05 September 2022, 17:44
Riga seeking independence of Latvian Orthodox Church from Moscow Patriarchate (updated)
Riga, September 5, Interfax/BNS - Latvian President Egils Levits has submitted to the parliament a bill changing the status of the Latvian Orthodox Church to make it fully independent of the Moscow Patriarchate.
Levits said the bill proposed by him will restore the historical status of the Latvian Orthodox Church and will rule out any power of the patriarch of Moscow over the Church in Latvia.
"The Latvian state recognizes the adoption of amendments to the law that the Latvian Orthodox Church is a fully independent (autocephalous) Church. It does not depend on the power of any other Church outside Latvia," Levits said in a statement released by the media center of the presidential chancellery.
"When the bill takes effect, any influence or power of the patriarch of Moscow over our Orthodox Church will be eliminated. Termination of any connection with the patriarch of Moscow is an important issue for our Orthodox Christians, the entire Latvian society and national security," the president said.
The bill has been approved by the parliament speaker and the heads of all factions of the parliament, he said.
"I have heard full understanding of the situation and support of this initiative. The Latvian Orthodox Church was also informed about the drafted bill," the president said.
Ainar Latkovskis, chairman of the New Unity parliamentary faction, later told reporters that the Latvian parliament planned to pass the bill on the independence of the Latvian Orthodox Church submitted by the president on Thursday, September 8. The bill is expected to be considered urgently in two readings, he said.
Responding to a question as to whether the state has the right to make a decision on the accountability of churches, bearing in mind that the state and church are separated in Latvia, the parliament said the bill is not about transferring the church into someone's management, but, on the contrary, establishes its independence and autonomy. All other things are decided by the church itself, the faction leader said.
Latkovskis said the adoption of the new document is important, bearing in mind the context of the events in Ukraine and the attitude of Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church to the neighboring countries.