Constantinople vs. Moscow

  • 2000-11-09
  • Aleksei Gynter
TALLINN - Bartholomeos, the head of the Russian Orthodox church's Constantinople Patriarchy, said in Estonia on Nov. 1, Moscow should replace Cornelius, the present Russian Orthodox bishop.

His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomeos, archbishop of Constantinople, the New Rome and ecumenical patriarch spent a week in Estonia and met major politicians, including the prime minister, the president and others.

At a press conference held on the last day of his visit, Nov. 1, Bartholomeos said it would be advisable to substitute Cornelius.

"Cornelius refused to cooperate after the Estonian Apostle-Orthodox church regained independence," said Bartholomeos, adding that Cornelius has been disseminating untrue information among orthodox believers in Estonia.

The Orthodox church in Estonia has two basic branches, and the Estonian Apostle-Orthodox church is one of them. EAOC is an independent unit, but is indirectly ruled by Constantinople. The head of EAOC is metropolitan Stephanos.

The other branch, headed by Cornelius is under the Moscow Patriarchy. There are currently about 50,000 orthodox believers in Estonia.

Moscow and Constantinople have been arguing for Estonian parishioners since Estonia proclaimed independence in 1918. The Orthodox church became subordinated to Constantinople four years later.

In 1996, the Moscow and Constantinople patriarchies had even quit diplomatic relations for three months, but later signed a peace agreement stating there will be two Orthodox confessions in Estonia and that parishioners are free to choose one of them.

Henn Tosso, the recently retired secretary of the EAOC, said the basic reason for the conflict between Moscow and Constantinople is church property, including 30,000 hectares of land.

There must be peace in the church, and there is a way to achieve it, said Tosso. "Before World War II, there were two episcopates - for Russian and Estonian parishioners - under one church government," he remembered.

Tosso said that restoring that situation is easy, at least in the legal sense.