Patriarch Bartholomew was misinformed about Lithuanian priests – bishop

  • 2023-02-20
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – The Lithuanian Orthodox Archdiocese says it disagrees with the Patriarchate of Constantinople's last week's decision to reinstate five Lithuanian Orthodox priests defrocked by the Moscow Patriarchate and claims that Patriarch Bartholomew was misinformed.

"It seems that Patriarch Bartholomew was misinformed and he did not have full information about the priests' actions in Lithuania, and apparently he did not know and is not aware of what they have done here in Lithuania and what canonical crimes they have committed against the Church (...), and in an attempt to justify it, they have accused our Church of supporting the war. They are completely wrong," Bishop Ambrose of Trakai told a press conference on Saturday. 

"We disagree with this decision and the defrocking of the former priests is final," he added.

Bishop Ambrose, who presented the position of the Lithuanian Orthodox Archdiocese, said that additional information could be provided to the Patriarchate of Constantinople, if necessary. 

"We can provide Patriarch Bartholomew with information on what the priests were doing here, if necessary," he stressed.

Bishop Ambrose also assured that the Church shares the same view of the war in Ukraine with the priests: "We pray every day for Lithuania, for its army and for all its people, and we pray every day for the war in Ukraine to end as soon as possible, we pray for peace and, God forbid, for that war not to start on our soil".

If the defrocked priests return to serve, they will commit a sin, the bishop said.

"Their attempt and some actions..., if they return to serve as priests, it will be a sin for them too as well as for the people who would to them," Bishop Ambrose stressed.

Last week, the Patriarchate of Constantinople reinstated five Lithuanian Orthodox priests, including Gintaras Sungaila, Vitalijus Mockus, Vitalis Dauparas, Georgij Ananjev and Vladimir Seliavko who were defrocked by last summer under the decrees of Metropolitan Innokentiy who leads the Lithuanian Orthodox Church and is subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate.

The priests then appealed with Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople.

The Lithuanian Orthodox Church is one of nine traditional religious communities in Lithuania. It has the title of a metropolia and is part of the Patriarchate of Moscow and All Russia.