Wednesday, February 07, 2024

Lithuania Recognises Constantinople Orthodox Church In Blow To Moscow

File:Emblem of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I.svg  - Wikimedia Commons

Lithuania's government said Wednesday that it would officially recognise the Orthodox Church of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, dealing a blow to Moscow which tries to maintain grip on believers in the Baltic state.

The Moscow Patriarchate is still influential among the Orthodox community of about 100,000 in Lithuania, a former Soviet republic and now a staunch Ukraine ally.

The Constantinople church, meanwhile, which is not recognised by Moscow, is seen as providing the alternative for Orthodox who oppose Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"The religious community meets the legal requirements of a new or re-established traditional religious community and can be registered in the Register of Legal Entities," Paulius Zeimys, a spokesperson for the justice ministry, told AFP.

The decision means the community will be eligible for state financial support, which is distributed annually to traditional religious communities.

In 2022, five Lithuanian priests were accused of canonical disobedience and conspiracy by the Russian Orthodox Church, and they were later integrated by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

It said the priests had been punished "not because of ecclesiastical criteria, but because of their "resistance... to the war in Ukraine".

Ten priests and ten relatively small communities in Lithuania belong to the Constantinople jurisdiction.

Its head, Justinus Kiviloo, told local media last month that the community was still gathering in prayer houses of different denominations, but planned to build its own church from donations.