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ReligionChristianityAn Exarchate of the Ecumenical Patriarchate was registered in Lithuania

An Exarchate of the Ecumenical Patriarchate was registered in Lithuania

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On February 8, the Ministry of Justice of Lithuania registered a new religious structure – an exarchate, which will be subordinated to the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Thus, two Orthodox churches will be officially recognized in the country: one belonging to the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the existing diocese of the Moscow Patriarchate in Lithuania.

The new religious community has ten clergy and plans to form governing bodies in the near future. It is now led by the Estonian priest Justinus Kiviloo, who held his first service in Lithuania at the beginning of January 2024. The remaining priests previously served in the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC): six in Lithuania, two in Belarus and one in Russia.

Patriarch Kirill’s support for the Russian Federation’s war against Ukraine is the reason for the creation of the new exarchate. This position led to a conflict between nine clerics and the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church. In 2022, Vilnius and Lithuania Metropolitan Innocent removed five of them from ministry, and Patriarch Bartholomew reinstated them and accepted them under his jurisdiction. In March 2023, Patriarch Bartholomew visited Vilnius and signed an agreement with the Lithuanian government to establish the Exarchate of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in the country.

The Diocese of the ROC in Lithuania reacted calmly to the appearance of the new church. Metropolitan Innocent said that the new religious community must be accepted as a “reality of our time”.

Local media have noted that since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the ROC diocese in Lithuania has sought greater independence from the Moscow Patriarchate.

There are 105,000 Orthodox believers in Lithuania, most of whom are Russian-speaking. Orthodox Christians are considered one of the nine traditional religious communities in the country.

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