ROC to Latvians: Patriarch Kirill still commemorated, state-declared autocephaly is purely legal, not canonical

Moscow, October 18, 2022

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The Latvian Orthodox Church is not in a state of schism and the faithful are blessed to receive the Sacraments in it, says the Moscow Patriarchate.

Responding to a letter from Latvian laity who were concerned about the status of their Church after the Latvian Parliament declared the Latvian Church to be completely independent of the Russian Orthodox Church last month, His Eminence Metropolitan Pavel of Krutitsa and Kolomna, head of the ROC’s Department for Dioceses in the Near Abroad, assures the faithful that the move from the state is of a purely legal nature, having no canonical force.

Met. Pavel’s letter was published by the Latvian Church yesterday under the heading, “The Russian Orthodox Church answers a question from individuals from the Republic of Latvia who are concerned about the current situation.”

Thus, the Latvian Church remains an autonomous Church within the Russian Church and Pat. Kirill is still to be commemorated at the services, says Met. Pavel.

Read His Eminence’s full reply:

On behalf of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, I convey to you my heartfelt gratitude for your warm and thorough address to His Holiness on September 13, 2022, for the zeal for the holy Orthodox faith expressed in it, the sincere love of all of you for the holy Mother Russian Orthodox Church, and for your loyalty to its primates.

Regarding the issues outlined in your appeal, I respectfully inform you of the following. The amendments made by the Saeima of the Republic of Latvia on September 8, 2022, to the law on the Latvian Orthodox Church and its “autocephaly” were adopted without the consent of the Church and are exclusively legal in nature, relating only to the legal status of the Church in Latvia, which was announced by the press service of the Latvian Orthodox Church on September 9, 2022.

The name of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill is still lifted up during the Divine services in the Latvian Orthodox Church, and as of today the Church is not in a state of schism. It is permitted to receive the Sacraments in it and to commemorate Metropolitan Alexander of Riga and All Latvia during the Divine Liturgy.

Together with the clergy and faithful of the Latvian Orthodox Church, we pray for the preservation of our spiritual and prayerful unity and for the strengthening of canonical Orthodoxy in the holy Latvian land.

Meanwhile, Latvian Minister of Justice Jānis Bordāns has appealed to Pat. Kirill on behalf of the state to issue a tomos of autocephaly to the Latvian Church.

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