Dear participants in the press conference,
Your Eminence Stephanos, Metropolitan of Tallinn and
All Estonia, dear brother in Christ,
Reverend and dear clergy,
People of the Lord,
Leaving friendly Estonia and ending our official visit
here and to the autonomous Estonian Orthodox Church,
we first of all like to express our joy and content
on the success of this historical event.
We would also like to thank Their Excellencies, the
President and Prime Minister of the Republic of Estonia
and to all central and local authorities for the invitation
to this country that bas never been visited by an
Ecumenical Patriarch and for good organizing work
that enabled the visit to be succeeded easily.
The Estonian Orthodox Church (EOC) was granted autonomy
in 1923 by the patriarchal and synodal tomos on the
petition of the then Metropolitan Alexander of Tallinn
and All Estonia. Patriarch Tychon of Moscow also recognized
the autonomous status of the Estonian Church in 1920.
According to the tradition of the Orthodox Church,
such a tomos cannot be annulled. For that reason,
Metropolitan Alexander who flew abroad was considered
the head of the EOC until his death in 1953. After
that, Metropolitan of Thyatira and Great Britain was
named as his locum tenens and an Estonian called Mûri
Välbe was ordained vicar bishop. He served as
a bishop until his death in 1961. But because of well-known
historic conditions, the EOC could not act in homeland
under the Soviet regime. So our predecessor, memorable
Patriarch Demetrios arrested the operation of the
tomos of 1923 in Estonia.
As the conditions changed, however, it was possible
recently to restore the EOC and so on 1996 the tomos
of 1923 was again brought into operation by a patriarchal
and synodal act. According to an agreement reached
in Geneva, every parish in Estonia could freely choose
whether to be under the jurisdiction of the EOC or
the Moscow Patriarchate. It meant clearly one thing:
that there exists, on one band, an autonomous Orthodox
Church in Estonia, which continues of the activity
of the pre-war EOC and on the other hand, there are
parishes which are under the jurisdiction of the Moscow
Patriarchate. There is no second local Orthodox Church
here - this is forbidden by the canons - but the spiritual
presence of the Moscow Patriarchate is to certain
limits extended into the territory of another Church.
This is an economy (a concession to the exact sense
of the canons) and is analogous to the system of exarchates
and stauropegic monasteries and parishes.
According to this agreement, all the Orthodox parishes
in Estonia chose, under who they wanted to be. The
EOC later elected according to its rules, bishop Stephanos
as the Metropolitan of Tallinn and All Estonia. His
Eminence Stephanos had formerly been a bishop in France.
He is an outstanding personality, adorned by great
piety, Orthodox sense, ecumenical experience, pastoral
and organizing abilities, administrative experience
and adaptability to local conditions. He has written
a lot of books, some of which have been translated
to other languages and he knows French, Russian, English,
Dutch, Greek and Swahili languages.
All these gifts of God he has dedicated to the rebuilding
of the EOC.
Concerning the registration of the parishes of the
Moscow Patriarchate and the return of property of
the pre-war Church in Estonia, the Ecumenical Patriarchate
does not interfere in these matters, as they are arranged
according to the Estonian laws.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate re-enacted the tomos of
1923 because it was a duty of it according to the
sacred canons, which give it into its competency to
take care of the normal functioning of the local Orthodox
Churches in difficult circumstances. The same care
was taken also of the Albanian Orthodox Church.
Taking these steps, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has
not taking into account its own advantage, but only
the advantage of the local Churches. On the contrary,
the Patriarchate has made great efforts and costs
in doing this.
The main aim of our visit was to support the EOC by
word and by a feeling of being part of the world-wide
Orthodox Church. Through us, all the Estonian Orthodox
can feel that they are part of the one, holy, catholic
and apostolic Church, which is made up of local autocephalous
and autonomous Churches.
We also hope that the opposition of one local Church
to this will end, if they think more coolly about
it. A more thorough treatment of the subject is needed.
The oldest organization of the Church in the time
of apostles was like that: every town had its bishop,
who acted independently of the neighboring bishops.
Afterwards, a need for a primate was felt for the
bishops every district, but the equality was retained.
In the end, a system of bigger entities, the five
older Patriarchates (Rome, New Rome -Constantinople,
Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem), did develop. According
to the canons enacted by the 2nd and 4th Ecumenical
Councils, the Patriarch of Constantinople was equated
to the Pope of Rome. At the same time, territories
that did not belong to any other Patriarchate were
brought under Constantinople's jurisdiction. After
the schism in the 11th century, the primacy of honor
in the Orthodox Church was retained to the Patriarch
of Constantinople. As first among the equals he serves
and expresses the unity of the Church, coordinates
the activities of other Orthodox Churches, fills vacancies
and takes care of preserving the Orthodox teaching
and Church order. All this he does serving, not thrusting
anything upon others.
Until the schism, the Ecumenical Councils decided
the matter of granting autocephaly and autonomy. As
it was not possible to convoke these after the schism,
the Ecumenical Patriarchate began to grant autocephaly
and autonomy, after which all the Churches confirm
it. It is natural, that a Church, that has been granted
a new status, will recognize the primacy of the Ecumenical
Patriarch, because if several centers would arise,
it will destroy the unity. Consequently, the EOC,
as it was granted autonomy. stepped into the system
of brother Churches, the primacy of honor among whom
belongs to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. This is true
in case of all later Churches not regarding from which
Church they historically have risen. So, the Patriarchates
of Moscow, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Georgia,
the autocephalous Churches of Greece, Poland, Albania,
Czech lands and Slovakia and the autonomous Church
of Finland, all recognize the primacy of honor and
serving of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. So, there
is nothing new in the fact that the EOC, which was
granted autonomy in 1923, follows the order recognized
So much about canonical matters.
Our impressions of our visit into Estonia were the
best. The autonomous EOC is in way of full reconstruction.
The churches are repaired, the clergy is being educated,
a league of youth has been established, camps for
youth have been arranged and all problems are solved
in a Christian and peaceful spirit. The relations
with the other Christian Churches in Estonia are good.
We hope that you had answers to the basic questions.
If, however, there are more questions, we are ready
(English translation made from the Estonian text)