Sunday, April 9, 2023

Vilnius Expects Constantinople to Establish an Exarchate in Lithuania Soon

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Apr. 4 – The Lithuanian government expects that the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople will soon establish an exarchate in Lithuania as the main organization of Orthodox life there, a move that will have dramatic consequences for the Russian church and the region despite the relatively small numbers of clergy and laity involved.

            Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė says that this move will help to restore historical justice in her country. Until the 17th century, Lithuania’s Orthodox were part of the Kyiv Metropolitan; but then the Moscow Patriarchate, “in the best imperial traditions,” took direct control of both (

            Now, she and other Vilnius officials continue, Lithuania is on track to restore its direct subordination to Constantinople and thus boost not only its own status as a national church within world Orthodoxy but that of the autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine as well with which the Lithuanian church will now be in closest communion.

            Even though only five priests and no bishops of the Moscow church in Lithuania have broken with it and would be available to form the core of a new Lithuanian Orthodox church, Lithuanian officials are confident that once such a church is proclaimed, many others will flock to it.

            Among the reasons for their confidence is this: there are more than 70,000 Ukrainian refugees in Lithuania as a result of Putin’s war in Ukraine, most are Orthodox, and none will want to have anything to do with a church, with whatever name, that is linked to Moscow rather than opposed to the Russian regime.

            These Ukrainians at least initially will form the core of a new Orthodox church there, one that will oppose even efforts by Orthodox still loyal to Moscow because of deep suspicions that any autonomy offered by the ROC MP will be a lie and that Moscow will reverse it as soon as it is in a position to.

            Assuming that things go as Vilnius and Constantinople hope, there will be yet another national Orthodox church opposed to Moscow, something that will give aid and comfort to those which already do and may even inspire others, such as in neighboring Belarus, to consider taking similar steps.

            Consequently, what may seem to be a minor development given the small numbers of bishops and priests involved may turn out to be a major turning point in the Lithuanian church and of Orthodoxy as a whole (cf. and


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