Lithuanian Orthodox Christians say they are a step closer to the status of a self-governing church after the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate on Thursday referred their request to the Council of Bishops for consideration.
"The request to grant us the status of a self-governing church has been supported by both clergy and laity," Metropolitan Innokentiy, head of the Lithuanian Orthodox Church, said in a statement on Thursday. "The general assembly of the Lithuanian Orthodox Church turned to the Synod at the end of last year."
Metropolitan Innokentiy of Vilnius and Lithuania last May appealed to the Moscow Patriarchate to grant the Lithuanian Orthodox Church the status of a self-governing church.
The move comes after several priests initiated the separation of the Lithuanian Orthodox Church from the Moscow Patriarchate by asking the Patriarch of Constantinople to allow restoring the canonical subordination to him in Lithuania.
The priests were defrocked by Innokentiy, but were later reinstated by the Patriarch of Constantinople. The Vilnius Diocese of the Orthodox Church does not recognise their reinstatement.
The Lithuanian Orthodox Church is one of nine traditional religious communities in Lithuania. It has the title of a metropolia and is part of the Patriarchate of Moscow and All Russia.
Only three Orthodox Churches under the canonical jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate have self-governing status – those of Estonia, Latvia and Moldova.