Thursday, July 25, 2024

    ROC condemns Latvia’s episcopate for seeking autocephaly

    The ROC is furious about the situation of the Latvian Church. As we told in our previous publications, in the Latvian Orthodox Church, which has the status of a self-governing part of the Moscow Patriarchate, a new bishop Ioann (Lishans), an ethnic Latvian, was ordained by the Latvian Synod on July 24 as the bishop of Valmiera.

    The initiation was never agreed with Moscow. It should be recalled that, according to the Statute of the Russian Church, Latvia cannot independently elect and appoint new hierarchs as to this end they need permission from the Moscow Synod. However, referring to historical experience, the Latvian Church independently elected and ordained a new bishop.

    Moscow clerics were indignant at such actions of their branch, and that is why they first made a statement, and now they condemned such actions of their Latvian brothers at the Synod. The final verdict on this ordination, as well as its participants, will be handed down at the bishops’ Council of the ROC, the date of which is yet to be announced.

    Also, the Synod recalled that until the Latvian request for autocephaly is considered by the Local Council, no actions that go beyond the Statute of the Russian Orthodox Church, namely its XII chapter, can be taken.

    In this way, the Moscow Synod sent a signal to its Latvian branch. It is likely that Moscow is trying to intimidate the Latvian hierarchy. It is obvious that neither the local nor the bishop’s councils recognize this ordination, and they are unlikely to grant autocephaly to the LOC.

    It is worth noting that the application for consideration of autocephaly at the Local Council is a deliberate delay in resolving the request as such. After all, as recent history has shown, Local Councils in the Russian Church are convened only in the event of the death of the Moscow Patriarch. Their main goal is the election of a new patriarch. No other issues of church life are even considered there.

    Therefore, the most likely scenario of the developments will be as follows: the Synod of Bishops will not recognize the ordination, and will categorically condemn the actions of the head of the Latvian Church, Metropolitan Aleksandr. It is not only that he himself, in the best case, will be sent to rest – in the worst case, he will be banned from serving, or deprived of his rank altogether.

    Another option is possible, where the ordination is recognized, but the metropolitan is not punished. However, this is possible only in the case of a complete rejection of autocephaly by the Latvian Church.

    If the Latvian episcopate agrees to this, it will automatically face numerous problems in Latvia itself. After all, let us remind you that the Latvian authorities, led by the president, last year passed amendments to the state legislation, which recognized the Orthodox Church of Latvia as autocephalous. As we have already noted in previous publications, Moscow was not happy about such actions.

    The Latvian Church itself still has to maneuver between the Latvian authorities and Moscow church leadership. However, these maneuvers will eventually come to a conclusion. Will the Latvian Church be able to break with the ROC permanently and irreversibly? Time will tell.

    However, it does have such a chance. Many factors contribute to this, such as the support of the government and the church’s internal situation. By the way, it is much better than the situation of the same Russian branch in Ukraine. After all, unlike the so-called UOC (in unity with the Moscow Patriarchate), the Latvian Church has only three bishops, including the recently ordained one.

    Therefore, there is no reason to expect any internal split in Latvia. And the very fact of the election and ordainment of a new bishop testifies to an accord and unity of the Latvian hierarchs regarding the status and future of their Church. What will it be like? We’ll see.