VILNIUS - Some 60 Orthodox priests in Lithuania have condemned the desire of some priests to switch to the Patriarchate of Constantinople and voiced their support for Metropolitan Inokentiy of Vilnius and Lithuania.
A letter signed by 61 priests was published on Tuesday by the Chancery of the Lithuanian Orthodox Archdiocese.
"The current events are causing us sadness. On the one hand, it's the war that has mercilessly entered into every soul. On the other hand, it's the split within the Lithuanian Orthodox Church, organized by a group of priests and laity who took the opportunity to move to the Patriarch of Constantinople," the archdiocese said in its statement.
"These people are spreading slander about the leaders of the Lithuanian Orthodox Church and their brothers, misleading the public, luring parishioners, and threatening to destroy our well-meaning, peace-loving and law-abiding Orthodox community," it reads.
The appeal calls on the breakaway priests to repent and "return to the saving embrace of the Church", and also expresses hope that the authorities would engage in a dialogue with the Lithuanian Orthodox Church, its leader Metropolitan Inokentiy, and his Vicar Bishop Amvrosiy, rather than with a few breakaway priests "who have sinned against the God and tempted their close ones".
The Archdiocese says the appeal was written on the initiative of the priests shortly after Easter, and was handed over to the Church leaders at the General Assembly of the Clergy of the Lithuanian Orthodox Church on Monday.
Some Lithuanian Orthodox priests had asked the Patriarch of Constantinople to allow the Orthodox Church in Lithuania to restore its canonical subordination to the Patriarchate of Constantinople. It is now under the Patriarchate of Moscow, whose Patriarch Kirill openly supports Russia's war in Ukraine.
The head of the Lithuanian Orthodox Church has recently dismissed several Orthodox priests when they initiated a split from the Moscow Patriarchate and decided to ask the patriarch of Constantinople to become part of this Metropolia.
Having learnt about the prime minister's, the head of the Lithuanian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Inokentiy of Vilnius and Lithuania, asked the prime minister why the community's fate was being discussed without its knowledge.
In his words, the vast majority of Lithuanian Orthodox Christians are not even thinking about any change of jurisdiction.
Earlier, Inokentiy sacked several Orthodox priests when they decided to turn to the Patriarch of Constantinople to become part of the Metropolitan.
The Lithuanian Orthodox Church, one of Lithuania’s nine traditional religious communities, is a metropolitanate within the Patriarchate of Moscow and All Russia.