Lithuanian Orthodox Exarchate Begins Operations Under Ecumenical Patriarch
OCP News Service (With the sources from ort.fi) – 13/01/2024
Vilnius– Lithuania: After months of preparation, the newly established Exarchate of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Lithuania has begun its official work under the leadership of Exarch Justinus Kiviloo. This marks a significant development in the Lithuanian Orthodox landscape, offering an alternative structure for those seeking affiliation with the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
From Patriarchal Visit to Established Exarchate
The journey towards this new Exarchate began in March 2023 with the visit of His Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to Lithuania. During his trip, the Patriarch took five ostracized priests under his omophorion, priests who had been expelled from the Lithuanian Orthodox Diocese (affiliated with the Moscow Patriarchate) for criticizing the war in Ukraine. Additionally, the Patriarch announced his intention to establish an independent exarchate within Lithuania.
While the election of Exarch Justinus Kiviloo occurred last fall, official registration with the Lithuanian government took time. Now, with this hurdle cleared, Exarch Kiviloo has officially begun his work and outlined ambitious goals for the Exarchate.
Building Communities and Seeking Recognition
The Exarchate aims to establish ten congregations across Lithuania, fostering communities of Orthodox faithful around the country. However, the fledgling organization currently lacks its own dedicated sanctuaries. For now, services are held in rented facilities or spaces provided by Catholic and Protestant parishes.
One of the Exarchate’s immediate priorities is gaining official recognition from the Lithuanian state as a traditional religious community. This status would unlock access to crucial state support for the Exarchate’s activities and solidify its standing within the Lithuanian religious landscape.
Exarch Kiviloo underscores the historical background supporting such recognition, citing the “Lithuanian Metropolitanate, founded in the 14th century in connection with the Ecumenical Patriarchate,” as the oldest branch of Lithuanian Orthodoxy.
Familiar Face for Finns
For some, particularly in Finland, Exarch Kiviloo is a familiar figure. He served for many years as the Archdeacon to the head of the Apostolic Orthodox Church of Estonia, Metropolitan Stefanos. His connection to Finland further extends to his recent visit in September 2023 for the centenary celebration of their church’s autonomy.
Exarch Kiviloo, ordained a priest in 2013, brings experience from various roles in Estonia, including prison chaplain and parish priest. Now, in Lithuania, he faces the challenging yet potentially rewarding task of building a new Orthodox community under the banner of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
OCP News Service