Estonian hierarch meets with state authorities to discuss war and resulting societal tensions

Tallinn, September 30, 2022

Bp. Sergei of Mardu. Photo: Bp. Sergei of Mardu. Photo:     

A meeting was held between representatives of the Estonian Orthodox Church and the Estonian Ministry of Internal Affairs on Wednesday “to discuss various topics related to military operations in Ukraine and the excessive tension they have created in Estonian society,” the Estonian Church reports.

Earlier this week, Interior Minister Lauri Läänemets said it is closely monitoring the Church, and it could cancel the residency permit of His Eminence Metropolitan Evgeny of Tallinn should he make statements calling for war.

In the absence of Met. Evgeny, his vicar, His Grace Bishop Sergei of Maardu and Archpriest Juvenaly Kaarma of the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Tallinn were appointed to meet with the Vice-Chancellor of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Raivo Küüt, and the head of the Department of Religious Affairs Ilmo Au.

The state representatives “expressed their concern about the prevailing tension in society, which is expressed, among other things, in publications in the press that are aggressive towards the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate,” and suggested that the Church not remain silent, but issue an appeal to the people, providing answers to “acute questions of concern to the public.”

At the same time, the state representatives noted, as has Minister Läänemets, that the Ministry has as yet seen no reason to accuse the Estonian Church of working against the state or inciting religious enmity.

Bp. Sergei emphasized that the aggressive attitude of some people towards the Church comes from the fact that they don’t understand that while it’s part of the Moscow Patriarchate, the Estonian Church is a self-governing administrative unit, with its own Synod and Council of Bishops headed by the primate of the Estonian Church. This status was initially received by Patriarch St. Tikhon in 1920, and confirmed by His Holiness Patriarch Alexei II in 1993.

It was also noted that:

The Estonian Orthodox Church is pained and prays for all those involved in the military conflict and who are experiencing great tribulation, but doesn’t give any radical assessments of the actions of the opposing sides in the hope of preserving one of its important functions—reconciling and uniting, so that Orthodox Christians coming to its churches, regardless of nationality, political views, etc., can pray and receive spiritual support and consolation through participation in the Divine services.

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