Speaker of the Seimas meets His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople
Press release, 22 March 2023
In her meeting with His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen, Speaker of the Seimas, thanked His All Holiness for the restoration of historical justice and for the hope given to the faithful and to the five priests who had been expelled from the clergy by the Moscow Patriarchate.
‘From the 13th to the late 17th century, the Orthodox Christians who lived in the Lithuanian territory legally considered Constantinople to be their Mother Church, where the Eastern Orthodox Church in Lithuania originated from. The Lithuanian Orthodox Church was part of the Metropolis of Kyiv, under the Ecumenical Patriarch, and, under subsequent historical circumstances, it became subordinate to the Patriarchate of Moscow’, the Speaker of the Seimas said.
Ms Čmilytė-Nielsen also mentioned that Vilnius had always been known as a city of religious tolerance, where Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Old Believers, Reformed Church, Lutherans, Jews, Karaits, Uniate Church believers and Muslims lived side by side.
‘In Vilnius, the word of God was spread by the expression of love rather than by the sword. Therefore, we, the residents of Vilnius and the descendants of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, find it absolutely unacceptable that the imperialistic goals of the Kremlin regime are disguised as God’s will. I told His All Holiness that it was in this light that we see the situation of the Lithuanian Orthodox,’ said the Speaker of the Seimas.
Photo by Olga Posaškova, Office of the Seimas
According to the Speaker, the community of believers has grown considerably as Lithuania has welcomed over 70,000 Ukrainian people seeking refuge from the war.
‘However, they are not willing to worship in a church under the authority of the pro-war patriarch Kirill of Moscow. Moreover, the Orthodox community in Lithuania is also made up of Belarusians who have fled the repression, or even Russians who have taken refuge in Vilnius to escape the Kremlin’s persecution. We, therefore, must ensure that Lithuanian Orthodox believers of all nationalities can practise their faith with their conscience clear,’ said the Speaker of the Seimas. She went on saying that she hoped that the call for the restoration of peace and justice in Ukraine made by His All Holiness on the very first day of the attack on Ukraine was heard by all Christians and all people of good will.
Following the meeting, the Speaker of the Seimas opened an international conference titled Intercultural and Religious Dialogue, which featured the welcome address by His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I on his first official visit to Lithuania.
Ilona Petrovė, Spokesperson for Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen, Speaker of the Seimas, tel. +370 5 239 6030, mob. +370 698 42 071, e-mail: [email protected]