October 26, 2017  |  Updated July 11, 2018

Kremlin Plays the Religion Card

By Corina Rebegea

This article was originally published by CEPA.

Romanian news outlets are covering the visit of Patriarch Kyrill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, to Bucharest during the last week of October. Kyril has been invited by the Romanian Patriarch, Daniel, who is celebrating 10 years as head of the Romanian Orthodox Church. As many articles noted, this marks the first-ever visit of a Russian patriarch to post-communist Romania. The announcement triggered debates about the extent to which the Kremlin is using the Romanian Orthodox Church as a political weapon against other nations. Some have wondered if it is it Romania’s turn to join the “real” defenders of traditional Christian values—as the Kremlin’s propaganda machine insist the Russian Church and President Vladimir Putin to be.

Not much evidence support journalists’ fears of a possible rapprochement between the two churches, especially because past relations have been relatively cold. The main dispute has been over the status of Moldova’s two Orthodox churches; one answers to Moscow, the other to the Romanian Church. Also, very little information is available on the extent to which the Kremlin is manipulating Romanian-Russian church relations, and whether some Romanian priests are being used to promote Kremlin-endorsed anti-Western discourse. Christian and socially conservative values, though sincerely held by many Orthodox believers, are an important propaganda element that the Kremlin’s disinformation machine consistently uses to advance its interests in Orthodox countries. The Romanian Church is no exception.

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