Five "earthly delights" of the Moldovan church
93% Of Moldovans call themselves Orthodox Christians, yet 80% of the respondents believe that the church shouldn’t interfere in the affairs of the state,- suggests a recent poll conducted in Moldova. Nevertheless, the Moldovan church constantly strives to earn a role in the political and public life of the country, but continually finds itself in the epicenter of scandals being very far from church issues. Journalists of Ziarul de Gardă disclose five scandalous stories from the mundane life of the Moldavian Metropolitanate.
Campaigning at elections
According to the religious rules of the Orthodox Church, priests cannot take part in political propaganda, as such an activity may entail the deprivation of ecclesiastical rank. However, the Orthodox Church of Moldova actively interferes in the Republic’s political arena. During the presidential election campaign in 2016, the church almost openly supported the pro-Russian candidate Igor Dodon, Chairman of the Socialist Party, and blackened the pro-European contender Maya Sandu. During a sermon shortly before the presidential election, Metropolitan Vladimir praised Dodon and called him “Mr. President”. And a week later, before the second round of the presidential elections, a group of priests had even held a press conference in Chisinau, urging people to vote for the “Christian” Dodon.
Church and education
Calling on voters to vote against Maya Sandu, Bishop Marcellus accused her of introducing the subject of “sex education” in the curriculum and the acquisition of the “Sexual Life” textbook for school libraries (when Sandu was Minister of Education, 2013).
This topic divided the Moldovan society into two camps, one of which was actively instigated by the church. In February 2017, the Synod of the Moldavian Metropolis once again submitted a request to the Ministry of Education to exclude this subject (albeit optional) from the school curriculum alleging to its negative consequences.
Metropolitan chilling out with a blonde on a yacht
The head of the local metropolitanate of the Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan of Chisinau and All Moldova, Vladimir, has a weakness for yachts and Turkey. In 2014 photos appeared in the “Classmates” social network of the Metropolitan spending time with an unknown blonde. Photos were taken on the beach and on a yacht.
Journalists ZdG managed to establish the woman’s identity as Nelly Tkalchuk, an owner of a private security company. She owns a villa 5 kilometers from Chisinau where she’s often seen together with Metropolitan Vladimir.
Note that in Orthodoxy, being a bishop automatically implies being a monk. And a Metropolitan, being the oldest episcopal title in the Christian church, all the more must observe celibacy.
Metropolitan’s forest palaces
In December 2013, the Moldovan company Lemn Construct Prim leased a hectare of forest from the state, 18 km from Chisinau. Nikolay Kantaryan (the worldly name of the Metropolitan is Vladimir, edit. note) and Fedor Roshka (alias Father Nikolai, an elderly monk in a Chisinau church) became the firm’s founders.
Three buildings were built on the leased plot, all owned by the chairman of the “Porche Club Moldova” association Oleg Popov. Shortly, the premises were taken over by the priests.
In October 2016, the court terminated the lease due to a debt of 8,900 lei (approx. 430 eur.), However, the Moldovan government has so far been unsuccessful in forcing the priests to demolish the buildings, or even gaining access to the premises.
The Metropolitanate of Moldova has an extensive network of church shops. They commonly sell religious items, from candles for 1 leu (approx. 5 euro cents) apiece, to gilded icons and priestly vestments at a price of up to 15,000 lei (about 720 euros). Apart from the shops, there are similar commercial outlets at Chisinau railway stations and other spots. These shops are neither controlled by the tax service nor have cash registers.
The State Tax Service reported that church shops enjoyed certain tax benefits in compliance with the government’s decree from 1998. Although the document exempts the church from paying taxes, it only applies to selling in holy monasteries.
Nonetheless, no one knows how this money is used. The state also doesn’t control the tariffs set up by the church for various rituals and ceremonies.
For example, in the main cathedral of Chisinau – the Nativity Cathedral – a wedding ceremony costs 1000 lei (about 48 euros). And if a couple wants to get married in solitude (i.e. in the absence of other couples), they will have to pay as much as 1500 lei (72 euros). The presence of the choir will cost an additional several hundred lei.