Moscow patriarchate rips Constantinople over Estonian hierarchy


Moscow, Jun. 18, 2008 - The Russian Orthodox Church has renewed its dispute with the Patriarchate of Constantinople over recognition of an independent Estonian Orthodox Church.

With Orthodox leaders in Estonia announcing plans for the consecration of new bishops and the establishment of an Estonian Orthodox synod, the Moscow Patriarchate released a statement saying that the Estonian Orthodox Church "is not recognized either by the Russian Orthodox Church or other local Orthodox churches."

The establishment of an independent Orthodox jurisdiction in Estonia-- where the Orthodox Church previously was under the control of the Moscow patriarchate-- has been a sore spot for the Russian Orthodox leadership, and a point of contention with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

Constantinople granted canonical recognition to the independent Estonian hierarchy in 1996. Ordinarily, recognition from Constantinople is sufficient for acceptance by the world's other Orthodox churches. But in this case Moscow has resisted adamantly. Last year the Russian delegation walked out of joint Catholic-Orthodox talks in Ravenna, Italy, to protest the seating of an Estonian Orthodox delegation.

The Russian Orthodox Church argues that the establishment of an independent Estonian hierarchy "does not correspond in full measure to the historical development and the present situation of Orthodoxy in Estonia." The Moscow patriarchate has expressed resentment at Constantinople's decision to recognize a new Orthodox Church "in the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church."

Claiming that Russian Orthodox officials have sought negotiations with the Constantinople patriarchate to ease the conflict in Estonia, the Moscow patriarchate now charges that the appointment of new bishops is a needless provocation, barring the road to a resolution of the dispute between the world's most powerful Orthodox bodies.