Constantinople-aligned Orthodox Christians in Lithuania to raise funds to build church

  • 2024-04-15
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – Lithuanian Orthodox Christians under the Patriarchate of Constantinople will set up a fund to raise money for the construction of a church.

The Assembly of the Exarchate, a gathering of clergy and laity, took the decision during its first meeting at a Roman Catholic church in Vilnius last Saturday. 

"We agreed to establish a fund to (...) collect support for the construction of a church in Vilnius," Gintaras Sungaila, an Orthodox priest, told BNS after the gathering.

The Constantinople-aligned Orthodox Christians do not yet have a specific location for their church and hope to reach an agreement with the state on the lease or transfer by the right of trust of a land plot. 

"Nothing has been decided at the moment, but we hope that it will be the state's help in one form or another," the cleric said.

It is estimated that the new church could cost between three million and five million euros.

"We have received assurances from private individuals that they could provide support, but we have not yet received any concrete donations for the construction," Sungaila said. 

"Once the fund is set up, we will start collecting. The date of establishment depends on bureaucratic procedures," he added. 

The Assembly also discussed the Exarchate's day-to-day affairs, including the election of the Council and the approval of annual activity and financial reports. 

The Exarchate of the Patriarchate of Constantinople was officially established in Lithuania in February, allowing it receive almost 80,000 euros in state support later that month.

The community began to form in March 2023 after the visit of Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople to Lithuania.

Efforts to establish the new Orthodox community started amid a conflict between several clergy and the Lithuanian Orthodox Archdiocese, which is subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate.

The Archdiocese accused the priest, including Sungaila, of canonical offences and defrocked them. 

However, the Patriarchate of Constantinople ruled that the priests had been removed for their stance on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, rather than for violating church rules, and reinstated them.