Deputy General Secretary Raivo Küüt told ERR that the Metropolitan’s response satisfied the ministry and likely helped calm social anxiety.
“We can take comfort today knowing that the Metropolitan understood the situation and what it could mean to remain silent on these matters. We can say that things have worked out and that the congregations and churches in question are not broadcasting this particular ideology. The Metropolitan distanced himself from the statement and attitude of the Patriarch, and that, of course, satisfied us,” the Undersecretary said.
Theological history professor Priit Rohtmets takes a different view.
“The Metropolitan’s response matched the ministry’s question. Since then, he has given an interview in which he said the reason he refused to subscribe to the Patriarch’s message was because Kirill was speaking in a confused way,” Rohtmets explained.
In the interview with ERR Russian News, the Metropolitan said he believed the Patriarch did not incite war, but tried to make sure people did not lose their humanity in it.
“It comes down to admitting that he has no disagreement with the patriarch,” Rohtmets continued.
To understand why Metropolitan Eugene is and will remain faithful to the Patriarch, we must delve into the Orthodox tradition and its legal basis.
“There is a memory deeply rooted in the Orthodox tradition of the story of Noah from the Old Testament. Noah sinned after the great flood, witnessed by one of his sons who told his brothers and sisters. We know in retrospect that the son who exposed the sin of the father, lost God’s blessing and was even cursed in some way. That patriarchal knowledge still exists deep within people,” the father said. Toomas Hirvoja from the Nõmme Orthodox Church of John the Baptist.
He explained that the Patriarch is not without fault and is an imperfect human being like everyone else in the Orthodox tradition. “It’s hard to see inside people, but it seems darkness has fallen on him,” Hirvoja said of the patriarch.
The father added that, to begin with, no one is allowed to promise automatic absolution.
“It is completely contrary to Orthodox teachings. Even the Metropolitan said so. It is the blood of Christ that absolves a person of sin if we repent, admit and confess. To kill a person in war means to be cut off from Communion for three years is a period of penance.”
Studies suggest that around 400,000 people in Estonia claim to belong to a denomination or church, MPEÕK and the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church (EELK), the two largest having 170,000 members each. The separate Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church (EAÕK) under the Patriarchate of Constantinople has 30,000 members.
“The Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate is part of the structure of the Russian Orthodox Church. It is not a semi-independent or autonomous church like the EAÕK but what you call autonomous. This category was invented for the benefit of the churches in Estonia, Latvia and Moldova and means that the churches run their own administrative and economic affairs, while spiritually belonging to Moscow,” Rohtmets explained.
It is also within the power of the Moscow Patriarchate to appoint high-ranking religious leaders in Estonia.
“The Metropolitan is one of these positions. Their election can only take place with the blessing of the Patriarch who must approve the candidates and later the final choice.”
“The MPEÕK has not been able to establish a clerical formation for decades. This means that new members usually come from Russian academies and seminaries, which undoubtedly binds them and the congregation in Estonia, to Russia,” added the professor.
Estonian Orthodox believers condemned Russia’s aggression [in Ukraine] in several public addresses. There are those who believe that the Estonian Orthodox Church should have autocephaly.
“Indeed, I agree that autocephaly would be best under the circumstances, without having to coordinate the positions of Constantinople or Moscow. That would nullify the current debate because the head of the local church would be completely independent,” said Ljubov Kisseljova, professor emeritus. and member of the MPEÕK congregation.
Changes to the legal basis of the Church can be made by the Church Assembly, while such a decision would first have to be approved by the Patriarch of Moscow.
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