Latvia: fate of non-Latvian clergy is open question after state-declared Church independence

Riga, September 22, 2022

Metropolitan Alexander of Riga and All Latvia. Photo: Metropolitan Alexander of Riga and All Latvia. Photo:     

A number of pressing issues were discussed by representatives of the Latvian Orthodox Church and the Latvian state yesterday.

The meeting, between Minister of Justice Jānis Bordāns and His Eminence Metropolitan Alexander of Riga and All Latvia, comes in the wake of the government’s declaration of the Church’s legal independence from the Moscow Patriarchate earlier this month, which the Latvian Church seems to have accepted.

It has always been important for Latvia to have a self-governing and independent Church, and this is why the Saeima adopted amendments to the law on Latvian Orthodox Church that legally separated it from the Russian Church, Minister of Justice Jānis Bordāns stressed in his meeting with His Eminence Metropolitan Alexander of Riga and All Latvia, reports Delfi News.

Canonically, the Latvian Church is an autonomous structure within the Moscow Patriarchate, though the Latvian state intends to appeal to His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia for a tomos of autocephaly.

When President Egils Levits submitted the bill to Parliament, he explained that the point is to prevent the Russian Church from influencing the Latvian Church in any way, and to protect the freedom of opinion, conscience, and religion of Latvian citizens.

Thus, the future ministry of clerics who aren’t Latvian citizens remains an open question, which was discussed at the Church-state meeting yesterday.

Other items on the agenda included the non-returned properties of the Latvian Church, and the accreditation of the Riga Theological Seminary.

This is not the first time the Latvian state has addressed the issue of the citizenship of Latvian clergy. In June 2019, the Saeima passed a bill requiring Orthodox hierarchs to be Latvian citizens and to have lived in the country for at least 10 years.

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Dionysius Redington9/23/2022 9:43 am
Nationalism is rapidly replacing ecumenism as the panheresy posing the greatest threat to the Church Militant. Perhaps it is a greater threat: ecumenism was always limited to the elite, but nationalism seems to infect everyone. (Apart from this story and the obvious cases, we see it in the speech by a moderately well-known Orthodox American layman to which OrthoChristian has chosen to link, going on about how the US is for White Anglo-Saxons.) --Dionysius Redington
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