Estonian Lutheran clerics protest expulsion of Orthodox bishop

Tallinn, January 26, 2024

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A group of clerics of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church are calling for the Interior Minister to reconsider the decision not to renew the residence of permit of His Eminence Metropolitan Evgeny of Tallinn that means the bishop will have to leave the country by early February.

The three Lutheran clerics, Enn Auxmann, Illimar Toomet, and Veiko Vikhuri, say the Estonian state has no right to dictate political positions to Church leaders and consider the accusations against the Metropolitan politically motivated and arbitrary, reports the Estonian outlet Postimees.

Earlier this week, it was reported that Met. Evgeny’s residence permit won’t be renewed after it expires on February 6, as authorities have deemed him a threat to national security, arguing that he “supports the actions of the aggressor in his public activities, including public speeches.”

Recall that Estonian authorities have been watching the Estonian Church closely and have admitted in the past that they found nothing suspicious. Met. Evgeny and Bp. Lazar of Narva have both signed and issued statements against the war, and the Metropolitan publicly stated his disagreement with Pat. Kirill’s homily about soldiers who die in war receiving forgiveness of sins. Nevertheless, the state continued to be suspicious of the Estonian Church, and Met. Evgeny now must leave the country within two weeks.

Everyone has the constitutional right to remain true to their views and beliefs, the Lutheran clerics say. “As far as we know, Metropolitan Evgeny is not accused of any offenses, but of insufficiently accepting and expressing the political views of the government,” they say.

Further, the state doesn’t have the slightest competence to interfere in inter-Church relations, which falls under canon law, the clerics explain. As they say, Minister of the Interior Lauri Läänemets instructed the Estonian Orthodox Church to elect a new leader who more closely adheres to the government’s views, and thus interfered in Church matters.

“This behavior is typical for authoritarian regimes,” they say.

Thus, they believe the decision not to renew the Metropolitan’s visa should be reviewed.

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