St. Petersburg, August 25, 2023
Met. Alexander of Riga and All Latvia. Photo: bb.lv
The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church gathered yesterday in St. Petersburg. Among the issues the hierarchs discussed were recent events in the Latvian Orthodox Church.
Latvian Church celebrates episcopal consecration in Riga for first time in 80 yearsOn Sunday, August 13, His Eminence Metropolitan Alexander of Riga, His Eminence Archbishop Alexander of Daugavpils, and His Grace Bishop John of Jelgava consecrated Archimandrite John (Lipšāns) to the episcopacy. He was the first bishop to be consecrated in Riga since His Grace Bishop John (Garklavs) was consecrated in 1943.
“>On August 13, the hierarchs of the Latvian Church, led by His Eminence Metropolitan Alexander of Riga, consecrated Archimandrite John (Lipšāns) as Bishop of Valmiera. It was the first episcopal consecration in Riga in 80 years.
However, as a Self-Governing Church within the Moscow Patriarchate, the Latvian Church must receive the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill and the Holy Synod for any such consecrations, which it did not do in this case.
Recall that in Latvian Church amends statutes according to state law, appeals to Moscow for decision on its statusThe council was held on Thursday at the Church of All Saints in Riga under the chairmanship of His Eminence Metropolitan Alexander of Riga and All Latvia, with the participation of the other hierarchs, abbots and abbesses, representatives from the local seminary, and delegates from all parishes.
“>October 2022, the Council of the Latvian Church voted to amend its statutes in accordance with recent Latvian Parliament declares Church separate from Moscow PatriarchateIn the eyes of the Latvian government, the Latvian Orthodox Church is now completely independent and separate from the Russian Orthodox Church.”>state demands to separate itself from the Moscow Patriarchate. Accordingly, the Council wrote an appeal to Pat. Kirill to give a “canonical decision on the status of the Latvian Orthodox Church.”
However, as the Synod stated yesterday, according to Moscow Patriarchate statutes, only a Local Council, consisting of all hierarchs and clerical, monastic, and lay representatives, can change the status of a Church.
Moreover, Met. Alexander has ceased liturgical commemoration of Pat. Kirill.
The Holy Synod stated yesterday (Journal 51):
On August 13, 2023, in the Riga Cathedral of the Nativity of Christ, Metropolitan Alexander of Riga and All Latvia led the consecration of Archimandrite John (Lipšāns) as Bishop of Valmiera.
According to the statutes of the Russian Orthodox Church, the bishops of Self-Governing Churches, such as the Latvian Orthodox Church, are elected by the Synods of such Churches from candidates approved by the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia and the Holy Synod (Article 9 of Chapter XII of the statutes).
According to reports coming from Latvia, Metropolitan Alexander repeatedly departed from the canonical order of the liturgical commemoration of the primate of the Russian Orthodox Church, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia. Also, according to testimonies received by the Holy Synod, Metropolitan Alexander has demanded that the clergy of the Latvian Orthodox Church give up the canonical commemoration of the primate of the Russian Orthodox Church.
1. To condemn the actions of Metropolitan Alexander of Riga and All Latvia aimed at destroying Church unity.
2. To state that henceforth, until the Bishops’ Council and then the Local Council of the Russian Orthodox Church consider the appeal of the Council of the Latvian Orthodox Church of October 20, 2022, the norms provided for in Chapter XII of the statutes of the Russian Orthodox Church apply to the said Church.
3. The question of the possibility of recognizing the consecration of Archimandrite John (Lipšāns) as Bishop of Valmiera and the canonical responsibility of its participants should be submitted to the Bishops’ Council for consideration.
4. To emphasize the inadmissibility of violating the norms concerning the canonical order of the liturgical commemoration of the primate of the Russian Orthodox Church, provided for by Canon 15 of the First-Second Local Council.
The Bishops’ Council, which is a larger governing body, consisting of every hierarch of the Moscow Patriarchate, has been repeatedly delayed in recent years, first due to the COVID pandemic, then due to the difficulty of international travel due to the war in Ukraine.
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