The head of the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (MPEÕK), Metropolitan Eugene, has made an announcement condemning Russia's war on Ukraine.
The metropolitan had been called upon by the interior ministry and the justice ministry to make such an announcement by today, Wednesday, or potentially face the revocation of his residence permit in Estonia, following remarks in support of the war by the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow.
Metropolitan Eugene also stated that he disagreed with Patriarch Kirill's claim that being killed in combat in the invasion of Ukraine would lead to the remission of sins on the part of the fallen.
The metropolitan stated on the churches' official website that the organization is both guided by Estonian legislation, by its own statutes and in accordance with Eastern Orthodox teachings in condemnation of war.
He wrote: "On March 19 2022, I joined a statement from the Estonian Council of Churches (Eesti Kirikute Nõukogu) which condemned the war and called for an end to hostilities. My position has not changed since then."
"At the very beginning of the war in Ukraine, I called on my church members not to submit to feelings of enmity and hatred, not to be drawn into political disputes, especially in the church environment, but to deal with helping refugees who have been left without shelter and without means of livelihood".
"€10,000 collected by our congregations have been transferred to the NGO Eesti Eesti Pagulasabi account. Parishioners of our church have worked in the reception centers for refugees, taken part in food drives and the donation of basic necessities, and where possible, have helped with [Ukrainian refugee] accommodation. Our priests have spiritually supported, and will continue to support, those Ukrainian refugees who attend MPEÕK parishes."
The church has, like all other Christian churches in Estonia, prayed for the end of the Ukraine war, he added, noting that many Eastern Orthodox Ukrainian refugees have attended worship at almost every congregation, which, he said: "Only serves to confirm that we have no war propaganda or incitement of hatred in our churches. Similar cases would be made public immediately, because the activities of all our churches are public and transparent."
Metropolitan Eugene says he also plans to attend a meeting at the Ministry of the Interior next Tuesday.
Interior minister Lauri Läänemets (SDE) expressed happiness over the statement, which he added was expected.
"With this, the Estonian Orthodox Church is actually backing away from the words of the Russian Patriarch Kirill, where he essentially said that [Russian leader Vladimir] Putin is the holy of holies, that the war in Ukraine is holy and by so doing essentially gave it his blessing," Läänemets said.
"I am very happy, that was actually the expectation we had for the church," he said, calling it the ministry's "only wish," and noting that similar conversations had been had in Finland and elsewhere, with the same outcome.
Minister Läänemets had earlier referred to Patriarch Kirill's speech as an influencing activity, one which is not permitted in Estonia, prompting the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Justice to request Metropolitan Eugene take a public position to condemn Russia's military activities, by October 12 at the latest.
The alternative would have been a proposal to the government to strip Metropolitan Eugene of his permanent residence permit, the minister said at the time, adding that as of Wednesday and following the statement, this was off the agenda.
The MPEÕK is a separate entity from the Estonian Orthodox Church (Esti Apostlik-Õigeusu Kirik), which is organizationally under the Constantinople Patriarchate and whose leader, Metropolitan Stephanos, has uncategorically condemned the war.
Editor: Andrew Whyte