History of EOC


The following communiqué is issued from the Chief Secretariat of the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate: 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". Due to the then existing political conditions and following the persistent request of the Patriarch of Moscow, the Tome was declared inoperative in 1978. 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 Ecumenical Patriarchate proceeded with this decision 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 said parishes declared categorically that even if the Ecumenical Patriarchate declined to receive them, under no condition would they remain any longer under the Patriarchate of Moscow. It is noted that in 1945 the Autonomous Church of Estonia was unilaterally and forcibly abolished by the Patriarchate of Moscow, following the annexation, under the might of weapons, of Estonia to the Soviet Union. At that time, the Primate of the Autonomous Orthodox Church of Estonia was compelled along with the clergy and laity of his Church to establish itself in Sweden as head of the Autonomous Orthodox Church of Estonia in Exile. Having regained political independence as a country, the reinstitution of the Autonomous Church of Estonia, forcibly abolished as indicated above, costituted a j ust request of the Estonian Orthodox. To this j ust 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. Following this, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, recognizing that it cannot be permitted to: a) neither betray the centuries-old tradition regarding the means and conditions by which autonomous and autocephalous Churches are instituted, b) nor to overlook the right of the Estonian Orthodox Church which by a two-thirds majority -more than 67%-- over which the Church of Russia has exercised unbearable pressure through continual punishment and sanctions, adamantly demands to reinstitute the operation of the former status of the ecclesiastical autonomy in effect prior to 1945 when it was abolished by the Soviets ; nor to overlook the similar unyielding demand of the Government of Estonia. c) nor, finally, to obliterate the future of Orthodoxy in the modem world, a world, which seeks Orthodoxy, through actions which essentially project it as either Slavonic or Greek as if those wishing to embrace Orthodoxy need first to be Greek or Russian, which would prove most disastrous for Orthodoxy and its message. With a painful soul the Ecumenical Patriarchate chose not to side with the mighty of the earth, but to uphold justice and responsibility. The Patriarchate prays for one and only one thing, that by all means the name of our Lord Jesus Christ be magnified and that Orthodoxy be glorified. Pursuing love and peace with all, excluding no one and in particular the Patriarchate of Moscow and its Primate His Beatitude Patriarch Alexy, the Church of Costantinople declares with joy and delight that it will accept whatever positive proposals the Church of Russia might offer for the good of the Estonian Orthodox Autonomous Church and for a better settlement of all matters concerning her.

At the Patriarchate, February 24, 1996, from the Chief Secretariat of the Holy and Sacred Synod.

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