Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 12

The Patriarch of Constantinople (Istanbul), Bartolomeos I, has agreed to resume his patriarchy’s canonical jurisdiction over Estonia’s Apostolic Orthodox Church (EAOC). Most of the 80 Orthodox parishes in Estonia now affiliated with the Moscow patriarchy are said to have announced their intention to switch to the EAOC and Constantinople, while the Moscow-ordained Russian Orthodox bishop in Estonia has spearheaded legal and political actions against the move. The shift in jurisdiction has important political implications, as Orthodoxy is the creed of Estonia’s Russian and "Russian-speaking" population. The EAOC was affiliated with Constantinople prior to the Soviet occupation of Estonia, an affiliation later sustained by refugees in Sweden under the authority of the Stockholm Synod. During the Soviet period, the Moscow patriarchy took over Estonia’s Orthodox churches and the property of the EAOC. The latter returned to Estonia last year and re-registered under its old name. Courts have since mandated restitution of its pre-war property.

Envoys from Constantinople met separately this week with Estonian clergy and with President Lennart Meri, Prime Minister Tiit Vahi, and other state officials. At yesterday’s meeting, Meri supported EAOC’s decision to allow Moscow-affiliated congregations free use of church buildings. The president stressed that church and state were separate in Estonia and that jurisdictional maters must be settled within the church. Under Estonian law, church property unlawfully expropriated during the Soviet era must be returned to the rightful owner, Meri said. (12)

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