Vilnius, Lithuania, June 23, 2022
According to the finding of the Lithuanian Diocesan ecclesiastical court and a decree of His Eminence Metropolitan Innokenty of Vilnius and Lithuania, one of the main priests involved in efforts to bring the Patriarchate of Constantinople into Lithuania has been defrocked and returned to the status of a layman.
The Diocese of Lithuania is within the canonical jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Moscow, though there is an ongoing movement of a handful of clerics who want to switch to the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Lithuanian government officials have even expressed their readiness to help bring Constantinople into the ecclesiastical sphere in the country.
The ecclesiastical court session held at the Holy Spirit Monastery in Vilnius today found Fr. Gintaras Singaila guilty of several ecclesiastical offenses: violation of his priestly oath and perjury, disobedience to his ruling bishop and conducting public activities without the blessing of his bishop (Canon 39 of the holy Apostles), conspiracy against his bishop and the destruction of ecclesiastical peace (Canon 18 of the 4th Ecumenical Council, Canon 34 of the Council of Trullo), schismatic activity and the organization of the transition to another Church jurisdiction without the blessing of the bishop (Canon 16 of the 1st Ecumenical Council), and active participation in the campaign to discredit the Church, bishops, and fellow priests, the diocese reports.
Meanwhile, 61 Lithuanian clerics have declared their loyalty to their Lithuanian Diocese and their regret at the schismatic activities of a few of their fellow clerics.
Furthermore, it was “irrefutably proven” that Sungaila’s schismatic activity began even before Met. Innokenty signed the former priest’s petition to be released from his position and become an attached priest.
Sungaila and others have repeatedly claimed in the media that they are being persecuted for their stance against the war in Ukraine and that they began thinking about joining Constantinople only after being censured. However, Met. Innokenty and the Diocese have repeatedly emphasized that Met. Innokenty himself is strongly against the war, that Sungaila himself petitioned to be released from his position as rector, and that their schismatic activity has already been known about for a while.
The diocesan reports notes that Sungaila was summoned to court three times but never appeared, so the decision was made in his absence.
Met. Innokenty also expressed his regret that the other clerics involved have as yet refused to repent of their schismatic activity, for which they are also summoned to ecclesiastical court.