Constantinople formally establishes exarchate on territory of Lithuanian Diocese

Vilnius, January 17, 2024

Fr. Justinus Kiviloo of Estonia is the head of Constantinople’s new structure. Photo: Fr. Justinus Kiviloo of Estonia is the head of Constantinople’s new structure. Photo:     

Fr. Justinus Kiviloo celebrated his first service in Lithuania on January 6.

Arriving just days prior from Estonia, Fr. Justinus was appointed the head of the Patriarchate of Constantinople’s new exarchate in Lithuania, which informally began a year ago when the Patriarchate received a handful of defrocked Lithuanian clergy into its ranks.

For centuries, Lithuania has been acknowledged as the canonical jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate. Headed by His Eminence Metropolitan Innokenty of Vilnius, the diocese does not recognize the existence of the new exarchate or the status of its clergy.

Five priests were defrocked by the Lithuanian Diocese in 2022 for a number of ecclesiastical crimes, including “schismatic activity, the intention and organization of the transition to another Church jurisdiction without the blessing of their bishop.”   

Fr. Justinus’ first service. Photo: Fr. Justinus’ first service. Photo:     

The former priests maintain that they were defrocked for their anti-war stance, although the hierarchs, clergy, and laity of the Lithuanian Church have also expressed an anti-war stance many times over. Confirming the Lithuanian’s charges against them, the clergy fled to Constantinople after being suspended by Met. Innokenty. They served their first public Liturgy on March 19 last year, having already been defrocked by that time.

Two days later, Pat. Bartholomew came into the canonical territory of the Lithuanian Orthodox Church to sign an agreement with the government to “seek the establishment of the Exarchate of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Lithuania.”

And now Fr. Justinus is working to finalize the legal registration of the Constantinople structure, he recently told

His first service on January 6 was celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church of the Holy Trinity in Vilnius, reportedly mostly with parishioners not of the exarchate but of the Lithuanian Orthodox Church in attendance. According to the Lithuanian outlet,, the exarchate currently consists of 10 clergy and 10 communities.

Fr. Justinus notes that there are people who say churches should be seized from the Lithuanian Diocese, though he is “categorically against that.” “We have to build churches ourselves,” the exarchate head said.

In October 2018, when the Patriarchate of Constantinople entered into communion with the schismatics of the “Kiev Patriarchate” and the “Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church,” its Synod said that churches and monasteries should not be seized in Ukraine, but well over 1,000 have been violently seized and/or through legal means since then.

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