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You are here : Home » Latvia » Current issues and debates » 2019 » Amendments to the Law on the Latvian Orthodox Church

Amendments to the Law on the Latvian Orthodox Church

On June 6, 2019, the Parliament of the Republic of Latvia (Saeima) supported amendments to the Law on the Latvian Orthodox Church which determines that only a citizen of the Republic of Latvia who has permanently resided in the country for no less than 10 years can become the head of the Orthodox Church, or a metropolitan, a bishop, or be a candidate for these positions.

Until now, the statutes of the Latvian Orthodox Church determined that the head of the Church, the metropolitans, and the bishops, must be citizens of the Republic of Latvia who have resided in Latvia for a prescribed period. These requirements have now been fixed in a law of the Republic of Latvia. The annotation to the draft law explains that these amendments were needed to ensure the self-determination and self-ruling rights of the Latvian Orthodox Church, and to respect its position on the demands which could be made concerning the Church personnel.

The chairman of the Human Rights and Public Affairs Committee which is responsible for the progress of the draft law emphasized that the determination of citizenship and residential criteria for officials in such a religious organizations, where the leadership is located outside of Latvia, will allow for the strengthening of the autonomy of the organization and the capacity to disassociate itself from potential foreign influence. This, in turn, would strengthen the Latvian state and public security.

In reviewing the submitted draft law on amendments to the Law on the Latvian Orthodox Church, the Saeima (Legal Affairs Office) had asked that it would not be advanced for further review, as the necessity and proportionality of this restriction on rights was not sufficiently justified. However, the amendments were considered a matter of urgency, with 79 members voting in favour and nobody voting against. There were no debates, objections or proposals, as a representative of the Latvian Orthodox Church had previously expressed support for the amendments at a meeting of the Human Rights and Public Affairs Committee.

The current Latvian Orthodox Church’s Metropolitan of Rīga and all Latvia, Aleksander (born in 1939), fulfils the new legal requirements. The amendments were adopted as a matter of urgency, taking into account events in Estonia: after the death of the Estonian Orthodox Church’s leader Metropolitan Kornelius, Metropolitan Jevgeni, who was nominated by the Moscow Patriarchate, was elected in his place. In contrast to the leader of the Latvian Orthodox Church, the Estonian Metropolitan had criticized the Constantinople Patriarchate’s decision on the independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

D 25 June 2019    AAnita Stasulane

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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