Ecumenical Patriarch plans Greek Orthodox branch in Lithuania

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The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew said on Tuesday he would work with authorities to establish a new Greek Orthodox branch in Lithuania to ensure faithful are not under the sole supervision of Moscow, according to Reuters.

“Today a new perspective opens before us…” the Ecumenical Patriarch told reporters in Vilnius after meeting Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte.

“The Ecumenical Patriarchate sacrificially offers itself to the service of the Orthodox faithful in Lithuania… This is an exceptional honour for us.”

In 2019, the Ecumenical Patriarch infuriated Moscow by recognising the newly established Orthodox Church of Ukraine as Ukraine’s official branch. Previously the Ukrainian Church had fallen under the authority of the Moscow patriarchate.

His latest move in Lithuanian has been welcomed by the country’s Prime Minister.

Simonyte said some of her country’s Orthodox believers, including Ukrainian and Belarusian refugees, objected to the current status of the Church there as a unit of the Russian Orthodox Church.

As of 2021 there were about 100,000 Orthodox believers in mainly Roman Catholic Lithuania, in a total population of 2.7 million.

“It is natural and human that, as Russia began its full-scale aggression in Ukraine with the open and active support of the Moscow Patriarch Kirill, some Lithuanian Orthodox can no longer in good conscience remain part of the Moscow Patriarchate,” Simonyte said.

The Russian Orthodox Church had no immediate comment.

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