Bishop Daniel: Misconception of church members' guilt created by Russian People’s Council

  • 2024-05-07
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN - The World Russian People’s Council has created a public impression that members of the Russian Orthodox Church bear guilt that must be atoned for through public disavowal and cutting ties with their roots and origins, said Vicar Bishop Daniel of the Diocese of Tallinn, head of the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate.

"We have emphasized many times that the World Russian People’s Council is a socio-political entity that includes various state, social, and political organizations operating in Russia. The People’s Council is chaired by the patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, yet it is not a church organization that speaks on behalf of the church, much less on behalf of the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate," Vicar Bishop Daniel said.

"In addition to the patriarch and several bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church, the People’s Council includes university rectors and professors, chairs of regional and city legislative bodies, chief editors of children's magazines, and so on. Should the Estonian parliament now start declaring all these organizations individually as justifying aggression?" he asked.

The vicar bishop noted that both the interior minister and several other politicians have acknowledged that the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate and its congregations have not committed any violations, and there are no complaints against them.

"If we were to describe the so-called average faithful church member, it is someone who does not seek confrontation or conflict with the state where they live. At every service, we also pray for our country, our people, and our armed forces," he said.

"There have been no court cases where any of our clergy, church workers, or active laypeople have been found guilty of violating Estonia's constitutional order, yet the media still approach our church members with certain claims and demand justifications from them."

The bishop questions whether the presumption of innocence no longer applies to church members. 

"The recent statement by the World Russian People’s Council and its interpretation have created an impression in the public eye that our church members bear guilt that must be atoned for by publicly renouncing and severing ties with their roots and origins. If such decisions were made within the congregation and based on the congregation's conviction, a solution could be found, and it would be canonically correct," he said.

"If, however, it is done solely at the insistence of secular authorities, putting pressure on the religious and conscience freedom of congregation members and clergy, and disregarding their constitutional rights and canonical church order, then it is doubtful that such an approach would benefit society," the vicar bishop said.