NARRATIVES: 1. Maya Sandu will take revenge on the Church for supporting Igor Dodon; churches will be closed under the Covid pretext, and the priests will be punished under the pretext of the fight against corruption. 2. Maia Sandu is preparing coercive measures against the Russian Orthodox Church at the behest of the West. 3. Maia Sandu supports the takeover by the Romanian Patriarchy of the parishes of the Metropolitan Church of Moldova (Moscow Patriarchy).
CONTEXT: The Moldovan Orthodox Church, which belongs to the Moscow Patriarchy, has been constantly involved in the political life and has been often used by politicians in election campaigns. Almost all the party leaders who have access to the highest positions in the state showed up at the most important religious holidays by the side of the metropolitan bishop. Presidents Vladimir Voronin, Igor Dodon, Speakers of Parliament Marian Lupu or Zinaida Greceanii, Prime Ministers Vlad Filat and Pavel Filip, deputies, mayors, have all participated in the Easter and Christmas services or other public masses, which have also been broadcast on the main television stations and there was even a competition between political leaders for bringing the Easter light from Jerusalem by plane.
The most visible support from the church has been given in recent years to the PSRM leader Igor Dodon, including in the presidential campaigns of 2016, 2020 and the parliamentary elections of July 11, 2021. After the 2016 elections, even the Constitutional Court termed as aggressive the involvement in the presidential elections of the representatives of the Metropolitan Church of Moldova, who used extremist, xenophobic, homophobic, and sexist language against a candidate (Maia Sandu), a fact confirmed by the reports drawn up by national and international observers. The Court warned that such behavior runs counter to the provisions of the Constitution, and the state authorities responsible for the electoral process and the activity of religious denominations have not honored their obligation to prevent and sanction their involvement in the electoral process. The Court then emphasized the need for Parliament to expressly regulate mechanisms to penalize any attempt to involve religious denominations in election campaigns, but so far, no action has been taken in that regard. In the campaign for the 2016 presidential elections, the Archbishop of Bălţi and Făleşti of the Moldovan Orthodox Church, Marchel, insulted Maia Sandu, and in 2019 he was forced by the court to pay her moral damages for discrimination.
There are two metropolitan bishoprics in the Republic of Moldova: the Metropolitan Church of Moldova, under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchy, also seen as an exponent of the pro-Russian cause, and the Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia (Romanian Patriarchy) created after the Great Union of 1918 by raising the Archdiocese of Chisinau to the rank of Metropolitan Bishopric, reactivated in the 1990s, but officially registered only in 2000 by the Government of the Republic of Moldova, after a decision of the ECHR.
Moldovans have great trust in the church. According to the 2020 Public Opinion Barometer, the church ranks first in terms of people’s trust, with 35% of the survey respondents saying that they have a lot of trust in the church and 39% saying they have some degree of trust.
PURPOSE: The narratives aim to discredit Maia Sandu and to strengthen the position of the Metropolitan Church of Moldova, which remains an important tool that can be used to curb or challenge the announced reforms, the efforts to combat corruption and the general pro-European policies that are to be implemented by the soon-to-be formed Government in Chisinau.
WHY THE NARRATIVES ARE FALSE: Maia Sandu has never taken a stand against the church. On the contrary, shortly after she was elected president, she held meetings with the Metropolitan Bishop of Moldova, Vladimir, and later with the Metropolitan Bishop of Bessarabia, Peter, in December 2020. The head of state also discussed the pandemic situation in Moldova during a meeting with the Metropolitan Bishop of Moldova in March. Moreover, the Metropolitan Bishop congratulated President Maia Sandu on her birthday.
Also, neither Maia Sandu, nor the PAS representatives have ever spoken in favor of the Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia (Romanian Patriarchy) or against the Metropolitan Church of Moldova (Moscow Patriarchy). In the Republic of Moldova, the church is separated from the state, so that neither the Presidency, Parliament (with the PAS majority), nor the new Government formed by the PAS representatives will be able to interfere in the internal affairs of the church.As for the restrictive measures that were introduced during the Covid pandemic, such as social distancing, access of a limited number of people into a room, or even the closure of some premises, they affect all institutions, public places, schools, restaurants, bars, etc., not just churches.