Orthodox Church of Finland

Orthodox Church of Finland is an autonomous local church under the authority of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

There are three dioceses in Orthodox Church of Finland. In the order of size, these are the Diocese of Helsinki, the Diocese of Kuopio and Karelia, and the Diocese of Oulu. The Church as a whole, and the Diocese of Helsinki, is led by His Eminence Leo, the Archbishop of Helsinki and all Finland, whose seat is in Helsinki. There is also an auxiliary bishop in the Diocese of Helsinki, His Grace Sergei, the Bishop of Hamina. The Diocese of Kuopio and Karelia is led by His Eminence, Metropolitan Arseni. The Diocese of Oulu is led by His Eminence, Metropolitan Elia.

There are 10 parishes, each of which contains several active chapel communities. There are approximately 150 Orthodox churches and chapels in Finland.

The parishes cover geographically large areas. The largest parish by population is the parish of Helsinki, which holds over a third of the church membership. The municipality a church member lives in defines his or her home parish.

There is also an Orthodox monastery and an Orthodox convent in Finland. Both are in Heinävesi. The Lintula Holy Trinity Convent and the New Valamo Monastery of Transfiguration of Christ have approximately twenty nuns, monks and/or novices in obedience.

Contact information

Archbishop’s Office

Liisankatu 29 A 8
00170 Helsinki

+358 40 7289439

Church Service Center / Church Administrative Council

Karjalankatu 1
70110 Kuopio
+358 40 646 4197

Valamo Monastery

History of Orthodoxy in Finland

When Orthodoxy came to Finland, it came from the East. After the Orthodox Church took hold in the areas of Kyivan Rus, with an episcopate established in Kyiv in 990, Orthodoxy spread northwards and eastwards from there onwards. Christianity arrived in the Northern areas of Republic of Novgorod, like Karelia and Eastern Finland, in 1100s. Churches were built in more important locations, and from 1400s on, small monasteries formed in the remote wilderness. The Christian faith became more established in this area from the end of 1400s. This was also helped by ecclesiastical independence of Moscow.

In the end of the 1500s and the beginning of the 1600s, Russia conquered the western parts of Karelia from Sweden, representing a setback for the efforts of the Church. The return of the Ladoga region of Karelia to Russia at the start of 1700s represented a recovery for the Orthodox faith there. This also initiated the golden era of the Valamo monastery, which had been established centuries earlier and has held a high importance for Orthodoxy in Karelia Finland.

After Russian conquest, in the beginning of 1800s, Finland was formed into a Grand Duchy, together with Ladoga Karelia and the Karelian isthmus. This also meant the establishment of a permanently Orthodox population in Finland. Orthodox worshippers arrived from Russia to the most important cities of Finland, such as Viipuri (Vyborg in Russian) and Helsinki, as merchants, soldiers and officials moving in from Russia.

The ecclesiastic governance of Finland was initially organized as a part of the Diocese of St. Petersburg. In 1892, the independent Archbishopric of Finland and Vyborg was established, also thus becoming the first Orthodox bishopric in Finland.

The independence of Russia from Finland also created an Orthodox minority church in Finland. Its position was different from the prerevolutionary Orthodox position, as it did not represent the official religion of the state.

Rapidly, the Church began a process of turning itself into culturally a more Finnish institution. In 1923, the Church transferred from the authority of the Moscow Patriarchate to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. Finnish became the liturgical and official language, and the Archbishop’s seat was relocated from Viipuri to Sortavala (Sordavala in Russian).

Between the wars, the activities of the Church mainly took place in Finnish Karelia. The Second World War led to expanding in the whole country, as the people evacuated from the occupied areas of Karelia were settled in other parts of Finland. The 1950s were a time for material and spiritual reconstruction for the Church. During this time, a new network of parishes was established, and multiple new churches built.

Orthodox Church of Finland was at its largest in 1940, with 81 631 members. After the wars, the membership went steadily down until 1990. In the last decades, the number of members has been growing again. At the end of 2023, there were approximately 56 000 members.