Lithuanian Metropolitan Vikentius is deeply disturbed by the contacts of the Lithuanian government with the Ecumenical Patriarchate. In a statement on the diocese’s page, he said that the government was contacting the Ecumenical Patriarchate without his knowledge and, protecting the interests of a small group of affected clerics, came into conflict with the majority of the faithful in the diocese:
“As it became known, on Monday, September 19, representatives of the Lithuanian authorities met with Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople in Fener (Istanbul). In laconic messages published on the pages of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry, it is said that on September 19, 2022, His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew received a Lithuanian delegation led by Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Mantas Adomenas. During the meeting, which was also attended by the advisor to the Prime Minister of Lithuania, Galina Vashčenkaite, and the Ambassador of Lithuania to Turkey, Richardas Degutis, the Patriarch and representatives of the Lithuanian state authorities “discussed the ministry of the Mother Church”, the situation in the Orthodox Church and in Lithuania , as well as other matters of mutual interest”.
According to Metropolitan Innokenty, “such actions by the authorities are extremely worrying, as once again the problems related to the Orthodox community in the country are being solved behind its back and without its participation. At the same time, the public is not informed about the actions of the authorities and their goals.”
Already in May, the Lithuanian government turned to the Ecumenical Patriarchate with a proposal to create its own parishes on the territory of the country, thereby giving the opportunity to clerics and believers who disagree with Moscow’s church policy to gather there. This aggravated the position of the Lithuanian Metropolitan, and soon after he dethroned five of the clerics closest to him at that time, accusing them of seeking “schism”.
The Orthodox Church in Lithuania has the status of a diocese of the Moscow Patriarchate, it has 50 parishes and 39 clergy (priests and deacons in total). The support of the Moscow Patriarchate for the war created a problem for the conscience of some of the clerics, and they publicly expressed their disapproval of the preaching and actions of Patriarch Kirill. In this reaction, they also supported their diocesan bishop, who also condemned the invasion. In May, the Lithuanian Metropolitan even made a request to the Moscow Patriarchate to change the status of the Church in the country and make it a self-governing diocese in order to respond to the sentiments among the faithful. However, this request was not granted. Soon after, the atmosphere in the diocese changed sharply, and Metropolitan Vicentius removed all the priests critical of the war who had until then been in his closest circle. This caused turmoil and divisions in the country’s already small Christian community.