernivtsi Province where OCU “priests” and drunken activists attempted to seize a church and physically attacked the priest, screaming at him to return home to Romania. Not only does this demonstrate the ethnic hatred among some in the OCU, but it also reveals the complete absurdity of it, given that the schismatics couldn’t even tell that the priest was, in fact, an ethnic Ukrainian.
Amazingly, a “priest” of the OCU was not even ashamed to accuse the Romanians in Bukovina of inciting ethnic enmity.
“Epiphany and Zorya [the OCU’s speaker—Ed.] demonstrate intentions to create a Romanian vicariate, but on the ground there are examples of ‘reverse love,’” the press representative commented.
Moreover, as Vesti notes, there is a stir in the Romanian media on the matter.
“The Romanian community knows that in the Ukrainian state there is a policy of forced assimilation of minorities, which culminated in the education law of 2018 and the law on the state language of 2019... No Romanian priest went to the schismatics, although they announced that they would allow them to serve in Romanian. How can they be believed after decades of saying the opposite?” wonders Joseph Mihaileanu, writing for the Romanian outlet Active News.
The faithful in Bukovina now worry that the OCU and its zealous supporter, the acting Governor of Chernivtsi Mikhail Pavlyuk will simply begin to re-register Romanian parishes to the OCU, as he has done many times with Ukrainian parishes.