Exodus Continues. Why Do Priests Move from MOC to the Metropolis of Bessarabia?

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A scandal in the Metropolis of Moldova. Four priests from Criuleni and Dubasari districts, together with their parishes, decided to join the Metropolis of Bessarabia. The church ministers complain about offences, in particular the high fees charged to parishioners, the taxes demanded by the Metropolis, and the fact that some clergy from the Moldovan Orthodox Church (MOC) support the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Metropolitan Vladimir has recently dismissed priests Teodor Pelin, archpriest of churches in Criuleni and Dubasari districts, Vasile Enacchi, priest of the Church of St. Nicholas in the village of Isnovat, Criuleni district, Ioan Gangan, priest of the Church of St. Spiridon in the village of Micesti, Criuleni district, and Ioan Solonaru, priest of St. Constantine and St. Helen in the village of Cimiseni in the same district. All four have been banned from holding religious ceremonies since 22 August. According to a press release from the Metropolis of Chisinau and All Moldova, the clergymen did not obey the hierarchically superior church authorities and violated the oath taken at ordination. Thus, they will have to repent before the hierarch in order to be able to return to the MOC. We have contacted those priests. Some of them claim that they, together with their parishioners, have decided to leave the Metropolis of Chisinau and All Moldova and join the Metropolis of Bessarabia. The priests cite the excessive fees demanded by the Moldovan Metropolis, as well as the fact that some clergy support Russia invasion of Ukraine. “There are several reasons that really outrage us, but I think many priests are just afraid to talk about it. The churches are heavily taxed, that’s the first discontent and we’re stuck on that point, not knowing what to do. It is not decreasing; we cannot cover it and the church can’t live like that. They get rich, but has shown no care for us in those 32 years, you understand. I think next week we will organize a press conference so that all TV channels can find out what the Metropolis broadcasts in Moldova. That many priests support the war. We surrender because we cannot tolerate it any longer,” said Vasile Enacchi, priest of the Church of St. Nicholas in the Isnovat village. The archpriest of churches in the Criuleni and Dubasari districts, Teodor Pelin, says he made the decision months ago and claims that several parishes are already on the verge of joining the Metropolis of Bessarabia. “I held several general meetings of parishioners, many reasons were given, I kept quiet, I am a good priest, obedient, I do not want to cause misunderstandings between people, but there was a moment of maximum pressure from the parishioners, when the priest had to make a decision. I saw that the Metropolitan did not give any spiritual advice on what to do in this situation, and not only me, by the way, many parishes are in same situation. I don’t think it is about betrayal of the Moldovan Metropolis, as denoted, but about the situation in society, and we have to obey our parishioners who don’t want to hear the opinion of the Moscow Patriarchate,” said the archpriest of the churches in the Criuleni and Dubasari districts, Teodor Pelin. Other priests say they are left to themselves and have received no support from the Moldovan Metropolis. “We are almost abandoned in the middle of the road and we have no support. No steps have been taken on the part of the eparchy to make sure that the priests are insured. There is no health insurance, no guarantees in the pension fund. Every priest deal with the poor as he wants and as he can. And I assure you, there are many priests who want to do the same, who want to leave, but are afraid,” says Ioan Solonaru, a priest from the village of Cimiseni. We tried to get comments from the Metropolis of Moldova, but its representatives have not yet responded to our requests. Representatives of the Metropolis of Bessarabia claim that the decrees issued by their Moldovan colleagues are not valid, given that the priests have long ago transferred to the Metropolis of Bessarabia together with their parishes. They noted that they are not engaged in propaganda of transition to the Metropolis of Bessarabia. The decisions are made by people, by parishioners. Priests are often simply forced to agree with the wishes of their parish. There are 2 Metropolis of the Orthodox Church in Moldova: the Moldovan Orthodox Church (MOC) within the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) and the Metropolis of Bessarabia, which is under the jurisdiction of the Romanian Orthodox Church (ROC). In recent years, and especially amidst the war in Ukraine, there has been a tendency for Moldovan priests to move from the MOC, which is close to Russia, to the Bessarabia Metropolis of the ROC. Sometimes these transitions are accompanied by scandals, priests say that they receive threats from the MOC and accusations of betrayal, and they are pressurized. The Moldovan Metropolis does not publicly comment on such situations. The MOC calls the priests who have left “strayed” and turned away from God. The ministers themselves explain their transition from one church to another by the requests of parishioners. The Metropolis of Bessarabia accused the Moldovan Metropolis of “corruption, abuse of power, immorality and depravity of the Russian canonical occupation structure’ leaders, as well as propaganda of support for war, which is indulged in by the leadership of the Moscow Patriarchate”. The Moscow Patriarchate does not agree with the accusations.