Estonian interior minister in Puhtitsa: All ties with Moscow Patriarchate must be severed

Interior Minister Lauri Laanemets and Abbess Philareta, head of the Puhtitsa Stavropegial Dormition Convent.
Interior Minister Lauri Laanemets and Abbess Philareta, head of the Puhtitsa Stavropegial Dormition Convent. Photo: Siseministeerium

Interior Minister Lauri Laanemets said at a meeting with Abbess Philareta, head of the Puhtitsa Stavropegial Dormition Convent in northeastern Estonia, on Tuesday that relations with the Moscow Patriarchate must be severed.

According to Laanemets, the state is taking steps against the terrorist regime in Moscow, not against Orthodox Christians in Estonia.

«The state has an obligation to protect the Estonian population from the effects of a terrorist regime. There is a canonical connection between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate -- they are parts of one whole and in strict subordination. The state's goal is to sever all ties -- both canonical and legal -- of religious associations here with Moscow. We also talked about this today with the head of the convent,» the minister said.

According to Laanemets, the reception at the convent was warm and open. The minister explained why the Estonian state considers the Moscow patriarch's views unacceptable and the abbess explained the convent's position and relationship with the Moscow Patriarchate.

«The abbess assured me that for them the statements of Patriarch Kirill are not binding in any way, but I believe that both parties understand the complexity of the situation. According to secular law, the separation of the convent from the Moscow Patriarchate is not difficult, but from the point of view of church law, the situation is significantly more complicated,» the minister said.

According to the minister, the state, in cooperation with the church, is looking for both legally and canonically competent solutions, which would permanently exclude the possibility of associating the nuns of the Puhtitsa Convent with statements justifying war and violence spread by the Moscow Patriarchate.

«Until new solutions are found, the convent will continue its normal activities,» Laanemets said.

The Puhtitsa Convent is under the direct authority of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and is headed by Abbess Philareta.

On March 27, the World Russian People's Council, under the leadership of Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church, adopted a declaration of a holy war against Ukraine and the Western world, which is under the influence of «Satanism». This means that the European space of values is aggressively opposed. Just as, according to the words of the patriarch of Moscow, Ukraine must be part of the Russian world, according to the statement, the entire so-called post-Soviet space, including Estonia, belongs to Russia's sphere of influence.

Thus, the message of the imperialist appeal is essentially that Estonia is not an independent country and nation, but part of the sphere of influence of Russian Orthodoxy and therefore Russia. The Moscow Patriarchate is also sending a message to the Orthodox believers of the Moscow Patriarchate living in Estonia that Estonia is part of the hostile Western world against which a holy war has been declared.

In response to this statement by Patriarch Kirill, 51 members of the Estonian parliament have initiated a draft statement declaring the Moscow Patriarchate an institution supporting Russia's military aggression and strongly condemning its role in justifying and inciting the bloody war in Ukraine. The corresponding statement has been put on the agenda of the plenary session of the Riigikogu and the final vote will take place on May 2. The adoption of said statement would lead to some serious choices for the religious associations directly subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate in Estonia. This would also concern dozens of congregations and churches operating here under the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, which is directly subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate.