Revocation of the residence permit of the head of the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (MPEÕK), Metropolitan Eugene cannot be ruled out, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Internal Affairs said, adding that any decision will depend on the metropolitan's stance on the Ukraine war.
"If there are legal grounds for revocation and should it prove necessary, a residence permit can be revoked at any time, irrespective of the physical location of its holder," Ilmo Au, head of the ministry's religious affairs department, said. Metropolitan Eugene is currently in Russia.
Estonian authorities want Eugene to publicly comment on the words of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia justifying Russia's aggression in Ukraine.
For this purpose, the metropolitan was summoned for a meeting with ministry undersecretary Raivo Küüt last week. Because Eugene was not in Estonia at the time, the meeting was attended by Vicar Bishop Sergi and Archpriest Juvenalius.
"We want to learn the position of the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate and its head regarding statements by Patriarch Kirill made on Sunday, September 25. We emphasized that we expect the church to explain and communicate its stance on Kirill's statement publicly, Au said on Tuesday.
Head of the Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill said on September 25 that Russian soldiers fighting Ukraine are answering their calling and discharging their duty to the homeland and society, which is why their actions amount to a sacrifice and demonstrate loyalty to vows. Kirill said that Russian soldiers who fall are absolved of any and all sins.
Au clarified that undersecretary Küüt told MPEÕK representatives on September 28 that the patriarch's statements can be treated as obvious influence activity and a vindication of the Russian Federation's aggression in Ukraine.
"Such influence activity is not permitted in Estonia, and the church must ensure its flock divine service free of suasion. The positions of the church and its head must also not constitute such influence activity. Should something like that take place, sanctions reflecting the nature of acts and motivation of perpetrators will follow," Au warned.
The patriarch's statement has drawn criticism from Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform), Minister of Internal Affairs Lauri Läänemets (SDE) and President of the Estonian Council of Churches, Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church (EELK) Archbishop Urmas Viilma. The latter described the Russian church leader's address as a justification of violence.
Ilmo Au said that a residence permit can be revoked based on grounds provided in section 135 of the Aliens Act. "Every person who resides in Estonia based on a residence permit must comply with conditions that apply to this particular grounds for residence, for example, section 124 of the Aliens Act. The permit can be revoked if there is proof of failure to comply or meet conditions," the ministry's representative said.
Section 135 of the act provides that a fixed-term residence permit will be revoked if a foreigner's actions pose a threat to public order or national security. Clause 4 of subsection 2 of section 124 of the same act provides that a fixed-term residence permit will be denied if the foreigner has, is or there is reason to believe they have, are or will incite racial, religious or political hatred and violence.
The ministry's department chief revealed that MPEÕK representatives suggested Metropolitan Eugene is in Russia for health reasons where he will likely remain until he has made a full recovery.
Editor: Marcus Turovski