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26 Aug, 2023 20:58

EU state broadcaster backtracks on promise to Christian believers

Latvian Television will no longer air Orthodox services after a prayer for Moscow’s Patriarch Kirill was read out during a transmission
EU state broadcaster backtracks on promise to Christian believers

Latvia's national broadcaster will no longer broadcast Orthodox services after a televised prayer for Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) was aired earlier this month. The decision comes after the network promised not to restrict religious freedom.

While recording an Orthodox church service at the Riga Holy Trinity Sergius Women’s Monastery last Saturday, Latvian Television (LTV) producers noticed that it included a prayer for Patriarch Kirill. LTV producers axed the broadcast and announced on Thursday that no new Orthodox services would be broadcast on the network.

"Praying for Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church, who openly supports and even blesses Russia's bloody war in Ukraine, contradicts not only the values ​​and beliefs represented by us, LTV, but also the editorial position,” LTV editor-in-chief Sigita Roķe said in a statement. 

The Latvian Orthodox Church was a self-governing part of the Moscow Patriarchate until 2022, and as such was under the jurisdiction of Patriarch Kirill. In the wake of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine, the Latvian parliament forced the church to declare  autocephaly – essentially independence – from Moscow. No other Orthodox church has recognized this declaration.

There are around 370,000 Orthodox Christians in Latvia, making Orthodoxy the country’s third-largest Christian denomination behind Lutheranism and Catholicism.

In a service broadcast last August, a prayer for Kirill was also heard. However, LTV took no action at the time, with Roke saying that “we respect all religions,” and promising that the network would not “stop broadcasting ecumenical services or something like that.”

Latvia has taken a hardline anti-Russia stance since the conflict in Ukraine broke out. In addition to spending more than 1% of its entire GDP on weapons for Kiev, Latvia has announced the deportation of thousands of ethnic Russians who refuse to take or fail a mandatory language test, destroyed Soviet-era World War II monuments, and arrested dozens of people for celebrating the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany.