Eastern Orthodox Church could set up in Lithuania to rival the Russian church

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

Orthodoxy in Lithuania dates back to the 13th century, Bartholomew said when it fell under the ultimate supervision of Constantinople.

The spiritual head of Orthodox Christians worldwide said on Tuesday he would work with Lithuanian authorities to establish a new branch in the Baltic nation to ensure that believers are no longer under the sole leadership of Moscow.

In 2019, Patriarch Bartholomew infuriated Moscow by identifying the newly established Orthodox Church of Ukraine as Ukraine's official branch. Previously the Ukrainian Church had fallen under the authority of the Moscow Patriarchate.

'A new perspective opens before us'

"Today a new perspective opens before us along with the possibility to work together for the establishment of (a branch) of the Ecumenical Patriarchate (of Constantinople) in Lithuania," Bartholomew told reporters in Vilnius after meeting Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte.

"The Ecumenical Patriarchy sacrificially offers itself to the service of the Orthodox faithful in Lithuania...This is an exceptional honour for us," he added.

The Russian Orthodox Church had no immediate comment.

Bartholomew is based in Istanbul, still known among Orthodox Christians by its ancient Greek name Constantinople.