Message by H. A. H. to the First Assembly of the Exarchate of Lithuania



His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew 

to the First Clergy-Laity Assembly of the Patriarchal Exarchate in Lithuania

(Vilnius, April 13,2024)

Photo: Ecumenical Patriarchate

Reverend Fathers, Venerable Monastics, and Beloved Faithful,

As you come together in spirit for this historic first Clergy-Laity Assembly of the Ecumenical Patriarchate's Exarchate in Lithuania, we approach you with great delight, paternal pride and a strong sense of solidarity. Our faith unites us despite our geographical distance from one another, as does our shared dedication to the growth and welfare of the Orthodox Church. Led by the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and the wisdom of the Holy Scriptures, let us look forward with hope and resolution!

It is vital that you keep in mind the close spiritual and historical ties that the Mother Church of Constantinople shares with the Orthodox people of Lithuania as you gather today. The Ecumenical Patriarchate has guided and supported the Orthodox communities in this area for centuries, promoting their growth and preserving the historic practices of our Holy Orthodox Church.

The roots of this profound relationship can be traced back to the earliest days of Christianity in Lithuania, when the seeds of the Orthodox faith were first sown in your land. The recent restoration of the Ecumenical Patriarchate's presence in Lithuania through the establishment of our Patriarchal Exarchate has been a potent symbol of the ongoing relationship that exists between the people of Lithuania and the Mother Church. This momentous occasion has highlighted the dedication of the Constantinopolitan Church to the well-being of the Orthodox faithful in your country and further strengthened the already strong bonds that bind us.

As we navigate the challenges faced by the Orthodox world, including the granting of autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine and the ongoing war of the Russian Federation against the sovereign country of Ukraine, let us draw strength from the unwavering support of the Mother Church. Together, guided by faith and compassion, we shall persevere through these trying times, always striving to uphold the sacred teachings and traditions of our Holy Orthodox Church.

As we think about the difficulties and possibilities that lie ahead, we must remember that the Holy Scriptures, particularly the First Epistle of Peter, and the writings of the Church Fathers consistently emphasize the importance of preserving the Church's canonical order, as well as of showing unwavering obedience to those charged with the sacred responsibility of spiritual leadership. In his abovementioned epistle, the Holy Apostle Peter exhorts us to be "living stones" in the spiritual house of God, built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone (1 Peter 2:5-6). This powerful metaphor underscores the significance of unity within the Church, as each member plays a vital role in maintaining the integrity and stability of the entire ecclesiastical structure.

Moreover, the decisions and documents of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, held in Crete in June 2016, further reinforce these timeless principles. The Council's deliberations and pronouncements serve as a guide for the faithful, illuminating the path towards greater unity and obedience within the Church. For this reason, we encourage you to study and reflect upon these soul-benefitting documents.

Striving to uphold these sacred values, we exhort you paternally to look to the Mother Church of Constantinople and to the Exarch of our Modesty, the Very Rev. Hieromonk Justinus, for guidance and leadership. By remaining steadfast in your commitment to the Orthodox faith and the unity of the Church, standing unwaveringly loyal and firmly behind the Mother Church and the Patriarchal Exarch, you will successfully navigate the challenges that lie ahead, always illumined by the light of Christ and guided by the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.

In your pursuit of unity and spiritual growth, you must also recognize the importance of collaboration and dialogue with the governmental and local authorities, to which we express once again our gratitude for their significant assistance, as well as with the other Christian denominations and faith communities in your beautiful country. Lithuania's diverse religious landscape calls for mutual respect, understanding, and cooperation in promoting the common good and addressing the challenges that our society faces today.

Drawing inspiration from the example of our Lord, we encourage all faithful to engage in constructive dialogue and work together with others in a spirit of love, humility, and compassion. As you foster these relationships, please remain steadfast in your commitment to th Orthodox faith, bearing witness to the truth of the Gospel and th transformative power of God's love.

Considering the future of our Holy Orthodox Church, it is critical that we prioritize the spiritual growth and well-being of our youth. Our younger generation confronts unique problems and desires, and it is our sacred obligation to offer them a solid Orthodox foundation and a feeling of belonging within the Church community. By actively engaging with and supporting our teenagers, we can help them navigate the complexities of modem life, always guided by the timeless wisdom of our faith. Moreover, as members of the Church, we are called to foster a culture of solidarity, respect, and peace, both within our own communities and in our interactions with the wider society, becoming living examples of Christ’s love and compassion in our troubled contemporary world.

In this spirit, we congratulate you all for the convocation of this first Clergy-Laity Assembly of the Ecumenical Patriarchate's Exarchate of Lithuania, under the chairmanship of our Exarch, Fr. Justinus, praying for successful deliberations and fruitful outcomes. Wishing to all of you an edifying journey towards Holy and Great Pascha, we bestow upon you and your beloved ones the grace and the infinite mercy of the God of love.

At the Ecumenical Patriarchate, on the 10th of April 2024.

Your fervent supplicant before God,
+ Bartholomew of Constantinople

Archbishop of Constantinople New-Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch


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