Metropolitan of Estonia must leave country in February—residence permit not renewed

Tallinn, January 22, 2024

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His Eminence Metropolitan Evgeny of Tallinn and All Estonia must leave the country after his residence permit expires on February 6.

Formerly the Archbishop of Verey, Met. Evgeny has served in Estonia since June 2018.

But now the Estonian Police and Border Guard Department has decided not to extend his residence permit, “because he poses a threat to the security of Estonia.”

“The state has decided to refuse to extend the residence permit, since Reshetnikov [Met. Evgeny],” a citizen of Russia, “supports the actions of the aggressor in his public activities, including public speeches, and has not changed his line of conduct, despite the warnings given to him earlier,” said Indrek Aru, head of the local Border Guard Bureau.

“The activities of both Patriarch Kirill and Metropolitan Evgeny helped to spread and promote the internal security policy of the Russian Federation in Estonia,” Aru said, explaining that the relevant decision relates only to Met. Evgeny personally, not to the Estonian Orthodox Church as a body.

The press release does not note any specific examples of how the Metropolitan posed a threat to national security.

Estonian authorities have been closely monitoring the Church since the start of the war in Ukraine in February 2022, and especially since Pat. Kirill preached in late September that if someone dies fulfilling his military duty, “then he undoubtedly commits an act equivalent to sacrifice. He sacrifices himself for others. And therefore, we believe that this sacrifice washes away all the sins that a person has committed.”

While the authorities acknowledged at that time that they had found nothing concerning from the EOC, they also threatened at that time to cancel Met. Evgeny’s residence permit, and summoned the bishops to meetings with representatives of the Interior Ministry.

On March 17 2022, Met. Evgeny was among the signatories of a statement against the war by the Estonian Council of Churches. A week later, His Grace Bishop Lazar of Narva and Prichudie issued a statement condemning all calls for violence and urging all to maintain peace in their hearts and in their relations with others.

In October 2022, Met. Evgeny issued a statement in which he explicitly stated his disagreement with the Patriarch’s September sermon and reaffirmed that “the EOC-MP doesn’t spread in Estonia an ideology calling for war,” as the Estonian Synod had stated just a week prior.

Nevertheless, the state continued to be suspicious of the Estonian Church, and Met. Evgeny was again summoned to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and now he must leave the country within two weeks.

On Thursday, January 18, the press service of the Estonian Church stated simply:

Dear brothers and sisters!

Today, an official letter was received from the Police and Border Guard Department regarding the decision not to renew the temporary residence permit of Metropolitan Evgeny of Tallinn and All Estonia.

We are not giving any comments now, but we ask all the faithful children of our Estonian Orthodox Church to strengthen their prayers both for our primate, Vladyka Evgeny, and for our Church.

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