Russian religious fake: Chernivtsi region preparing for unification with Romania

Russian religious fake: Chernivtsi region preparing for unification with Romania

Fact Check
The Romanian Orthodox Church has never made proposals for the transfer of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate (UOC MP) parishes in Chernivtsi region

"Chernivtsi region is getting ready to take another step towards unification with Romania" – such headlines hit the Kremlin media outlets and z-Telegram channels. The propagandists claim that the "Bucharest authorities" suggested that the UOC MP parishes should come under the protectorate of the Romanian Orthodox Church. So, it looks like Romania is beginning to "softly occupy" part of Ukraine’s territory.

As evidence, they refer to the "Address to the Romanian priests in Ukraine and Metropolitan Lonhin (Mykhailo Zhar), who are under the jurisdiction of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church originating from the Russian Patriarchate, about the transition to the traditional canonical jurisdiction of the Romanian Orthodox Church", signed by six Romanian non-governmental organizations, including "Rost Association", and published on the latter’s online media outlet "ROSTonline". As noted on the association's website, it is engaged in cultural projects through which it seeks to promote "national values, creative appreciation of Romanian traditions, preservation of national identity and awakening of civic spirit."

The address states that 121 parishes in Ukraine, where religious services are held in the Romanian language and which are under the patronage of the Moscow Patriarchate, should be transferred to the Romanian Patriarchate, and Metropolitan Lonhin of the UOC MP should lead this whole process.

This statement came a day after Lonhin gave an interview to the Romanian channel Antena3 CNN, during which he accused the Ukrainian state of "persecuting the church" and talked about "armed people" entering a monastery, "breaking windows" and "brought clerics to their knees."

Therefore, the fake about the "unification of Chernivtsi region with Romania" is based on the address of several Romanian NGOs, not the position of the Romanian authorities or the Romanian Orthodox Church. Neither this letter, messages about the address, nor information about the intention to accept the UOC MP parishes in Ukraine are published on the website of the Romanian government or the official resource of the Romanian Orthodox Church.

Mykola-Myroslav Petretskyi, head of the Union of the Ukrainians of Romania confirmed this in a comment to Ukrinform.

The Romanian Orthodox Church has never made any statements about its desire to take the UOC MP parishes in Chernivtsi region under its control. On the contrary, reacting to the recent statement by Bishop Lonhin (Mykhailo Zhar) of the Banchen monastery, who said on Romanian television that armed soldiers allegedly entered the houses of clergymen in Chernivtsi and that the Ukrainian authorities are allegedly persecuting local Romanian priests, spokesman of the Romanian Orthodox Church Vasile Bănescu clearly stated that priests of ethnic Romanian communities in Ukraine do not canonically belong to the Romanian Patriarchate but are mostly under the jurisdiction of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church which maintains an ecclesiastical-canonical relationship with the Russian Orthodox Church," Petretskyi said.

He also emphasized that the Romanian Orthodox Church fully supports Ukraine and calls on representatives of Romanian national minorities not to listen to Russian propaganda.

"Vasile Bănescu also stated that ‘the highest reason for adequacy is objective truth confirmed by brutal direct reality, not ideologized and not manipulated by the propaganda of those who try to justify, including religiously, war and mass murders. I think that the Romanian Orthodox Church clearly formulated its stance by saying this", Mykola-Myroslav Petretskyi stressed.

There are also questions about the sincerity of the words of Lonhin himself. Although he was one of the few UOC MP representatives who condemned Moscow Patriarch Kirill (Gundiayev) for blessing the war in Ukraine, he did so only in June, four months after Russian missiles and bombs slammed into peaceful Ukrainian cities. He also "distinguished himself" with a sermon in which he declared that Ukraine "started a war against God and the Ukrainian people", which was spread by boxer Vasyl Lomachenko.

Before the war, Lonhin was disseminating fakes. In March 2021, in Hertsa district of Chernivtsi region, where the Banchen monastery led by Lonhin conducts awareness-raising activities, the majority of doctors of a district hospital refused coronavirus vaccination citing religious beliefs. Longin's statement about the "holy communion" as the "powerful coronavirus vaccine" that "kills any infection" was posted on the UOC MP social media accounts.

During Yanukovych's rule, in 2011, Longin hosted Kirill, who consecrated the newly created temple in the Banchen Monastery headed by him.

Longin is a long-time associate of Metropolitan of Chernivtsi and Bukovyna Meletiy, whom the Security Service of Ukraine searched. During the search, Russian passports of the "leadership of diocesan structures", in particular, Meletiy’s Russian passport, were found.

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky suspended the citizenship of Meletiy and 13 more UOC MP priests.

The Romanian Orthodox Church does not have its religious parishes in Ukraine. The only Ukrainian church connected with Romania is the Ukrainian Orthodox Vicariate as a structural unit of the Romanian Orthodox Church, created in 1990 for Ukrainians living in Romania. Services are held there in Ukrainian and partly in Romanian.

Earlier, the Russian mass media spread a fake story saying that Russian-speaking Ukrainians would not be allowed to enter the churches of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine on Christmas.

Andriy Olenin

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