Deceiving communication of the Moscow Patriarchate in Lithuania



More and more often the representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate (Russian Orthodox Church) in Lithuania claim that they are being misrepresented in media. Unfortunately, it seems that they are the ones who are trying to intentionally misrepresent themselves in public in order to justify their organization in the context of patriarch Kirill's position on the war in Ukraine. 

Let us review what is the actual status of the local Orthodox Church in Lithuania.

The "Lithuanian Orthodox Archdiocese" is not independent from the Moscow Patriarchate - it is part of the Moscow Patriarchate

Representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate in Lithuania claim that the local community is "morally, spiritually and financially independent" from Moscow and that "the relationship with the Moscow Patriarchate is purely canonical". Indeed, the statement is paradoxical in the very fact that the canons are the internal law of the Church, a form of administrative subordination. But it is not honest in other respects either.

First of all, although the Lithuanian branch of the Moscow Patriarchate is legally registered as the "Orthodox Archdiocese of Lithuania", it does not have such a status in the Moscow Patriarchate - it is just an ordinary diocese of the Moscow Patriarchate. This is also clearly expressed in the 2019 public letter of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow to Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda: "I hope that the cooperation between the Lithuanian authorities and the Vilnius-Lithuanian Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church in Lithuania will be strengthened" 
(link: http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5443542.html )

According to the internal Statute of the Russian Orthodox Church*, the following provisions apply to dioceses:

(1) "the diocesan bishop is the authorized representative of the Russian Orthodox Church to the relevant state and local authorities in matters relating to the activities of the diocese" (XVI, 17 );

(2) "the diocesan bishop is obliged to submit to the Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus' an annual report in the prescribed form on the religious, administrative, financial and economic state of the diocese and on his own activities" (XVI, 16);

(3) the bishop of the diocese is elected by the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, the decree being signed by the Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus' (XVI, 7);

(4) the diocese is governed by the Statute of the Russian Orthodox Church (XVI, 4) and in all the churches of the Russian Orthodox Church the Patriarch of Moscow is referred to during the services as "Our Father and the Great Master, Most Holy [name], the Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus' " ("O Великом Господине и Отеце náš [name], Святейшем Патриархе Московском и всея Руси") (IV, 3). Of course, since March, the practice of not mentioning the Patriarch's name has emerged in various parts of the Moscow Patriarchate outside Russia, but it is not normative.

(* The Statute can be found here - http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/document/133114/ )

By the way, when Metropolitan Inokentiy defrocked five priests for their criticism towards patriarch Kirill, he had to get an approval of Patriarch Kirill - his decision was reviewed and approved by the patriarch, in accordance with the internal procedure of the Moscow Patriarchate, and was made publicly available (http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5947775.html).

Metropolitan Inokentiy held a high position in the central apparatus of the Moscow Patriarchate until September this year


Metropolitan Inokentiy, the head of the Vilnius-Lithuanian Diocese, was until September this year a member of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, the highest governing body of the Moscow Patriarchate. He held this position 2021 and left it after his term expired in September this year (http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5877584.html). Thus, Metropolitan Inokentiy has not even been a bishop of the Moscow Patriarchate since the beginning of the war, but also a member of the governing body of the whole organisation. The Synod is chaired ex officio by Patriarch Kirill himself.

The "Lithuanian Orthodox Archdiocese" doesn't seek independence from the Moscow Patriarchate


The Vilnius-Lithuanian Diocese of the Moscow Patriarchate asked the Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate in May to grant it the status of a "self-governing Church" (rus. статус самоуправляемой Церкви), and told the public that they are seeking independence from the Moscow Patriarchate.

However, the "self-governing Church" continues to be part of the Moscow Patriarchate and their status is regulated by Chapter XII of the Statute of the Russian Orthodox Church:

(1) The decisions of the Moscow Patriarchate's Council of Bishops remain binding on the "self-governing Churches" (XII, 11);

(2) in their parishes, the Patriarch of Moscow is still called "our great master and father" (XII, 7);

(3) although the head of a "self-governing Church" is elected by its assembly, he is elected only from a list of candidates submitted by the Patriarch of Moscow (XII, 6);

(4) although the "self-governing Churches" may appoint their own bishops, but only from a list of bishops submitted by the Patriarch of Moscow (XII, 9).

In short, this is limited self-government, not independence. It is important to note that even the status of such a "self-governing Church" has to be legitimised by the Moscow Patriarchate.

The "Lithuanian Orthodox Archdiocese" still has not condemned patriarch Kirill's support for the Russian military aggression in Ukraine

As a member of the Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan Inokentiy has neither resigned from his post since the beginning of the war, nor protested against the anti-Christian position of Patriarch Kirill, nor demanded the secession of the Vilnius-Lithuanian Diocese from the Moscow Patriarchate. 

Although the statement of the Vilnius-Lithuanian Diocese states that the Metropolitan "disagrees with Patriarch Kirill's position", this disagreement was not in any way addressed to Patriarch Kirill, but only appeared in a letter addressed to the Lithuanian public. The statment was made on the 22nd day of the war, and it was a very mild phrase: "Patriarch Kirill and I have a different opinion concerning the Russia's policies and a different interpretation of the recent events". In addition to this, some time later, Metropolitan Inokenty also expelled from the clergy 5 priests who had criticised Patriarch Kirill.

Although the diocese has said that it condemns Russia's military aggression in Ukraine, the diocese's official spokesman, chancellor bishop Amvrosiy was unable to answer when was asked by the reporters which country is to blame for the war in Ukraine. He was also unable to answer what country Crimea is a part of.  And in the latest diocesan communique concerning the war, dated 28 November 2022, the words "Russia" and "aggression" are not mentioned at all. Instead, the familiar narrative of being "against war" is repeated. 

Interestingly, the same communique states that "the practice [of not mentioning Kirill during prayers] has been in place for quite a long time, so that people who fundamentally disagree with Patriarch Kirill's statements are not further hindered from praying". The natural question is who are the people who are being given concessions if they "fundamentally disagree with the Patriarch's statements". Do they include the two Lithuanian bishops?

What does all this mean?

What is happening in Lithuania is something that has been familiar to Ukrainian society for thirty years - the misleading communication of the Moscow Patriarchate. In Ukraine, we have seen it all before - the assertion by Moscow Patriarchate structures that they do not belong to the Moscow Patriarchate, but only maintain a "canonical relationship", the open letters of Moscow Patriarchate bishops criticising the authorities (e.g. Metropolitan Pavel's letter to the President and Prime Minister of Ukraine in 2017, in which the Metropolitan urged them not to support the aspirations of autocephaly), and the persuasion of their "independence". It is very likely that the behaviour of the institutions of the Moscow Patriarchate is based on the same patterns of behaviour and the same objectives - to preserve its monopoly.



Donations

You can support our project with a donation:

Contribee PayPal


VšĮ „Krikščionių ortodoksų iniciatyvų centras“
IBAN: LT487300010173170576
SWIFT: HABALT22