"The position of the Orthodox Church in Lithuania remains unchanged: we strongly condemn Russia's war against Ukraine and pray to the Lord to bring it to an end as soon as possible," the head of the Church said in a statement of Thursday evening.

"As you have probably already noticed, [Russian Orthodox] Patriarch Kirill and I have different political views and perceptions of current events. His political statements about the war in Ukraine are his personal opinion. We in Lithuania do not agree with this," he said.

In a sermon delivered on February 27, three days after Russia invaded Ukraine, Kirill called Moscow's opponents in Ukraine "evil forces" fighting against "the unity of Russia".

"I want to say frankly that we, the Orthodox of Lithuania, having the opportunity to decide freely on the internal affairs of the Church, will strive for even greater independence, trusting that the Lord will grant it to our Church in due time," Innokentiy said in the statement.

"We live in a free democratic state. Lithuania is not Russia. It is a different country, a different society with its own spiritual and moral climate," he said.

"Although a small minority with barely more than three thousand active parishioners throughout Lithuania, the Orthodox are an integral part of society and are full-fledged citizens of their country, freely practising their traditional religion."

"Our parishioners are honest and humble people who have worked diligently for many years for the good of the country of Lithuania and have contributed to the creation of a free Lithuania."

The archbishop noted that the Lithuanian Orthodox Church supported the people of Lithuanian when they defended their state's independence.

"I wonder if those who write and talk about us know everything about the Orthodox? Did they attend services in Lithuanian Orthodox churches and hear how and what Orthodox people pray for?" Innokentiy wrote.

"In every service the Orthodox pray for our God-protected country of Lithuania, its government, its army and all its people. And today we also pray for an end to this bloody war, for the dead soldiers, for the reign of peace in Ukraine, for the suffering people of the land of Ukraine. We pray and suffer with them!"

Orthodox Christians will remain faithful to Lithuania, will safeguard the unity of the people regardless of their national or confessional identity, will pray for the people of Ukraine and will help refugees, according to the statement.

The Lithuanian Orthodox Church, one of Lithuania's nine traditional religious communities, is a metropolitanate within the Patriarchate of Moscow and All Russia.

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