VILNIUS – Three Lithuanian priests belonging to the Russian Orthodox Church and criticizing Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine and Patriarch Kirill have left their posts.
The head of the Lithuanian Orthodox Archdiocese, Metropolitan Inokentiy, has dismissed Vitalijus Mockus, while the other two priests, Gintaras Jurgis Sungaila and Vitalis Dauparas, have not only been dismissed but also suspended from any active ministry within the Church.
The bernardinai.lt news website was the first to break the news on Friday.
The Orthodox Church in Lithuania later stated that those decisions were “exclusively related to the internal matters of the Church”.
“No external circumstances had an impact on the decisions made,” the Church said in comments.
Dauparas was the first Lithuanian Orthodox to condemn the words of Patriarch Kirill, and he had already, on his own initiative, withdrawn from active participation within the Lithuanian diocese because of the "Russian world" the patriarch was promoting.
Sungaila told the bernardinai.lt news website that the comments issued by the Church “were partly true”.
“We have made such statements. Personally, I wrote that I … cannot mention Patriarch Kirill in the liturgy as it goes against my conscience. I cannot call him … “our father”. And if I have to do that further, I will leave,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mockus told reporters on Friday that he had decided to leave his post as it was not enough to be against the war in the current circumstances as it was a moral must to evaluate what was going on in Ukraine.
“People are suffering, come to pray for their relatives who were killed during the war. And how can you look them in the eye and support the patriarch who makes such statements?” Sungaila said.
In mid–March, the Lithuanian Orthodox Church condemned Russia's war against Ukraine and vowed to seek greater independence from Moscow.
In a sermon delivered on February 27, three days after Russia invaded Ukraine, Kirill called Moscow's opponents in Ukraine "evil forces" fighting against "the unity of Russia".
The Lithuanian Orthodox Church, one of Lithuania's nine traditional religious communities, is a metropolitanate within the Patriarchate of Moscow and All Russia.