Tuesday, March 21, 2023

On the EP's entry into Lithuania

Some weeks ago I made mention of Patriarch Bartholomew's decision to reinstate some clergy in Lithuania. Many people thought this was the first chess gambit towards a longer game. Many people were right.

(Orthochristian.com) - Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė signed a cooperation agreement today to formally establish the presence of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

The Patriarch and state are thus establishing a parallel jurisdiction in the Baltic state, as Lithuania is universally recognized within the Orthodox Church as the canonical territory of the Moscow Patriarchate.

“Today, a new perspective opens before us and an opportunity to jointly seek the establishment of the Exarchate of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Lithuania,” Pat. Bartholomew said after signing the agreement, reports lrt.lt.

The Prime Minister had declared as early as May that the state was willing to help Constantinople set up shop. However, the PM is known to distort facts about the Church’s stance and activity.

Recall that Pat. Bartholomew recently received a handful of canonically defrocked clerics under his omophorion, unilaterally nullifying the actions taken by the canonical authority over them. They served their first Liturgy as clerics of Constantinople in Vilnius on Sunday.

The Lithuanian Church, of course, rejected Constantinople’s arbitrary actions.

Meanwhile, the Lithuanian Church published a statement yesterday, before the agreement was signed, extending an invitation to Pat. Bartholomew to venerate the relics of the Holy Martyrs of Vilnius Anthony, John, and Eustathius that are housed in the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, as “a sign of honor and reverence for the elevated rank of the head of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Orthodox faith of the members of his delegation.”


  1. Years ago, a hieromonk said to me that, just as we talk about the Age of the Councils, future generations may look back on the Age of the Patriarchates.
    It seems to me that the system of Patriarchates that we've seen as the model of Church governance is tearing itself apart, with Moscow & Constantinople taking the lead.
    Where will the Church be, organizationally, in 100 years (if Christ has not returned)? I think we're witnessing a profound shift into something new, but have no idea what it will be.
    Orthodoxy in the US has for the most part found a way to live and even prosper in a post-"canonical territory" world. Maybe that should encourage us about the future.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. "...It seems to me that the system of Patriarchates that we've seen as the model of Church governance is tearing itself apart..."

      Yes! Not that anyone wants to really talk about it. That said, the "system" (most refer to it as "canonical") has not "teared itself apart" so much as fallen apart, quite slowly, over the last 1300 years since the fall of the culture in which and for which is was designed, namely the Roman Empire.

      "...I think we're witnessing a profound shift into something new, but have no idea what it will be..."

      We do have clues. The history of western Christendom reveals to us some of the fundamentals of a Christendom/Cult-ure (of Church) fracturing and dividing. It's not that the ecclesiological (and soon - really concurrently if you know where to look, theological) fracturing of this "Canonical" Imperial Church of the East will follow the exact path, but we do know some of the fundamental forces. Fr. John Strickland's "The Age of...." series is an excellent place to begin to understand.

      "...Orthodoxy in the US has for the most part found a way to live and even prosper in a post-"canonical territory" world..."

      On the contrary, Orthodoxy in the historical boundaries of western Christendom (i.e. western Europe, North and South America, Australia/New Zealand, etc.) is not doing well at all, and does not have a clue as how to "be" (ontologically) a self sustaining (let alone growing) sub-culture within the larger secular/post Christian culture. The bishops own demographic work reveals how we have shrunk every decade since the surge of Orthodox immigrants in the early/mid 20th centuries. I can't recall the exact numbers off the top of my head, but there are only about 120,000 (again, a number that shrinks every year) worshipers attending an Orthodox parish on any given Sunday (this includes the recent convert phenomena of the last 30 years or so). If the immigrants had managed to pass the faith on to just half of their children, there would be something like 3.5 million. These facts are hardly ever acknowledged, and when they are irrelevancies such as "Administrative Unity" are offered as the solution.

      Orthodoxy (as a culture) is quite naïve and ignorant when it comes to what a secular culture even is, and how it works *within* (a person, a parish, an 'ecclesia', a culture). It has much work to do, and for the foreseeable future Orthodoxy is only going to continue to shrink and lose it's children...naïve optimism (disguised as piety) will not do...

      (sorry for the reposts - more typo's than normal in me today)

    4. Jake - do you have any thoughts or suggestions as to what it would look like for Orthodoxy to find its place within modern secular culture? I have some ideas about this when it comes to liturgical arts, but curating liturgical art for the appreciation of the secular world isn't an adequate answer. We've seen the limitations of that approach in the Anglican church.

    5. Andrew, you do very interesting work! My 'first impression' judgement (so probably wrong ;) ) is your work (and others, such as the women who is painting our liturgical icon's with a strong south west influence for our new church here in southern New Mexico) is a *synthesis* artistically of 'byzantine' and old world iconic tradition with whatever is around us at this time.

      More to you question, I honestly don't know what it will look like. I can think of many negative examples. In my opinion, much work needs to be done on the *theological* side, or if you will on the spiritual side (since in Orthodoxy we understand theology to flow out of prayer, praxis, living ontology). Besides a few, such as Schmemann and more recently Rod Dreher (whose 'Ben Op' work is misunderstood by so many) the core of the matter is hardly addressed.

      I suspect a real and honest grappling with how to "be" Orthodox in this secular age will result in very difficult questioning and significant changes. For example, is our lived praxis within the parish working? The rhythm of our parish/service life was created in and for a different age - a Christendom and village life. Modern life in a secular age is very different, and these rhythm's are proving inadequate. Yet as you point out, how do you do such a thing without simply succumbing to the spirit of the age, as the Anglican's , or arguably even our own GOA communicants (thinking of the glass iconostasis, the faddish/modernistic theology, etc.) have shown us.

      So right now the answer is hidden, at least to me.

  2. Next move in this depressing contest: MP churches in western Turkey?

  3. Hard to blame the Baltic states for wanting to avoid a repeat of Stalin's annihilation of their freedom...

  4. I do not see how this affects the Lithuanian State. Lithuanians are not Orthodox. They are RC. The canonical church in Lithuania (MP) is made of Ethnic Russians that speak Russian and want to continue being part of the Russian Church. At the end of the day there is no more than 130K orthodox in all of Lithuania. This move will come back to haunt the Phanar. It thinks its gaining but is really just digging its own grave.