The pro-European regime in Chișinău wants to destroy the Church, according to Sputnik.md. The narrative was designed based on anti-COVID measures introduced by the authorities, including the restriction of the maximum number of churchgoers allowed in places of worship.
NEWS: “Sandu uses anti-COVID restrictions as a weapon to strike the Church”, Sputnik.md writes in the context of anti-pandemic restrictions introduced by the authorities in Chișinău. “To me, it is obvious the new government in Chișinău has made it a point to demolish two fundamental institutions of society in the Republic of Moldova: the School and the Church, but the latter in particular, since according to neo-Marxist Moldovans, the Church would be an easier target, more susceptible than the School”. The author is referring to the Decree no. 62 passed on September 22 by the Extraordinary National Committee for Public Health (CNESP): “All these ingressions, both brutal and stupid, are laid out under Article 12 in the said Decree, which officially introduces “measures to prevent and control the COVID-19 infection” applied to “the activity of religious denominations”. By means of these restrictions, the authorities are limiting, or better said banning, the faithful’s free access to religious services”. The publication refers to Paragraph 2 in Article 12 of the abovementioned Decree, which stipulates that only a limited number of people are allowed inside places of worship, so as to ensure a minimum surface of 4 square meters for each person inside, and to observe a minimum physical distance of 1 meter between people. The author also criticized CNESP’s recommendation to refrain from touching or kissing objects of worship and from consuming foodstuffs. “In other words, the members of the Extraordinary National Committee for Public Health, the healthcare authority of Maia Sandu’s newly instated regime, uses these measures as a pretext to ask Moldovans to renounce Christ”.
The same publication also shares the statement of Archbishop Petru of Ungheni and Nisporeni within the Metropolitanate of Moldova: “The fact that we are told how to take the eucharist, how to kiss the holy icons, how to go to church, is a complete profanity of our sacred order”, archbishop Petru writes. He claims that the members of the Extraordinary National Committee for Public Health interfered with Church activity by placing restrictions, including preventing Orthodox believers from partaking in the eucharist, from the prospect of political and social considerations, with a complete disregard for their spiritual life. “I recall the words of Seraphim Rose, a contemporary saint, who passed on to eternal life in 1982, and which seemingly reflect the times we are living: “Non-Orthodox believers who don’t take the Holy Communion and don’t take an active part in the life of the Holy Church, may never grasp the mysterious and purposeful actions of the Church. This is the very reason why many of them are trying to explain the workings and events of the Church in political terms”. It’s exactly what the members of our healthcare committees are doing today, filtering developments through the lens of our political and social life, but not the spiritual dimension as well”. In conclusion, archbishop Petru says: “Therefore, to conclude, we can say we disagree with the new decisions and recommendations that denigrate the Church and its sacred activities. We oppose and firmly condemn the fact that people who are oblivious to the Church and its mysteries get to decide how the Church should conduct its holy and soul-redeeming affairs”.
NARRATIVES: 1. The new administration in Chișinău has set out to destroy the School and the Church. 2. Maia Sandu and PAS are restricting people’s access in churches. 3. The new decisions and recommendations introduced to combat the pandemic denigrate the church and are blasphemous.
BACKGROUND: The number of COVID infections and related fatalities has been visibly increasing in the Republic of Moldova. Whereas in the first week of August, authorities officially reported a thousand cases of infection (1,081 cases over August 2-8), their number exceeded seven thousand at the end of September (7,352 cases over September 20-26). On September 30 alone, the authorities reported 1,553 COVID infections and 24 related fatalities.
The largest cities of the Republic of Moldova, Chișinău and Bălți, are in the red zone in terms of the COVID incidence rate. On the other hand, anti-COVID vaccination is progressing very slowly. Only 23,57% of the total population have taken the COVID jab, of which 22.55% have completed the full vaccination scheme. In the seven months since the national anti-COVID-19 vaccination campaign started, 1,388,566 doses of vaccine have been administered. The highest vaccinate rate with both doses of the vaccine is reported in Chișinău – 34%.
Under these circumstances, the Extraordinary National Committee for Public Health adopted new public health safety measures to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to take effect on October 1, the measures include the mandatory wearing of face masks in all enclosed and open spaces, wherever physical distancing cannot be observed, the promotion of vaccination and the observance of COVID restrictions in workplaces in the public and private sectors. Restaurants and cafes are allowed to operate at full capacity outdoors, and at 50% maximum capacity in enclosed areas, with the obligation that all customers should present the COVID-19 vaccination certificate upon entering the venue.
Private events (weddings, baptism parties and other festive events) will allow access to a maximum of 100 people in enclosed areas, and 150 people outdoors, respectively, while ensuring a minimum surface of 2 square meters per person in dining areas. Additionally, all participants must present the COVID-19 vaccination certificate. The Committee also introduced similar prevention and control measures targeting the activity of religious denominations.
PURPOSE: The narratives are designed to smear the image of the new administration, stir up discontent at societal level, in the context of a high popular confidence rate in the Church.
WHY THE NARRATIVES ARE FALSE: CNESP introduced measures to prevent the spread of the disease in the context of a high incidence rate of the SARS CoV-2 virus. The measures have nationwide scope and target public and private institutions, medical units, food service units, stores, shopping centers, markets, barber shops, beauty salons, gyms, stadiums, swimming pools, transport services as well as churches. Therefore, the Committee’s decision allows the organization of religious events outdoors, if weather conditions allow it, with the observance of physical distancing. Only a limited number of people are allowed inside places of worship, so as to ensure a minimum surface of 4 square meters per person, and a minimum physical safe distance of 1 meter. People must wear face masks at all times while inside places of worship and avoid any physical contact with the objects of worship. Furthermore, the consumption of foodstuffs and beverages is forbidden inside, and the church is advised to avoid the organization of pilgrimages. These measures and others are not targeting the Church, but are merely designed to ensure the health and safety of the population. They are not meant to restrict people’s access in churches or to destroy the Church, as the author of the narratives claims. Epidemiological measures are required to prevent the spread of COVID-19, given that the number of people who received the vaccine accounts for less than a quarter of the total population. Measures to prevent and combat the pandemic were introduced in all public and private institutions, irrespective of their activity, and need to be observed in all public places. Therefore, there were no measures specifically targeting the church, with the aim of destroying it. The measures are not politically charged, but have a purely social and sanitary purpose, meant to benefit the general public. Church representatives have expressed their discontent at the outbreak of the COVID pandemic as well, when the authorities declared a state of emergency and churches were closed down.
The narratives are part of a wider smear campaign targeting the new political regime in Chișinău, and at the same time part of the meta-narrative according to which the West undermines religion, seeks to destroy the Church and opposes traditional values. The new administration in Chișinău has never taken a public stance against the Church. On the contrary, both president Maia Sandu and Parliament Speaker Igor Grosu met with the metropolitans of Moldova (the Russian Patriarchy) and Bessarabia (the Romanian Patriarchy), shortly after taking office. Kremlin-affiliated media previously wrote that Maia Sandu will seek revenge and persecute the Church. Also worth mentioning is the fact that the Church in the Republic of Moldova is also closely involved in politics, opening supporting the election campaigns of the Party of Socialists and its leader, Igor Dodon.
GRAIN OF TRUTH: CNESP introduces measures to prevent the COVID-19 pandemic against the backdrop of the continuous and growing risk of the SARS CoV-2 virus spreading, including through the activity of religious denominations, the organization of various religious events, the celebration of religious services and collective or individual prayers, the celebration of divine services and other traditional religious events.
WHO STANDS TO BENEFIT: Populist political parties, political rivals of PAS and Maia Sandu.