(1 November 2000)

Your Excellencies.
Dear participants in the press conference,
Your Eminence Stephanos, Metropolitan of Tallinn and All Estonia, dear brother in Christ,
Reverend and dear clergy,
People of the Lord,
Leaving friendly Estonia and ending our official visit here and to the autonomous Estonian Orthodox Church, we first of all like to express our joy and content on the success of this historical event.
We would also like to thank Their Excellencies, the President and Prime Minister of the Republic of Estonia and to all central and local authorities for the invitation to this country that bas never been visited by an Ecumenical Patriarch and for good organizing work that enabled the visit to be succeeded easily.
The Estonian Orthodox Church (EOC) was granted autonomy in 1923 by the patriarchal and synodal tomos on the petition of the then Metropolitan Alexander of Tallinn and All Estonia. Patriarch Tychon of Moscow also recognized the autonomous status of the Estonian Church in 1920. According to the tradition of the Orthodox Church, such a tomos cannot be annulled. For that reason, Metropolitan Alexander who flew abroad was considered the head of the EOC until his death in 1953. After that, Metropolitan of Thyatira and Great Britain was named as his locum tenens and an Estonian called Mûri Välbe was ordained vicar bishop. He served as a bishop until his death in 1961. But because of well-known historic conditions, the EOC could not act in homeland under the Soviet regime. So our predecessor, memorable Patriarch Demetrios arrested the operation of the tomos of 1923 in Estonia.
As the conditions changed, however, it was possible recently to restore the EOC and so on 1996 the tomos of 1923 was again brought into operation by a patriarchal and synodal act. According to an agreement reached in Geneva, every parish in Estonia could freely choose whether to be under the jurisdiction of the EOC or the Moscow Patriarchate. It meant clearly one thing: that there exists, on one band, an autonomous Orthodox Church in Estonia, which continues of the activity of the pre-war EOC and on the other hand, there are parishes which are under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate. There is no second local Orthodox Church here - this is forbidden by the canons - but the spiritual presence of the Moscow Patriarchate is to certain limits extended into the territory of another Church. This is an economy (a concession to the exact sense of the canons) and is analogous to the system of exarchates and stauropegic monasteries and parishes.
According to this agreement, all the Orthodox parishes in Estonia chose, under who they wanted to be. The EOC later elected according to its rules, bishop Stephanos as the Metropolitan of Tallinn and All Estonia. His Eminence Stephanos had formerly been a bishop in France.
He is an outstanding personality, adorned by great piety, Orthodox sense, ecumenical experience, pastoral and organizing abilities, administrative experience and adaptability to local conditions. He has written a lot of books, some of which have been translated to other languages and he knows French, Russian, English, Dutch, Greek and Swahili languages.
All these gifts of God he has dedicated to the rebuilding of the EOC.
Concerning the registration of the parishes of the Moscow Patriarchate and the return of property of the pre-war Church in Estonia, the Ecumenical Patriarchate does not interfere in these matters, as they are arranged according to the Estonian laws.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate re-enacted the tomos of 1923 because it was a duty of it according to the sacred canons, which give it into its competency to take care of the normal functioning of the local Orthodox Churches in difficult circumstances. The same care was taken also of the Albanian Orthodox Church.
Taking these steps, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has not taking into account its own advantage, but only the advantage of the local Churches. On the contrary, the Patriarchate has made great efforts and costs in doing this.
The main aim of our visit was to support the EOC by word and by a feeling of being part of the world-wide Orthodox Church. Through us, all the Estonian Orthodox can feel that they are part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, which is made up of local autocephalous and autonomous Churches.
We also hope that the opposition of one local Church to this will end, if they think more coolly about it. A more thorough treatment of the subject is needed.
The oldest organization of the Church in the time of apostles was like that: every town had its bishop, who acted independently of the neighboring bishops. Afterwards, a need for a primate was felt for the bishops every district, but the equality was retained. In the end, a system of bigger entities, the five older Patriarchates (Rome, New Rome -Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem), did develop. According to the canons enacted by the 2nd and 4th Ecumenical Councils, the Patriarch of Constantinople was equated to the Pope of Rome. At the same time, territories that did not belong to any other Patriarchate were brought under Constantinople's jurisdiction. After the schism in the 11th century, the primacy of honor in the Orthodox Church was retained to the Patriarch of Constantinople. As first among the equals he serves and expresses the unity of the Church, coordinates the activities of other Orthodox Churches, fills vacancies and takes care of preserving the Orthodox teaching and Church order. All this he does serving, not thrusting anything upon others.
Until the schism, the Ecumenical Councils decided the matter of granting autocephaly and autonomy. As it was not possible to convoke these after the schism, the Ecumenical Patriarchate began to grant autocephaly and autonomy, after which all the Churches confirm it. It is natural, that a Church, that has been granted a new status, will recognize the primacy of the Ecumenical Patriarch, because if several centers would arise, it will destroy the unity. Consequently, the EOC, as it was granted autonomy. stepped into the system of brother Churches, the primacy of honor among whom belongs to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. This is true in case of all later Churches not regarding from which Church they historically have risen. So, the Patriarchates of Moscow, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Georgia, the autocephalous Churches of Greece, Poland, Albania, Czech lands and Slovakia and the autonomous Church of Finland, all recognize the primacy of honor and serving of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. So, there is nothing new in the fact that the EOC, which was granted autonomy in 1923, follows the order recognized by all.
So much about canonical matters.
Our impressions of our visit into Estonia were the best. The autonomous EOC is in way of full reconstruction. The churches are repaired, the clergy is being educated, a league of youth has been established, camps for youth have been arranged and all problems are solved in a Christian and peaceful spirit. The relations with the other Christian Churches in Estonia are good.
We hope that you had answers to the basic questions. If, however, there are more questions, we are ready to answer.

(English translation made from the Estonian text)

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