Lithuanian Seimas speaker: Ukrainians cannot pray in the Church headed by a military Patriarch
This was reported by LRT.
During the visit of Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople to Lithuania, the parliament speaker expressed her gratitude for his support of five Lithuanian Orthodox clergymen who were reinstated to the rank of priests after they disagreed with the Moscow Patriarch's position.
"I would like to take this opportunity to thank His Holiness The Ecumenical Patriarch for granting the appeal of the five priests excommunicated by the Moscow Patriarchate and restoring their status, accepting them into the Mother Church and giving them the opportunity to celebrate the Eucharist again. Moreover, I consider this step to be the restoration of historical justice," said Seimas Speaker Victoria Čmiliťe-Nielsen during a conference on intercultural and religious dialogue held in the Seimas on Wednesday.
"According to Victoria Čmilite-Nielsen, this decision gives hope not only to the mentioned priests but also to the faithful. After all, the Orthodox community in Lithuania has now grown with the arrival of more than 70,000 people. These are Ukrainians who fled the war," she said.
"They cannot pray in the Church headed by Kirill, who supports the war in Ukraine," the speaker of the parliament said.
"The Orthodox community in Lithuania is visited by Belarusians who escaped repression or even Russians who took refuge in Vilnius from the Kremlin's repressions," she added.
"Vilnius is a special place when it comes to interreligious and intercultural dialogue," said Victoria Čmilite-Nielsen. "It is known as a city of religious tolerance. In Vilnius, the word of God was spread with love, not with the sword. Therefore, it is absolutely unacceptable for us, Vilnius citizens and descendants of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, when the imperialist aspirations of the Kremlin regime are covered up by God. In this light, we also see the situation of Lithuanian Orthodox Christians."
She continued, "We must ensure that Lithuanian Orthodox believers of all nationalities can practice their faith without conflict with their conscience."
During a conference on intercultural and religious Dialogue held in the Seimas, Victoria Čmilite-Nielsen highlighted the historical connection between the Orthodox Christians who lived on the territory of Lithuania and Constantinople. She stated, "From the XIII century to 1686, Orthodox Christians who lived on the territory of Lithuania considered Constantinople their mother church, from where orthodoxy came to Lithuania. It was part of the Kyiv Metropolia under the Ecumenical Patriarch. And only later, when Muscovy expanded and its power grew, it was subordinated to the Moscow Patriarchate."
The war in Ukraine has also highlighted the importance of spiritual unity, in addition to economic and political unity, according to Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. During the conference, he said, "As you all know, after the end of the Cold War, all the walls fell down. Borders have disappeared, and the movement of people and goods has accelerated. This association was purely material, where technological and economic factors dominated. At the same time, there are also universal and global problems that have worsened: the climate crisis, the financial crisis, the health crisis during the pandemic, and the energy crisis. All this became global challenges that required global action."
He expressed regret that efforts to achieve unity in solving these problems were interrupted by Russia's war in Ukraine.
"Instead of striving for global unity and action at the global level, unfortunately, because of Russia's aggression in Ukraine, everything has stalled," he said. "Finally, it became obvious that in addition to political and Economic Unity, Spiritual Unity is also very important, but in this area, instead of achieving progress, we, unfortunately, felt a constant regression."
According to the Patriarch, recent decades have shown that hopes that economic globalization will unite people on a cultural and spiritual basis and lead to world peace have not been fulfilled.
Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople is on a visit to Lithuania after the Patriarchate decided to return five Lithuanian clergymen to the rank of priests. Metropolitan Innokenty of the Vilna-Lithuanian Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church removed them from the priesthood last summer.
These clergymen criticized the church leadership for not dissociating itself from Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, who supports the war in Ukraine.
The Orthodox Archdiocese of the Russian Orthodox Church in Lithuania says it does not recognize the decision of the patriarch of Constantinople to return the powers of priests.
Five clergymen hope the Patriarchate of Constantinople will soon form a permanent subordinate church structure in Lithuania. Bartholomew also said in Vilnius that he sees prospects for this.
Orthodox Christians in Lithuania are considered one of the nine traditional religious communities.