Lithuanian Orthodox Church: We are only connected to Moscow on paper


Eastern Europe


Orthodox procession in Lithuania. Photo AFP, Petras Malukas

Officially, the Orthodox Church in Lithuania belongs to the Moscow Patriarchate and is thus headed by Patriarch Kirill. Yet, the church stresses that it is "morally, spiritually and financially independent."

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine started on February 24, Patriarch Kirill has received much criticism about his pro-war position. Several Orthodox Churches have since then attempted to distance themselves from the Russian Orthodox Church and sever their ties with it. The Lithuanian Orthodox Church does not officially declare itself independent. Still, it stresses that it is actually free from Moscow in practice. That is reported by Sphz.

All decisions are taken in Lithuania; the connection with the Moscow Patriarchate is only canonical, the press service of the Vilnius-Lithuanian Eparchy said. This is seen in church policies that go directly against Kirill's pro-war position. Congregations welcome Ukrainian refugees who can actively participate in church life, sing in the choir and perform other services, Sphz writes. "Our parishes are working hard to provide comprehensive assistance to refugees. The vast majority of refugees from Ukrainian of the Orthodox faith prefer to attend services at our churches, which are conducted in the Church Slavonic language", the press service of the Eparchy stated.

Furthermore, Patriarch Kirill is not commemorated during church services, as used to be the tradition. The Eparchy argues that this is not done so that people "who fundamentally disagree with the statements of Patriarch Kirill."

The Lithuanian Orthodox Church criticises the statement of the Prime Minister, who called the denomination a "Russian-Orthodox minority". According to the church, the majority of the members of the Lithuanian Orthodox Church are Lithuanian citizens. Furthermore, the community "was recognised as a traditional religious community in Lithuania and has consistently supported democracy and peace in the world ever since."

Also, the Primate of the Lithuanian Orthodox Church publicly distanced himself from Kirill's statements that supported the invasion, the church press service states to Sphz. "His position was supported by thousands of the laity and almost the entire clergy", the church says. At the same time, it stresses that "this does not prevent them from remaining in the fold of the Church."



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