Lithuania legally registers Constantinople’s new Exarchate

Vilnius, February 8, 2024

Photo: ortodoksas.let Photo: ortodoksas.let     

The new Exarchate of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in Lithuania has been officially entered into the registry of legal entities, with approval from the Ministry of Justice.

“The Ministry has decided that the presence of the Exarchate of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in Lithuania is in accordance with the laws of the country,” said Ministry representative Paulus Žemis, reports TASS. “This religious association can be included in the state register of legal entities.”

According to the Lithuanian outlet, the Exarchate was formally registered on Wednesday, and now awaits a decision on state financial support, said Fr. Vitalijus Mockus.

Recall that the first Liturgy of the Exarchate’s clergy who left the Lithuanian Diocese of the Moscow Patriarchate and joined the Patriarchate of Constantinople was celebrated last March. The ecclesiastical establishment of the Exarchate was completed in January of this year with the arrival of Fr. Justinus Kiviloo, the head of the Exarchate.

The Exarchate currently includes a number of clerics from Lithuania, including several who were defrocked by diocesan authorities, as well as clerics from Belarus. The former priests maintain that they were defrocked for their anti-war stance, though, this is in fact the same stance taken by the entire diocese.

The Exarchate has tried to argue that the Lithuanian Diocese’s stance is general enough to be interpreted as in line with the stance of Patriarch Kirill. However, in March 2022, Met. Innokenty stated explicitly:

The position of the Orthodox Church in Lithuania is unchanged—we strongly condemn Russia’s war against Ukraine and pray to God for its speedy end. As you have probably already noticed, Patriarch Kirill and I have different political views and perceptions of current events. His political statements about the war in Ukraine are his personal opinion. We in Lithuania do not agree with this.

The Assembly of clerical, monastic, and lay representatives that met in December 2022 likewise stated that “the Lithuanian Orthodox Church immediately condemned the war against Ukraine at all levels—the hierarchy, clergy and laity, and expressed its full support for the anti-war position of its primate, Metropolitan Innokenty of Vilnius and Lithuania.”

Met. Innokenty also commented on the registration of the Exarchate, in an interview published today. He stated:

Whatever happens in society, in a particular country, in the world, one must strive to look at everything with spiritual vision, relying on the Holy Scriptures, the teachings of the Church and the Holy Fathers. It is impossible for the human mind to penetrate the secrets of the amazing, wise providence of God about our entire human civilization, which has its beginning and its end, after which the Last Judgment of the Lord will take place…

Yes, a new picture of religious life is emerging in Lithuania. This process must be accepted as the reality of our days. We have all received from God the gift of freedom of action, but how we use it depends on each of us, on our spiritual and moral state. This applies to all people, both ecclesiastical and secular. It depends on their beliefs, thoughts, followed by specific deeds.

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