Saturday, April 13, 2024

Estonian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate Says It is Canonically Attached to Russian Patriarchate but Not Subject to the ROC MP’s Orders

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Apr. 10 – A week ago, the synod of the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate rejected Moscow Patriarchate Kirill’s statements about a “Russian world” and Russia’s “holy war” in Ukraine to demonstrate the EOC MP’s independence (

            But that declaration wasn’t enough to prevent Estonian commentators and officials from refusing to extend residence permit of the head of the EOC MP who, Tallinn said, had become even more pro-Kremlin since the original decision was made (

            Nor was it enough to prevent some Estonian officials from seeking to declare the EOC MP a terrorist organization ( and seeking to confiscate property held by the EOC MP (, compelling that church to combine with the Estonian Orthodox Church loyal to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople.

            Since 1993, Estonia has had two Orthodox churches; and many have seen that arrangement as a model for other Orthodox hierarchies in the former Soviet space (, although Moscow’s demands have made that an increasingly problematic idea (

            Now, both to defend itself and to keep that option alive, the synod of the EOC MP has issued a 700-word declaration ( Its central provisions are as follows:

·       The EOC MP, it declares, is “an Orthodox Church which has operated in Estonia historically” and through that time has been “both historically and canonically connected with the Russian Orthodox Church.
“Very often everything that occurs in Moscow is automatically viewed” by others as defining EOC MP practice. But “this does not correspond to reality and is a misunderstanding. The EOC MP is not responsibile for the words of the Patriarch.”

·       Moscow does not give “direct orders” to the EOC MP but there is “a canonical connection” between the EOC MP and the ROC MP.

·       “We cannot unilaterally break such canonical ties because we are autonomous. That is not in our power and this would deeply contradict our conscience.” Moreover, “the ROC has not adopted at the church level anything that would force us to break this canonical link.”

·       These ties and prayers for the Patriarch do not mean that the EOC MP approves all the actions of the Patriarch.

·       The possible combination of the EOC MP and the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church is “improbable” because the latter was formed with the approval of the ROC MP, and any effort now to forcibly combine them would be an attack on the rights of believers.


This declaration is unlikely to satisfy those in Estonia who believe that the EOC MP is Moscow’s agent in place, but it may worry some in Moscow as well because in it, the EOC MP defines itself as far more independent in views and actions that the ROC MP and the Kremlin behind it will be happy about.

If the EOC MP continues in this direction, Estonia may continue for a time to have two Orthodox churches but neither will be the Moscow church the ROC MP wants and many Estonians fear. If the EOC MP doesn’t, then demands for closing it down will likely continue to grow among Estonians and Estonian officials. 

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