Vilinius, Lithuania, August 15, 2022
The Lithuanian Diocese is seeking greater independence from the central administration of the Moscow Patriarchate. However, even if such a status is granted, the Patriarch will still be commemorated as the canonical authority, though this shouldn’t be read as agreement with all his views, His Grace Bishop Ambrose of Trakai, vicar of the Lithuanian Diocese, said in a recent interview with lrt.lt.
At the same time, there are services in Lithuania where it has been blessed not to commemorate the name of Patriarch Kirill.
Asked whether Lithuania belongs to the Russian World, Bp. Ambrose states that while the Russian World concept is commonly accepted as a political concept, it is a broader “cultural, religious, and spiritual concept.”
“When we talk about it, we’re referring to a spiritual tradition, also linked to our Church,” he says. “We’re talking about the Orthodox religion… This concept also includes composers who were believers and who expressed their love for people and God through their works. This concept is certainly not political. It’s a certain expression of civilization.”
Asked why the Church doesn’t call upon the Kremlin not to use the Russian World concept in its political ideology if it's also a spiritual idea, Bp. Ambrose responds: “Well, understand how we can ask Putin to do or not do something? We pray for him as well, that God will give him reason, and even then we hope that he will behave as a Christian should behave.”
Asked about the Lithuanian Diocese’s request for greater independence, Bp. Ambrose clarifies that “our activities wouldn’t change… The main goal of our Church is the salvation of men.”
“If independence is obtained, the relationship will remain canonical. Only canonical. Not administrative, not some kind of subordination relationship, but canonical… This means we’ll have a connection with the entire Orthodox Church through this canonical Eucharistic relationship,” the Lithuanian hierarch explains.
The Lithuanian Church would still commemorate the Patriarch, which is first of all a prayer for him, Bp. Ambrose explains. “When people commemorate the Patriarch, they commemorate their canonical leader and pray for him. But this doesn’t mean they agree with his statements, which, as we have repeatedly said, aren’t binding for us. Patriarchs come and go, but the Orthodox Church remains.”
At the same time, there are places in Lithuania where the services are celebrated in Ukrainian, Belarusian, Georgian, and Greek, and with the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Innokenty, the name of Pat. Kirill isn’t commemorated there, Bp. Ambrose notes. And at services where the priest commemorates the Patriarch, “the person in church can either pray it with the priest or not.”
Concerning the Prime Minister’s readiness to help bring the Patriarchate of Constantinople into Lithuania, Bp. Ambrose reiterates the diocese’s position that such state interference is impermissible, especially given that only 50 people, out of 150,000 Church members, have publicly expressed their desire to switch to Constantinople.
Asked about the now-defrocked clerics who say they were hurt by how the leadership of the Moscow Patriarchate spoke about the war in Ukraine, Bp. Ambrose notes that “the head of our priests is Met. Innokenty. And Met. Innokenty very clearly and publicly expressed his opinion about the events in Ukraine and about the war. He condemned the war in Ukraine, and did it again a month later. I also personally supported his statement.”
Further, Met. Innokenty specifically expressed disagreement with the stance of the Patriarch, Bp. Ambrose reminds.
During a recent meeting with Pat. Kirill in Moscow, Bp. Ambrose told him that “some of his statements are interpreted ambiguously in Lithuania, and that this is understandable.” According to the Lithuanian hierarch, the Patriarch responded “that he didn’t openly support the war in his statements.”
Then asked to evaluate the Patriarch’s behavior (rather than this statements), Bp. Ambrose responds: “It’s difficult for me to judge his behavior, because I’m not his cleric. I think this is a question of Kirill’s repentance.”