|Date||23 February 1996–16 May 1996|
|Cause||Decision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to reestablish the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church as their autonomous church|
Russian Orthodox Church
Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church,
Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate
|Outcome||1.The Russian Orthodox Church severed full communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate for less than three months|
2. Still tensions between the EAOC and the EOCMP after the schism ended
|Part of a series on the|
|Eastern Orthodox Church|
The Moscow–Constantinople schism of 1996 was a schism which began on 23 February 1996, when the Russian Orthodox Church severed full communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, and ended on 16 May 1996 when the Russian Orthodox Church and the Ecumenical Patriarchate reached an agreement.
This excommunication by the Russian Orthodox Church was done in response to a decision of the synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to reestablish an Orthodox church in Estonia under the Ecumenical Patriarchate's canonical jurisdiction as an autonomous church on 20 February 1996. This schism has similarities with the Moscow–Constantinople schism of October 2018.
On 8 November 2000, in an official statement, the Russian Orthodox Church described this schism as "the tragic situation of February–May 1996, when, because of the schismatic actions of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in Estonia, Orthodox Christians of the Churches of Constantinople and Russia, who live all over the world in close spiritual contact, were deprived of common Eucharistic communion at the one Chalice of Christ."
Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, St. Tikhon, recognised in 1920 the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church (EAOC) as being autonomous (Resolution No. 1780) under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate, postponing the discussion concerning the EAOC's autocephaly. "After Patriarch Tikhon’s arrest by the Soviet government, contacts between him and the autonomous Estonian Orthodox Church were severed. Consequently, the autonomous Estonian Orthodox Church, which wanted to assert its ecclesiastical independence, decided to seek a fuller and final canonical recognition from the patriarch of Constantinople."
With the Estonian independence and the persecution of the Russian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Alexander Paulus of Tallinn and all Estonia asked the Ecumenical Patriarchate to receive his church (the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church (EAOC)) into the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. On July 7, 1923, Patriarch Meletios IV of Constantinople issued a tomos accepting the Estonian Church in the Ecumenical Patriarchate's jurisdiction with an autonomous status (Tomos 3348). This tomos "established under the Ecumenical Patriarchate the Autonomous Orthodox Apostolic Church of Estonia known as "Orthodox Metropolitanate of Estonia"" Some Orthodox Russians in Estonia decided to remain under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate. The Russian Orthodox Church considers that "Patriarch Meletius IV of Constantinople took advantage of the difficult situation of the Orthodox Church in Russia and illegally proclaimed jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople on the territory of the independent Estonia and transformed the Estonian Autonomous Orthodox Church into the Estonian Metropolia of the Patriarchate of Constantinople."
In 1940 the Soviet Union annexed Estonia. After 1944, Metropolitan Alexander of the EAOC went into exile in Stockholm, Sweden, with 23 members of his clergy and 7000 (or 8000) faithfuls. The church based in Stockholm remained attached to the Ecumenical Patriarchate and served around 10,000 Estonian Orthodox exiled in various countries. After the death of Metropolitan Alexander in 1953, the Ecumenical Patriarchate consecrated a new Estonian Orthodox bishop, bishop George (Välbe) , to oversee the Estonian Church based in Stockholm. After Välbe's death in 1961, his Estonian parishes were placed under local bishops of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
The Orthodox Church which remained in Estonia was incorporated into the Russian Orthodox Church after the Soviet annexed Estonia. On December 10, 1944, the synod of the Moscow Patriarchate promulgated the Ukase which ended the functioning of the Orthodox Church of Estonia and established in its place the Diocese of Tallinn and Estonia. This dissolution effectively took place on March 9, 1945. The Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church later declared it considered that "[t]he autonomy of the Orthodox Church of Estonia, accorded in 1923 by the Oecumenical Patriarch Meletios, was abolished in March 9, 1945 by force, unilaterally without respecting the canonical order and without informing the Oecumenical Patriarch about it nor waiting for his consentment".
In a letter sent to the then-Patriarch of Moscow Alexy II on 24 February 1996, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew wrote that "the Patriarchate of Russia during those years trespassed in countries under the spiritual jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, namely, Estonia, Hungary and elsewhere, always by the power of the Soviet army. The Church of Russia did not at the time seek the opinion of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, nor was any respect shown it. The annexation of the Orthodox Church of Estonia into the Most Holy Church of Russia happened arbitrarily and uncanonically. And it is certain that events which are uncanonical at one particular time are never blessed, never seen as efficacious, and never would they set a precedence."
On 13 April 1978, at the request of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Ecumenical Patriarchate deactivated the 1923 tomos which had established the autonomous Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church under the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew explained in 1996 it was "[d]ue to the then existing political conditions and following the persistent request of the Patriarch of Moscow" and "due to the circumstances of the times" as well as "for the sake of smooth relations with the Patriarchate of Moscow, at which time Estonia still constituted a section of the then Soviet Union" The Ecumenical Patriarch declared the tomos had been made "inoperative, but not invalid". "Due to demographic shifts, Russians made up the majority of the Orthodox population of Estonia by the end of Soviet rule."
After the fall of the Soviet Union and the renewed independence of Estonia in 1991, a dispute developed among the Orthodox community between those who wished to remain linked to the Moscow Patriarchate and those who wanted the autonomous Orthodox church under the Ecumenical Patriarchate to be reestablished. Lengthy negotiations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Ecumenical Patriarchate failed to produce an agreement.
"In 1991, after Estonia had broken away from the Soviet Union, the sovereignty of the Estonian Republic was restored. At the time, the ruling Bishop in Estonia was Cornelius (Jakobs). He held negotiations with the Government concerning a number of urgent internal ecclesiastical matters, which could not be resolved without state support. On 11 August 1993, instead of registering the representatives of the Russian Orthodox Synod, the Estonian State Department of Religions registered the representatives of the «Synod of the Estonian Orthodox Church in Exile» as the sole legal successor of the Autonomous Estonian Apostolic Church. That registration was of political and social importance because it made the «Synod of the Estonian Orthodox Church in Exile» the sole owner of all church-related immovable property in Estonia. The Russian Orthodox Church started legal proceedings to defend its legal and canonical position in the country, [arguing (?)] that the «Synod in Exile» had neither an episcopal structure nor an administrative office in Estonia, as required by Estonian law. In 1994, another unexpected event came to be added to the above. A petition signed by the representatives of 54 out of the 83 Orthodox parishes in Estonia formally requested to join the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The 54 parishes represented the majority of the Orthodox believers in the country, and included both Estonian-speaking and Russian-speaking communities. A year later, a series of negotiations between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate failed to reach a solution." "On 25 May 1995 Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, while in Finland, made a broadcast appeal to the Orthodox believers in Estonia, in which he called them to 'revive as soon as possible the Estonian Autonomous Orthodox Church in direct communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate'."
"On 3 January 1996, a delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church visited the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul for bilateral negotiations about the division among the Orthodox in Estonia. No agreement was reached, but the two sides agreed upon the continuation of the negotiations in Moscow on 2 February of the same year."
"On 4 January 1996, the Ecumenical Patriarch sent a pastoral letter «to the Orthodox communities in Estonia», in which he expressed his desire to «reactivate» the Autonomous Estonian Apostolic Church on the basis of the Tome (or decision) of the Ecumenical Patriarch in 1923. The letter expressed the hope to unite all in one church with a distinct diocese for the Russian-speaking parishes. On 16 January 1996, a delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, including one Finnish Orthodox bishop and one priest, visited Estonia in an attempt to reach a viable solution. They met with representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Estonian State authorities, including Prime Minister Tiit Vähi and the President Lennart Meri. After the meeting, statements were issued that the Ecumenical Patriarchate would accept Estonian Orthodox believers under its jurisdiction, but that it would also accept the division of the Orthodox community in Estonia into two parts and their belonging to two jurisdictions."
On 20 February 1996, saying it was "following the persistent request of the Estonian Government and the overwhelming majority of the Estonian Orthodox parishes, which requested they be placed again under the aegis of the Ecumenical Patriarchate," the Ecumenical Patriarchate decided to reestablish an Orthodox church in Estonia under the Ecumenical Patriarchate's canonical jurisdiction as an autonomous church by reactivating the tomos of 1923 which had been issued by Ecumenical Patriarch Meletios IV.
On 22 February 1996, the Ecumenical Patriarchate officially announced its decision to reactivate the tomos of 1923 and to re-establish the Autonomous Estonian Apostolic Church. This was done on the basis of the EAOC's continued existence in exile in Sweden.
On 24 February 1996, a delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, led by Metropolitan Joachim of Chalcedon, concelebrated the Divine Liturgy with Estonian clergy and in the presence of Archbishop John of Finland at the Church of the Transfiguration of Our Lord in Tallinn. That act marked the reactivation of the Autonomous Estonian Apostolic Church. On the same day, the Chief Secretariat of the synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate issued an official communiqué. In that communiqué, it was announced that Archbishop John of Karelia, primate of the Finnish Orthodox Church, had been assigned as locum tenens of the Autonomous Estonian Apostolic Church.
On 23 February 1996, the Russian Orthodox Church decided to declare the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church "as schismatic", "to suspend canonical and Eucharistic communion with the Patriarchate of Constantinople... and to omit the name of the Patriarch of Constantinople in the diptych of the Primates of the Local Orthodox Churches".
The next day, on February 24, to justify the Ecumenical Patriarchate's decision taken on 20 February 1996, the Ecumenical Patriarchate issued a communiqué, and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew sent a letter to the then-Patriarch of Moscow Alexy II.
On April 3 and 22 in 1996, the Joint Commission of the Patriarchates of Constantinople and Moscow met in Zurich to discuss the situation. On 4 March, head of the DECR, Metropolitan Kirill, said the transfer of the EAOC under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate was "canonically illegal" and that the ROC was ready to negociate with the Ecumenical Patriarchate on the issue.
1. "to let the Orthodox Christians in Estonia freely decide to which church jurisdiction they wish to belong"
2. "[That] the Patriarchate of Constantinople [would] agre[e] to suspend for 4 months its decision of 20 February 1996 to establish the Autonomous Church in the jurisdiction of Constantinople on the territory of Estonia and committed itself, together with the Moscow Patriarchate ‘to cooperate in the matter of presenting their positions to the Estonian government with the objective that all Orthodox Christians have equal rights, including the right to property’."
This agreement de facto led to the existence of two Orthodox churches on the Estonian territory: the Estonian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate and the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church. By this agreement, both the EAOC and the ROC agreed to tolerate each others "at least temporarily". After this decision, in Estonia 54 parishes were part of the EAOC, 29 were part of the ROC.
In September 1996, it was decided to prolong for another three months the moratorium concerning the Ecumenical Patriarchate's 20 February 1996 decision to reactivate its tomos. Other subsequent meetings between the Church of Constantinople and the Russian Orthodox Church were held in order to find a final agreement, but without much results. On 1 September 2000, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew declared he considered the 16 May 1996 decision as a "decision, which allows the existence of the two parallel jurisdictions in Estonia", while the Russian Orthodox Church officially stated it totally disagreed with this interpretation of the decision by the Ecumenical Patriarch and considered that Estonia was under the canonical jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate and that "the Orthodox communities on the territory of Estonia have been a part of the Russian Orthodox Church for seven centuries".
On March 9, 1999, the Congress of the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church met in Tallinn to consider the fact that the church still did not have a primate. Representatives from the Patriarchate of Constantinople were also present at the congress. The Congress decided to ask the Patriarchate to appoint Bishop Stephanos (auxiliary bishop of the Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of France ) as primate. On March 13, 1999, the Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople accepted the request and elected Stephanos as Metropolitan of Tallinn and All Estonia . While announcing this decision, Patriarch Bartholomew asked the Russian Orthodox Church to recognize Metropolitan Stephan as the "canonical and legal first hierarch of the Estonian Orthodox Church". The Russian Orthodox Church, "surely considering the region of Estonia an autonomous part of the historical canonical territory of the Moscow Patriarchate", refused to recognize the status of Metropolitan Stephanos granted to him by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
On 21 March 1999, bishop Stephanos was enthroned Metropolitan of Tallinn and All Estonia at the Church of the Transfiguration of Our Lord in Tallinn. Thereafter, Stephanos began preparing the General Assembly of the Church. The General Assembly took place on the 21st of June 1999 and the organs of the Church, the Synod and the Auditing Committee, were elected there. Moreover, Metropolitan Stephanos announced the names of the vicars general and of his secretariat. In January 2009, the Orthodox Church of Estonia established a synodal structure with the ordinations of two bishops: the bishop of Tartu, Elias (Ojaperv) , and the bishop of Pärnu-Saaremaa, Aleksander (Hopjorski) .
Metropolitan Stephanos declared in 1999 and in 2002 that there could only be one local Orthodox church in Estonia, but he does not oppose the Moscow Patriarchate turning the Estonian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate into a diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church in Estonia. According to the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church, the agreements decided at Zurich could have been the base which "could have launched a constructive common future" between both local churches of Estonia (the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church and the Estonian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate), but according to the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church the Russian Orthodox Church did not apply those agreements decided at Zurich whereas the Ecumenical Patriarchate did.
On 8 November 2000, in response to the 1 September 2000 visit of the Ecumenical Patriarch in Estonia, the Russian Orthodox Church, in an official statement, explained in details their version of the history of the 1996 schism. This statement also says that the Church of Constantinople had refused to hold the negotiations on 1 September 2000 for the visit of the Ecumenical Patriarch in Estonia; the goal of those negotiations would have been "to put an end to the four-years-long confrontation between the jurisdictions of the two Churches in Estonia". The official statement concluded: "The establishment by the Patriarchate of Constantinople of its jurisdiction in Estonia in February 1996, the appointment of ‘Metropolitan of All Estonia’ in March 1999 and the announcement made during Patriarch Bartholomew’s visit to Estonia in October 2000 of the renunciation of the compromise agreements which envisage parallel presence of the two jurisdiction in Estonia speak for the consistent intention of Constantinople to usurp canonical authority in Estonia and to deprive the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate not only of the legal, but also of the canonical right of succession in the country"
In 2007, delegates from the Russian Orthodox Church walked out of theological discussions with the Catholic Church because the Russian Orthodox Church did not recognize the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church and that, according to the statement by the Russian Orthodox Church issued thereafter, "the joint participation by delegates of the Moscow Patriarchate and the so-called Estonian Apostolic Church in an official session would mean the implicit recognition by the Moscow Patriarchate of the canonical (nature) of this church structure."
"In 2008 the Russian Orthodox Church suspended its membership of the Conference of European Churches over the dispute about the non-admittance of that part of the Estonian Orthodox Church which had decided to remain linked to the patriarchate of Moscow."
In 2008, the Russian Orthodox Church issued an ultimatum: the ROC would walk out of the Anglican-Orthodox dialogue if the EAOC was taking part in the dialogue. "In the same year the Russian Orthodox Church terminated its ecumenical dialogue with the Anglicans because the EAOC was participating as a recognized member church in this dialogue."
"The Moscow patriarchate continues to make two major claims that are unacceptable to the EAOC. The first is that the EAOC was established in 1996 (thus negating the Tomos of 1923); and the second is that Estonia remains as a canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church – widely taken to be a negation of Estonia as a sovereign state, deserving autocephaly in due season."
In September 2018, Metropolitan Hilarion, chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church, in a message to mass medias which was published on the official website of the External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church, declared: "the problem of Estonia, from our point of view, has not been solved, and the existence of two parallel jurisdictions, again from the point of view of church canons, is an anomaly."
The 1996 schism has similarities with the schism of October 2018. Both schisms were caused by a dispute between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Ecumenical Patriarchate over the canonical jurisdiction over a territory in Eastern Europe upon which the Russian Orthodox Church claimed to have the exclusive canonical jurisdiction, territory which after the collapse of the Soviet Union had become an independent state (Ukraine, Estonia). The break of communion in 1996 was made by Moscow unilaterally, as in 2018.
The fact that the 1996 schism over Estonia lasted only three months "has raised hope in some quarters that the new [2018 Moscow–Constantinople] schism might also be short"; a source from the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church even declared the Russian Orthodox Church "will likely back down [over Ukraine], just as it did over Estonia". However, on 15 October 2018, just after the break of full communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate by the ROC, Metropolitan Hilarion, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations, said in an interview to the mass media that "in 1996, the Church of Constantinople intruded into canonical territory of the Russian Church by establishing its jurisdiction in Estonia, and we were forced to break the Eucharistic communion with this Church"; Hilarion added that the Russian Orthodox Church "had not recognized this decision [of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in 1996] and do[es] not recognize it. However, the canonical crimes committed by the Patriarchate of Constantinople now [in 2018 after the 11 October 2018 declaration of the Ecumenical Patriarchate] are more grievous as it declared its intention to grant an autocephaly to a part of the Russian Orthodox Church, and not the part which once belonged to Constantinople."
In an interview given to the BBC on 2 November 2018, Archbishop Job, hierarch of the Church of Constantinople, rejected the idea that there could be two jurisdictions over Ukraine the way there is two jurisdictions in Estonia, stating that canonically there could be only one church on the territory of Ukraine and that therefore an exarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine was "simply uncanonical" and that in Ukraine "there can be no repetition of Estonia’s scenario".
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Patriarch Bartholomew issued an 'Act' on 20 February 1996 on the renewal of the 1923 Tomos of Patriarch Meletius IV and on the establishment of the ‘Autonomous Orthodox Estonian Metropolia’ on the territory of Estonia. Temporal administration was entrusted to Archbishop John of Karelia and All Finland. A schismatic group headed by the suspended clergymen was accepted into canonical communion. Thus the schism in Estonia became a reality.
On 23 February 1996, in response to the one-sided and illegal actions of Patriarch Bartholomew the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church resolved to recognize them 'as schismatic and compelling our Church to suspend canonical and Eucharistic communion with the Patriarchate of Constantinople… and to omit the name of the Patriarch of Constantinople in the diptych of the Primates of the Local Orthodox Churches.'
The text of the memorandum was agreed upon and included into the decisions taken by the Synods of the Orthodox Churches of Constantinople and Moscow on 16 May 1996. The document restored the interrupted communion between the two Patriarchates.
On May 16 both Holy Synods formally adopted the recommendations made at the Zurich meeting. The agreement provided for parallel jurisdictions in Estonia, and allowed individual parishes and clergy to join either the Estonian autonomous church under Constantinople or the diocese that would remain dependent on Moscow. For its part, Constantinople agreed to a four-month suspension of its February 20th decision to re-establish the Estonian autonomous church. Moscow agreed to lift the penalties that had been imposed on clergy who had joined the autonomous church. Both Patriarchates agreed to work together with the Estonian government, so that all Estonian Orthodox might enjoy the same rights, including rights to property. As a result of this agreement, full communion was restored between Moscow and Constantinople, and the name of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was again included in the diptychs in Moscow.
«It is customary to change the boundaries of the Churches as political entities and administrations change», declared Photios the Great, wise among the Patriarchs.
Accordingly, the Most Holy Mother Church of Constantinople --empowered by the strength of the Divine and Sacred Canons, numbers 9 and 17 of the holy 4th Ecumenical Synod in Chalcedon which state : «If any bishop or clergyman has a dispute with the Metropolitan of the same province, let him apply either to the Exarch of the diocese, or to the throne of the imperial capital Constantinople, and let it be tried before him» (Canon 9) and «If anyone has been unjustly treated by his own Metropolitan, let him complain to the Exarch of the diocese, or let him have his case tried before the throne of Constantinople, according as he may choose» (Canon 17) ; in addition, the 34th Canon of the Holy Apostles which exhorts the Churches of different nations, and especially those in free and independent States, should be formed into autonomous or autocephalous Churches under their particular Archbishop and bishops -- has accepted the rightful request of the Orthodox Christians in Estonia and of the honorable government of Estonia, which sought the full restoration in Estonia of the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church as it was before 1940, as an autonomous Church under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Therefore, our Modesty, together with the Most Reverend and Right Honorable Metropolitans, our dearly beloved brothers in the Holy Spirit and concelebrants in Christ -- having deliberated synodically, trustworthily taking care of the governance and the administration of all ecclesiastical matters and having foresight of what is proper, as has been the canonical custom from time immemorial that the Most Holy Ecumenical Throne has the right to adapt and to provide for the constitution and foundation of the Churches, appropriately addressing the needs of the times and the good estate of the entire assembly always striving for the harmonious and advantageous portrayal and governance of the local and the universal -- declare anew that the Patriarchal and Synodical Tomos of 1923 regarding the Orthodox Metropolitanate of Estonia is reactivated in all its articles. We also recognize as the lawful successors of the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church those who accepted the Tomos and unceasingly preserved her canonical continuation
[W]e issue our present Patriarchal and Synodical Act as declaration and assurance and as permanent representation of the matters considered and decided upon ecclesiastically regarding the reactivation of the Patriarchal and Synodical Tomos 1923
On February 20, 1996, the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate was convened and presided over by His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartolomew. Deliberating in the Holy Spirit, the Synod unanimously decided, by Patriarchal and Synodical Act, to declare the reactivation of the Tome of 1923 which had been issued during the tenure of Ecumenical Patriarch Meletios IV This Tome had established under the Ecumenical Patriarchate the Autonomous Orthodox Apostolic Church of Estonia known as "Orthodox Metropolitanate of Estonia".
In this spirit, the Mother Church of Constantinople in 1978, prompted by ecclesiastical economy, responding with brotherly love to the request of the Church of Russia, due to the circumstances of the times, proclaimed the Tomos of 1923 inoperative through a Patriarchal and Synodical Act. This means that the Tomos could not be enforced within Estonia which at that time comprised part of the Soviet Union ; the Tomos, however, was not regarded as being void, invalid or revoked.
But already, by 1991, Estonia, having become a free and independent state, demands, in accordance to the practice for all Orthodox nations, that the former autonomous status of the Orthodox Church in Estonia be restored through the reactivation of the Patriarchal and Synodical Tomos of 1923, which calls for returning to the fatherland, where she had been abolished, the exiled Autonomous Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church, as it was officially called from 1935 onwards.
Having regained political independence as a country, the reinstitution of the Autonomous Church of Estonia, forcibly abolished as indicated above, costituted a j ust [sic] request of the Estonian Orthodox. To this j ust [sic] request the Mother Church, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, out of a sense of responsibility and by canonical and historical right, was duty-bound to respond in with compassion to their request and in their defense. This request of the Estonian Government and the Estonian Orthodox clergy and laity met with opposition by His Beatitude the Patriarch Alexy of Moscow and All Russia, even though, as has firmly been the case in Orthodoxy, all autocephalous and autonomous Orthodox Churches were so declared, always according to the demand of the governments of the countries of these Churches, as well as of their clergy and laity. In its effort to avoid all antagonism within the bosom of the Orthodox Church, the Ecumenical Patriarchate entered into bilateral discussions with the Most Holy Church of Russia that they might reach a solution of compromise acceptable by all. Unfortunately, due to the intransigent position of the Patriarchate of Moscow, these discussions pursued over a two-year period did not bring about any positive results.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate has assigned the neighboring Archbishop John of Karelia and all Finland as Locum Tenens of the reinstated Autonomous Orthodox Metropolitanate of Estonia. Archbishop John will oversee the restructuring of the Metropolitanate ad referendum to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which will then proceed with the election and installation of the canonical hierarchs of the Metropolitanate.
The 1996 Zurich agreements between the Patriarchates of Constantinople and Moscow led to the current ecclesiastical situation. By these agreements Moscow recognizes the Orthodox Church of Estonia (EAOK) and Constantinople admits the existence of a jurisdiction of Moscow Patriarchate in our canonical territory. It is not an ideal one, but at least it has the merit of offering temporarily a viable and peaceful space to both one and the other. Still, it is necessary to respect them strictly. That is not the case everywhere.
La décision du Patriarche Cyrille de Moscou et de son Saint Synode de rompre la communion avec le Patriarche Bartholomée m’a beaucoup étonné mais pas du tout surpris. Si je la compare avec ce qui s’est passé en Estonie en 1996, elle est plus qu’affligeante. Finalement, pour résoudre la crise estonienne, l’on se mit d’accord à Zurich au cours de même année en proposant une solution qui aurait pu préparer un avenir commun constructif entre les deux juridictions locales (Constantinople et Moscou) s’il avait été respecté de part et d’autre. Plus de vingt ans sont déjà passés. Il s’avère que cet accord est devenu caduc et par conséquent non applicable à cause de sa non-application par le seul Patriarcat de Moscou. Qui peut encore imaginer après cela que l’on peut faire confiance à des gens qui signent d’abord et ne respectent pas leur engagement ?
Moskva patrarhi Kirilli ja tema Püha Sinodi otsus lõpetada suhted patriarh Bartolmeusega oli minu jaoks üllatav, kuid mitte ehmatav. Kui ma võrdlen seda otsust 1996. aastal Eestis toimunuga, siis on see enam kui laiduväärne. Selleks, et leida Eesti kriisile lahendus, leppisime me samal aastal Zürichis kokku abinõudes, mis oleksid loonud ühise konstruktiivse tuleviku kahele erinevale jurisdiktsioonile (Konstantinoopoli ja Moskva), kui seda oleks mõlema poolt täidetud. Tänaseks on möödunud juba enam kui kakskümmend aastat. Need otsused on muutunud tühiseks ning sellest tulenevalt ka mittekohaldatavaks, sest Moskva Patriarhaat pole neid järginud. Kas leidub keegi, kes usub, et saame usaldada neid, kes küll kirjutavad oma kohustustele alla, kuid ei täida neid?