“What can be asserted about President Dodon’s attitude to President Erdogan’s intention to transform Hagia Sophia into a mosque, if we compare it with the attitude of other Heads of State, Prime Ministers and foreign affairs ministers of the European area, is that our President preferred to wash his hands.”
The communication of high-ranking officials with the citizens plays an important role in ensuring a climate of trust in society. The citizens should be able to put questions so as to be sure that the politicians fulfill their promises and commitments. An example of efficient communication is given by President Igor Dodon, who, in the weekly programs entitled “President Responds”, offers the citizens and journalists the possibility of having a dialogue on the most pressing problems.
What mandate from God serves for
We got used to the fact that in his communication with the citizens, President Dodon usually tells about his initiatives to improve their living conditions, the rises in salaries and pensions, the country’s transformation into a building site, etc. But in the last edition of the program, of July 17, 2020 (min. 29.35 - 30.32), the President was reminded that “the humans live not only on bread...” and this thing took him by surprise. Asked about his attitude to the intention of the President of Turkey Recep Erdoğan to transform Hagia Sophia in Istanbul into a mosque, President Dodon answered hesitatingly: “My position as the President of the Republic of Moldova is the following – this is a matter related to the internal affairs of a state. Evidently, as a Christian, I would like ... not only this monument, but also this symbol ... to remain Christian-Orthodox, but, as the President, I think each country has internal rights and takes decisions... and we do not have the right, as functionaries, as Heads of State, to tell another Head of State what to do. I want the same approach to be adopted by everyone towards the Republic of Moldova”.
If President Dodon had been a simple layman, we wouldn’t have been surprised by what he stated. The point is that to get the office of President, Mister Igor Dodon promised solemnly to protect Orthodoxy as “challenges against the Orthodox Church are witnessed daily”. Moreover, President Dodon assured us that the protection of Orthodoxy is closely linked to the friendship with Russia: “We are connected to Russia by centuries of common history, friendship and creation. During hundreds of years, we have shared the same faith, the Orthodox one... Together with Russia, we obtained liberation from the Ottoman yoke. I will restore the broad relations of friendship with the Russian Federation and will protect our Orthodox faith”. For this intention and trenchant attitude, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia blessed Mister Dodon, telling him: “Mister President, this is a mandate from God”.
The interaction of President Dodon with the Patriarch was practically exemplary. After the latter banned the parishioners of the Russian Orthodox Church from praying in the monasteries situated on Mount Athos that are under the canonic administration of Constantinople, President Dodon had to even interrupt his traditional pilgrimage to that place. This was the response to Constantinople’s decision to offer autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church in 2018. However, later, in 2019, President Dodon was allowed to visit again Mount Athos: “with the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, I took communion at the Russian Monastery Saint Panteleimon”. Currently, we see that President Dodon distanced himself suspiciously from Patriarch Kirill owing to the different attitudes to the problem of Hagia Sophia. The first was hesitant and not sure that he acts correctly, while the second adopted an intransigent attitude to President Erdogan’s intention: “The threat to Hagia Sophia is a threat to the whole Christian civilization!” Neither more nor less.
Indeed, what is happening seems strange and cannot be understood following the previous firm actions of the Head of State, such as: glorification in presidential decrees and cinematographic productions of Stephan the Great as an athlete of Christianity against Turkish invasions; the request made to Erdogan to return Stephan the Great’s sword; cherishing of the common battle with Russia against the Ottomans etc. It seems that President Dodon, having a mandate from God, should take a firm attitude of defender of Orthodoxy, alongside Patriarch Kirill, as he pledged. But something happened and there should be an explanation for this. The explanation does not seem to be spiritual, but rather financial, material. Probably as an educated man, President Dodon has a profound feeling of gratitude to the Turkish President who offered him several millions in foreign currency to reconstruct the Presidential Palace of the Republic of Moldova. The truth is that the humans do not live on bread only … A presidential palace is needed where one could exercise their mandate from God.
As regards the respect for the internal affairs of the state, President Dodon is surely right. But there are also exceptions from the rule. That’s why he didn’t dare in 2018 to reproach something to President Erdogan for the operation to arrest Turkish teachers on Moldova’s territory performed by the Turkish intelligence services, which was broadly covered by the Turkish press. The Turkish teachers had lived and worked legally in Moldova for a long period of time.
The opinion divergences and the sensitive problems mentioned above will be probably solved and remedied in the shortest period of time possible. Half a year ago, before the Christmas holidays, President Dodon assured us: “I had a meeting with Patriarch Kirill in Moscow. We agreed the date when he will come to the Republic of Moldova, but I will not make it public. He will come in the second half of next year (2020). He will pay visits to Chisinau, Bălți and Comrat”. So, we will be waiting for the Patriarch’s visit.
What constitutional regulations can serve for
There are also other important problems that need to be discussed. Some of them refer to the amendments made to Russia’s Constitution, especially those concerning belief in God. The Republic of Moldova has the chance to learn from this experience, especially because the political program of the Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova (PSRM) clearly provides (page 18): “Moldova, together with Russia and other countries, form a distinct Christian Orthodox civilization, based on a common view on the world... Pleading for keeping the Christian values as a spiritual foundation of Moldovan society, the PSRM proposes the following initiatives: to introduce a preamble to the Constitution of the Republic of Moldova by which to give the role of foundation of the cultural and national tradition of the Moldovan people to Christianity”.
The problem is sensitive and the given approaches should be examined with considerable precaution. For example, exactly after the Russian Constitution was amended, even if this can be a simple coincidence, there was intensified the movement of Father Sergiy Romanov at a woman’s monastery in Yekaterinburg. In the name of God, Father Sergiy Romanov demanded that President Putin should give the power to him and accused Patriarch Kirill of apostasy. This is not a joke as Father Sergiy enjoys great popularity and support among the faithful, including VIP persons, such as famous actors, artists, service members, etc. Surely, we can say that this is not our business and the Russians can clarify their problems themselves. But it is not so. The Republic of Moldova has particular experience in this regard and a part of the clergy already built a reputation in the communication with Patriarch Kirill, who even anticipated the recent approach of Father Sergiy. It goes to the letter that ten years ago, in May 2010, high-ranking hierarchs of the Republic of Moldova addressed to Patriarch Kirill. This said: “We, the Orthodox Christians who signed the letter, being members of the Russian Orthodox Church, declare that we dissociate ourselves from all Your statements made at international religious assemblies and meetings, which violate the canons of the Saint Orthodox Church. We admit that you do not represent us and that all Your statements at international meetings do not represent the Russian Orthodox Church fully, but only Your opinion and the opinion of those who share it. Consequently, as we do not want to be accomplice to the works of evil, in building the “single church”, we demand: (1) to withdraw the Russian Orthodox Church from the Word Council of Churches; (2) to stop the acts that go against the canons of the Saint Orthodox Church committed by You and other hierarchs of the Church and to show personal repentance. We also confess that all those bishops and priests who do not raise the voice in defense of the Great Church from the skillful actions that engage it in the heresy of ecumenism, which leads to destruction, are themselves champions of this heresy as God is betrayed by silence.”
So, before the planned meeting with the Patriarch and the eventual amendment of the Constitution, the PSRM and President Dodon should meditate on the necessity of mingling the affairs of Caesar with those of God. Such mingling, obviously, can have adverse effects. Or we cannot be sure that the holy fathers will not reproach the protector of Orthodoxy for the meeting with the Pope of Rome, as Father Sergiy already dares to do in relation to the President of Russia.
You can identify them by their fruit…
As it was noted, the communication of President Dodon is useful and efficient and reveals a series of interesting problems. It is the citizens who will ultimately draw conclusions about the President’s work, judging by his results.
What can be asserted about President Dodon’s attitude to President Erdogan’s intention to transform Hagia Sophia into a mosque, if we compare it with the attitude of other Heads of State, Prime Ministers and foreign affairs ministers of the European area, is that our President preferred to wash his hands.
Victor Pelin for IPN