Latvia persists in granting independence to its Orthodox Church

26-09-2022

Eastern Europe

Lennart Nijenhuis, CNE.news

Believers pray in the Nativity of Christ Catherdral in Riga, Latvia. Photo EPA, Toms Kalnins

Latvia’s Cabinet of Ministers has continued its proceedings to make the Latvian Orthodox Church (LOC) independent from Russia.

That is reported by Orthodox Christianity. Now, it is a matter of time when its Minister of Justice, Jānis Bordāns, will send a letter to Moscow’s Patriarch Kirill regarding the measures that were passed by parliament (Saeima). Bordāns also hopes that once independence (autocephaly) is recognised, Kirill will “issue a tomos” (a church decree) to the LOC as confirmation of the decision. Although the Latvian Church operates as “an autonomous structure” from Moscow, its longstanding ties to Russia pose “national security concerns,” according to the article.

Orthodox Christianity also reported that the Latvian Church has not opposed the government’s measures. Rather it views the decision as a way to stay “legally independent from any Church centre outside Latvia while “maintaining spiritual, prayerful, and liturgical communion with all canonical Orthodox Churches in the world.”

Criticism

However, the Latvian government’s actions have drawn much criticism, especially within the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC). Archpriest, Nikolai Balashov, an adviser to Patriarch Kirill, said to Interfax that the “Latvian authorities surpassed the Middle Ages.” Balashov argued in another Interfax report that the affairs between the Latvian government and the LOC should be kept separate.

“Apparently, having failed to achieve the actions prescribed by the new law from the Latvian Orthodox Church, the representatives of the secular republic, in which, according to the Constitution, the Church is separated from the state, decided to continue their church building activities in the style of confessional monarchies of bygone centuries,” he said.

"Remaining independent from Russia is essential"

For the ROC to issue “autocephaly,” it must be approved by the Church’s Local Council, which consists of bishops as well as “clerical, monastic, and lay representatives,” according to Orthodox Christianity.

Earlier this month, Latvian President Egils Levits, declared that he wanted to make the LOC independent from the Moscow Patriarchate, as reported by the Union of Orthodox Journalists. Levits also said that he wanted the LOC’s charter to reflect the changes by October 31. According to article II in the presidential declaration, remaining independent from Russia is essential.

“With these legislative amendments the state of Latvia recognises that the Latvian Orthodox Church is completely self-contained and independent (autocephalous) church. It is not dependent on any other pastoral power outside of Latvia. By coming into force the law will preclude any influence or power over our orthodox church by the Patriarch of Moscow. Rejecting any link with the Patriarch of Moscow is a crucial matter for our orthodox community, the whole society of Latvia and national security,” Levits said.

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