Kiev, January 14, 2021
From January 11 to 13, His Grace Bishop Andrei of Covasna and Harghita of the Romanian Orthodox Church went on pilgrimage to the holy sites of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Kiev and other cities of Ukraine.
He also had the blessing of celebrating the Divine Liturgy in the Kiev Caves Lavra, reports the Information-Education Department of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
The visit of the Romanian hierarch is hopefully a good sign for Orthodox Church unity, as the head of the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” also recently declared that he believes several more Local Churches, including the Romanian Church, will soon recognize the schismatics.
The Romanian hierarch did not meet with any schismatic hierarchs or visit any schismatic sites during his trip, but the lamentable examples of the Patriarch of Alexandria and Archbishop of Cyprus have shown that even hierarchs and primates are not immune to political pressure and propaganda and to making faithless decisions against Orthodox unity. Thus, the truth of the situation within the Romanian Church cannot be discerned simply from Bp. Andrei’s visit.
On Monday, January 11, His Grace met with His Eminence Metropolitan Meletiy of Chernivtsi and Bukovina and His Eminence Metropolitan Sergei of Ternopil and prayed at the holy sites in both dioceses, most notably the Holy Dormition Pochaev Lavra.
Bukovina is an especially important area for Ukrainian-Romanian Church relations, as the area of Ukraine bordering Romania, where many Romanians live and worship in more than 100 Romanian-language parishes. It is known that the Ukrainian schismatics are pressuring the Romanian faithful to join them, although displays of their Ukrainian nationalism also show that Romanians are not exactly welcome. In April 2019, a schismatic priest and group of activists attempted to seize a church in the Chernivtsi Diocese and screamed at the priest that he should return to Romania, despite the fact that he is ethnically Ukrainian.
In March of this year, Met. Sergei of Ternopil announced that although the schismatics had seized 25 churches of his diocese, they were unable to persuade a single priest to leave the Church and join them.
The next day, Bp. Andrei visited the monasteries of the Rivne Diocese and met with Bp. Pimen of Dubna, the vicar of the Diocese. In March, Bp. Pimen announced that not a single one of the 300 clerics of the Rivne Diocese has abandoned the Church to go into schism.
Yesterday, on the feast of St. Peter Mogila, who has been canonized by both the Romanian and Ukrainian Churches, Bp. Andrei celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the St. Stephen’s Chapel of the Dormition Cathedral of the Holy Dormition Kiev Caves Lavra together with His Grace Bishop Sylvester of Belgorod, the rector of the Kiev Theological Seminary and Academy.
Services are held weekly in the St. Stephen’s Chapel for the Romanian-speaking parishioners of the UOC living in Kiev.
The hierarchs were also concelebrated by clergy of both the Romanian and Ukrainian churches, and representatives of the Romanian Embassy in Ukraine and the Ukrainian Embassy in Romania were also present at the service.
At the end of the Liturgy, Bp. Sylvester conveyed the greetings of His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine to Bp. Andrei and presented him with a number of publications from the Kiev Theological Academy.
Following the service, Bp. Andrei and others laid flowers at the monument to St. Peter Mogila.
On February 21, 2019, the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church noted that it is 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 Met. Onuphry, or those of the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” 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. Though, as stated above, the schismatic-nationalists are actively working to force Romanian parishes into their group.
The schismatics have long been predicting that the Romanian Church will recognize them. In January 2019, Archbishop Daniel of Pamphylia of Constantinople’s Ukrainian Church in America said that Romanian Church would recognize the schismatics within a month and a half.