Deeply respected fathers, dear colleagues, brothers and sisters in Christ!
I would like to draw the attention of the participants to the situation in Estonia. The most important facts that reflect today's condition of the Orthodox Church in Estonia are the following:
In 1993, the government of the Estonian Republic registered a structure
with the name of Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church (EAOC). In 1994, the
government transferred all property that the Orthodox Church owned or used
in Estonia to this organization. The EAOC is headed by Metropolitan Stephanos,
who was consecrated in spring of 1999. From this moment and thanks to this
consecration, EAOC received the status of an Orthodox Church and began
to live under ornophorofthe Ecumenical Patriarch.
The Estonian State registered the stavropigial parish of the Russian Orthodox Church (the St. Aleksandr Nevsky Cathedral in Tallinn) in April 1999 and the stavropigial Dormition Women's Monastery at Pyukhtitsa in last year. The parish and the monastery community must rent their buildings from the state.
The former Estonian diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church is now called the Estonian Orthodox Church, which received autonomy and its new title in 1993, by a patriarchal decree. This Church was denied government registration and the corresponding right to legal protection. This Church is headed by Archbishop Cornelius and is under ornophor of the Moscow Patriarchate. Parishes and the Archbishop himself conduct services in buildings, which have been given to the EAOC (headed by Metropolitan Stephanos) on the basis of a decision of the Estonian government. Now Metropolitan Stephanos is demanding that Archbishop Cornelius vacate these buildings.
According to the statistics:
The EAOC has registered 53 parishes. The total quantity of parishioners
in these parishes approaches 20-30 thousand all together. The main part
of these parishes consists of the chairman and 2 parish council members,
the minimum necessary for registration, i nese parishes exist only on paper;
they are without parishioners or services.
Twenty-eight (28) parishes (comprising the Estonian Orthodox Church) remain under Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and all Russia. Total quantity of parishioners is approximately 250 thousand. A full church life is lived in the parishes. In the town ofValga, in 1994, representatives of the Patriarchate of Constantinople chased the parish of the Estonian Orthodox Church out of their own church. There are 500 people in this parish. One year ago (1998), the parish bought land and began to build a new church. Services have not been interrupted at any time since the above-mentioned incident in 1994. At first, services were held at the Orthodox cemetery and then in a private house.
These are simply facts.
As a representative of those Orthodox faithful in Estonia that are subjected to discrimination, I ask the participants of this conference to offer professional support for these Orthodox brothers and sisters and to begin constantly monitoring and disseminating information about their situation in order that the strength of international opinion will restore the religious freedom of the faithful of the Estonian Orthodox Church.
Orthodoxy in Estonia began in 1032, when the Russian prince Yuri founded the city Yuriev, where the first orthodox church was build by the prince in the same year. Today this city is called Tartu. Orthodoxy began flourishing in Estonia at the end of the last century with the building of orthodox churches in all areas of the country-, in accordance with the decision of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church and using the money of the Russian government. This includes St. Aleksnadr Nevsky Cathedral in Tallinn and Dormilion Women's Monastery in Pyukhtitsa. The historical fact is that at this particular time of growth of Orthodoxy in Estonia, the Church fell under the destructive powers of the Soviets. At first, the Orthodox faithful in Estonia were without direction from the Moscow Patriarchate, against their will torn from their mother Church. After this, the string of sad events continued. We want to emphasize that these events are only secondary when considering the entire history of the Orthodox Church in Estonia. The most important fact is that the presence of the Orthodox Church in Estonia is due to the labors of the Russian Orthodox Church.