Russian Synod on Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, Cyprus

Moscow, March 17, 2023

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The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church held its first session of the year yesterday in Moscow under the chairmanship of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia.

Among the issues dealt with were the relations of the Moscow Patriarchate with other Orthodox Church and with some of its dioceses and Churches in the Baltics, the first being the Latvian Orthodox Church.

In September, the Latvian Parliament passed a law requiring the Church to amend its statutes, making it not just a self-governing Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, but completely independent of the Russian Church, at least from a legal point of view. The Church’s press service issued a statement essentially accepting its state-proclaimed autocephalous status, and in late October, a council of the Latvian Church made the relevant statutory changes and appealed to the Moscow Patriarchate for a decision on its status.

And yesterday, the Synod resolved (Journal No. 2) to consider Latvian Church’s appeal at the next meeting of the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Church, which is tentatively to be held this year. The hierarchs also affirm that the Russian Church will continue to send Chrism to the Latvian Church.

Likewise, the Synod resolved (Journal No. 3) to consider the appeal of the Diocese of Vilnius and Lithuania for the granting of self-governing status at the next session of the Bishops’ Council.

The Synod also resolved (Journal No. 14) that it can’t have communion with, and Pat. Kirill can’t commemorate in the Divine services the new primate of the Church of Cyprus, Archbishop Georgios. The Russian primate stopped commemorating the previous Cypriot primate, Archbishop Chrysostomos, in November 2020 after he entered into communion with the Ukrainian schismatics. As Abp. Georgios, enthroned in January, continues to maintain communion with the graceless schismatics, he continues the rupture with the Russian Church.

As OrthoChristian reported yesterday, two hierarchs in the Cypriot Church continue to maintain an Orthodox stance against the recognition of the schismatics.

And regarding the tragic situation in Ukraine, the Synod heard a report from His Eminence Metropolitan Anthony of Volokolamsk, Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations, about his address to the UN Security Council in January in which he sounded the alarm about the persecution of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

The Synod resolved (Journal No. 13) “To state with regret the fact of increased persecution of the faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and to call on the international community to raise its voice in its defense.”

Pat. Kirill also addressed the heads of all the Local Orthodox Churches and the heads of non-Orthodox and international organizations earlier this week, calling on them to speak up in defense of the persecuted UOC.

Recall, however, that the UOC has denounced the Russian Church’s initiatives to speak internationally on its behalf. It stated in January:

We did not authorize anyone from the ROC-MP to speak on our behalf at the UN. We are concerned that the issue of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is raised by structures that have nothing to do with us. We call on the Russian authorities not to speak on behalf of our Church on international platforms and not to use the religious factor for their own political purposes.

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