Since 1992 there have been two competing Orthodox jurisdictions in the Republic of Moldova.
Nearly two decades later, the situation seems only to have contributed to a weakening of the influence of both groups, reports Andreai Avram (Moldova-Institut Leipzig, Germany) in the monthly magazine G2W (January). Following the emergence of a national movement in Moldova in 1989 in the context of liberalization and the subsequent dissolution of the Soviet regime, the Moscow Patriarchate made a Moldovan the bishop of Chisinau, later elevating the see to an archbishopric, and to metropolitan status in 1992.
In the same year a bishop and group of priests left the Moldovan Orthodox Church to join the Romanian Orthodox Church, claiming that the dissolution of the Romanian diocese that had existed earlier in the century, when the area had become Romanian territory, had been illegitimate. The Romanian Orthodox Church accepted the group, only claiming, however, jurisdiction over the Romanian-speaking population of Moldova—while the Moldovan Orthodox Church considers its own jurisdiction as purely territorial, including Romanian-speaking and Russian-speaking Orthodox faithful, beside other ethniclinguistic groups.
Supported by some political forces, the new Romanian diocese faced difficulties in getting state recognition, as well as various other hurdles, until the Moldovan government was forced to register it in 2002, following a decision of the European Court of Human Rights. Moldovan authorities claimed the group was a tool for pan-Romanian aspirations threatening the very existence of the young republic. While this political debate has settled down in recent years, the Romanian diocese is now an established, though smaller, player on the Moldovan Orthodox scene: it numbered 309 parishes in 2009, while the Moldovan Orthodox Church (Metropolis of Chisinau) had 1,281 parishes. In such a context, it is not surprising that both Orthodox churches in Moldova have been interacting with politics.
But Avram observes that, despite the fact that surveys have revealed a rather high level of trust toward the church among the Moldovan population, neither of the two groups has managed to influence significantly the political life of the country. Neither church-supported pan-Romanian views nor church-supported “Moldovanism” has convinced local voters. Apparently, interchurch conflict and church involvement in politics tend to make citizens suspicious. Consequently, one can expect the role of both Orthodox churches in Moldovan political life to continue to decrease, and this could accelerate secularizing trends in Moldovan society.
(G2W (in German), Birmensdorferstrasse 52, P.O. Box 9329, 8036 Zurich, Switzerland; http://www.g2w.eu)