"We are preparing an appeal right now," Gintaras Sungaila, one of several Orthodox priests recently suspended from their duties, said after meeting with Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Simasius on Wednesday.

"There will be a separate appeal from the clergy and national communities, and an appeal from the authorities to support us," he said.

Sungaila said seven priests will certainly support the appeal, adding that he expects more to join after the process gets underway.

There are about 60 Orthodox priests in Lithuania.

It is not clear how long this process could take, but it is believed that given the support from the faithful and the authorities, the priests' request should be granted fairly soon.

Sungaila expects the patriarch of Constantinople to accept the Lithuanian priests into the patriarchate soon after he receives the appeal.

Last week, Metropolitan Inokentiy, head of the Lithuanian Orthodox Archdiocese, dismissed Sungaila and two other priests, Vitalijus Mockus and Vitalis Dauparas, from their duties in the Lithuanian Orthodox Church. Sungaila and Dauparas were also suspended from any active ministry within the Church.

The priests say they resigned because they felt "a conflict of conscience" because Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, supports Russia's military invasion of Ukraine.

According to Dauparas, this separation started long ago and is a "process of conscience".

He said that moving to subordination to another Orthodox bishop is not a split, but an internal process in response to "the ideology that unfortunately has gripped the Moscow Patriarchate".

However, Simasius said after Wednesday's meeting with the sacked priests that he sees this as "a split in the Orthodox Church".

In the mayor's opinion, the situation where the Lithuanian Orthodox Church belongs to the Moscow Patriarchate is unnatural and inappropriate.

"As a citizen of Lithuania, I find it regrettable that churches dating back to the time of the Grand Duchess of Lithuania belong to an illegal organization that initiates war and the killing of peaceful people," Simasius said.

"My proposal is to go back to the time before 1686, when the Orthodox churches were taken over by the Moscow Patriarchate," he added.

Earlier this week, Metropolitan Inokentiy accused the three priests of conspiracy, saying that they are making plans "to switch to the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople".

In October 2018, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople agreed to recognize the independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

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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