On September 25-30, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexis II will be paying a pastor visit to Estonia for the first time after a 10-year break.
Alexis II will visit Tallinn and the Pukhtitsa nunnery, will conduct divine services and say a requiem on the tomb of his parents in Tallinn and meet with Orthodox believers and clergy of the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchy, Estonian statesmen and public figures, Archpriest Nikolai Balashov, the secretary for inter-Orthodox links of the foreign church relations of the Moscow Patriarchy, told RIA Novosti. According to Balashov, Estonian believers "have been looking forward to the Patriarch's visit for a long time". Alexis II was born and educated in Estonia, he added.
Alexis II's visit was postponed because the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchy has been illegal in Estonia over the last 9.5 years, the spokesman for the Moscow patriarchy told RIA Novosti. The Estonian Government refused to register its regulations and parishes had no property rights even on the premises where divine services were conducted. According to the data of the foreign church relations of the Moscow Patriarchy, thus the Estonian leadership was forcing believers to choose the jurisdiction of the Constantinople Patriarchy, which came into effect in 1996.
"However, in spite of all these hardships, most Orthodox believers in Estonia remained loyal to the Mother Church and all their efforts were rewarded. Last year the regulations of the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchy were finally registered as a result of long talks and a protocol on intentions was signed with the Estonian Government in autumn 2002 to settle most property issues," Balashov noted.
According to the religion department of the Estonian Interior Ministry, the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchy and the Evangelical Lutheran Church are the largest religious confessions in Estonia. All in all, there are 150,000 Orthodox believers (11% of the population) and 180,000 Lutherans in Estonia.