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Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte's remarks to the Ukrainian media about the Lithuanian Orthodox Church's stance on Russia's war in Ukraine are unfounded, the Lithuanian Orthodox Archdiocese said on Monday.
Lithuanian Orthodox Church dismisses PM's criticism of its stance on war
© DELFI / Orestas Gurevičius

The statement came in response to Simonyte's remarks in a recent interview with the Ukrinform news agency that the Lithuanian Orthodox Church had initially taken "a very reasonable" stance on the war, but later "changed their minds" and dismissed several clergymen because of their criticism of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow for his support for the Kremlin.

"This statement has nothing to do with reality. The Lithuanian Orthodox Archdiocese condemned the war in a special statement the day after it started, on February 25," the Archdiocese said.

"This was followed on March 17 by a statement by Metropolitan Inokentiy of Vilnius and Lithuania, in which he both clearly condemns the war and declares his disagreement with Patriarch Kirill. This statement was noted throughout the Orthodox world."

Inokentiy "reaffirmed his anti-war stance" in a new statement a month later, as did Bishop Amvrosiy of Trakai, Archdiocese said, adding that the war has been also condemned by the laity of the Diocese of Vilnius and Lithuania and by "thousands of Orthodox believers from all over Lithuania".

However, Amvrosiy in mid-October did not give a clear answer to the question of who the Lithuanian Orthodox Church believed was to blame for the war.

"We are all like a big family on earth. And when people quarrel and fight, the question is who is guilty in this family?" the bishop told journalists. "I think it would be wrong to say that the husband is to blame, or the wife, or the children."

"I think those who have the goal of making this war happen are to blame. And only God knows who has such a goal," he said.

In last week's interview with Ukrinform, Simonyte said she had met with religious leaders of various denominations, including Orthodox, at the start of the war to discuss what support religious communities could provide to Ukraine and to refugees.

"At that time, the Orthodox Church made a very reasonable statement about how they felt about the war. Unfortunately, they 'changed their minds' in a very short time. Clergymen who disagreed with the position of the Moscow Patriarchate were forced to leave the Church," she said.

The prime minister was referring to four priests who were removed from their job for their canonical offenses, according to the Lithuanian Orthodox Church's leaders.

The priests said, however, that they had been defrocked because of their criticism.

The Archdiocese also criticizes Simonyte's statements that Russian Orthodox Christians are a minority in Lithuania, saying that the Church has about 100,000 members in the country and that, contrary to what the prime minister says, Ukrainians also attend its services.

What was said in the interview gives "the impression that the government lacks comprehensive and objective information about the activities of the Lithuanian Orthodox Church," it said in the statement.

"This gap could be filled by a constructive dialogue, which the leadership of the Lithuanian Orthodox Church has been urging the government to initiate since the beginning of the war in Ukraine."

BNS
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