Lithuania gives equal funding to Constantinople, Moscow-aligned Orthodox Christians - BNS SPECIAL

  • 2024-02-20
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – Lithuania this week allocated equal funding to the Lithuanian Orthodox Archdiocese subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate and to the recently established Exarchate of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, with both communities receiving 77,600 euros each.

Finance Minister Gintare Skaiste on Monday signed an order on the distribution of funds to the leaderships of traditional churches and religious organizations in Lithuania.

The move comes two weeks after the Constantinople-aligned Orthodox religious community registered as the Exarchate of the Ecumenical Patriarchate following its legal recognition by the Justice Ministry. 

The state recognition of the new church structure, which was created in the wake of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, granted it access to state financial support allocated to traditional religious communities.

"The official legal recognition of Orthodox Christians subordinate to Constantinople ensures funding for the needs of the community, as well as for other religious communities in Lithuania," the Finance Ministry has said in a comment to BNS.


Funds for traditional religious communities are allocated by the finance minister at the start of each year. This year, they were allocated a total of 1.69 million euros, unchanged from last year.

The Moscow-aligned Lithuanian Orthodox Archdiocese received 81,300 euros last year, when it was the only Orthodox Church in Lithuania.

As the funding for religious communities remains unchanged this year, the total share allocated to Orthodox Christians has almost doubled compared to last year, at the expense of other communities.

"Budget allocations to religious organizations' leaderships were distributed taking into account the canons and statutes of traditional Lithuanian churches and religious organizations, as well as believer numbers published by the State Data Agency," the Finance Ministry said in its comment. 

According to the latest population census conducted in 2021, there are about 105,000 Orthodox believers in Lithuania.

Some 1.48 million euros, less than last year, were allocated to the Roman Catholic community, which has almost 2.09 million believers.  

Other communities – Old Believer, Evangelical Lutheran, Greek Catholic, Judaist, Sunni Muslim and Karaite –  received the same or somewhat lower funding as last year.


The establishment of the new Constantinople-aligned church structure was completed in early January with the arrival of Justinus Kiviloo, an Estonian priest who leads the new exarchate.

Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople announced his intention to set up a church structure in Lithuania during his visit to the country last March. The move followed the patriarch's reinstatement of five Orthodox priests.

The clergy were accused of canonical offences and defrocked by Metropolitan Innokentiy of the Lithuanian Orthodox Church in 2022. 

The Patriarchate of Constantinople then ruled that the priests were removed for their stance on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, rather than for violating church rules.

The exarchate in Lithuania has ten clergy and ten congregations in different cities and towns.

Kiviloo told BNS in early January that the community, currently gathering in prayer houses of different denominations, would eventually have their own church, which their hope to build through donations.

Orthodox Christians in Lithuania are considered one of the nine traditional religious communities.