Your All-Holiness,

First, on behalf of our Clergy Association, I want to express our deepest gratitude to Your All-Holiness for giving us so much time, paternal care, and love during our pilgrimage to the Sacred Center in February. It is a great honour to have Your All-Holiness among us celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Autonomy of the Church of Finland. I am sure that Your All-Holiness’ presence in Finland will be a source of that same strength and blessing to our Orthodox people, that we received in the Queen of Cities earlier this year.

We are filled with admiration and thankfulness for the leadership that Your All-Holiness continues to demonstrate, even in the midst of the immense challenges and temptations that the Orthodox Church faces in this age. It is the same Pan-Orthodox spirit of service and witness as Your predecessors showed 100 years ago.

The Orthodox world is facing challenges and difficulties caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We are thankful to Your All-Holiness for clear and direct words concerning the Russian invasion. We are equally grateful to Your All-Holiness for the righteous and exemplary leadership as well as continuous efforts as a defender of the true Faith. In the same righteous and exemplary way His Eminence Archbishop Leo has condemned the invasion, and publicly demanded Patriarch Kirill of Moscow to use his power and influence to reach peace by ending the war.

In this supportive atmosphere, the clergy and the laypeople of our Church have been able to welcome people – because of the Russian aggression – fleeing their homes with love. We have helped and supported them in their needs. And most importantly, the Church of Finland has offered them a spiritual home. We feel deep compassion for the people of Ukraine and as clergy a special affinity for the Ukrainian clergy. Our clergy are willing to support every possible way Ukrainians and Ukrainian clergy suffering in this war.

As we celebrate the Autonomy of the Church of Finland, I , as a representative of the clergy wish to remind everyone that a hundred years ago the clergy in Finland were divided between supporters of Constantinople and Moscow. Younger priests in particular wanted our Church to be connected with the Ecumenical Patriarchate. And so In 1925, our younger clergy founded the Clergy Association. In the history of our association, the clergy of Finland have been active in maintaining good relations with our Mother Church. The hundred years of autonomy within the Ecumenical Patriarchate has given the Orthodox Church of Finland the possibility to grow and develop as a local church, providing its clergy with tools to proclaim the Gospel in an increasingly secular Western society. I’m convinced that this wouldn’t have been possible without the Spirit of dialogue, protection, and blessing provided by the Ecumenical Throne.

Just like 100 years ago, today we, the clergy of the Autonomous Church of Finland, want to strengthen our good relations with our Mother Church. We are very thankful that yesterday in our clergy gathering we had the representatives of the Sacred Center of our Mother Church, His Eminence Grigorios with us. To deepen and strengthen these relations, we want to express our wish that in the future Your All-Holiness would kindly send a representative to our annual seminars to meet our clergy. We also ask your All-Holiness to bless our wish to increase our co-operation with the other Autonomous Churches and dioceses under the Ecumenical Patriarchate. We are, for example, willing to have co-operation on many levels: lectures, pilgrimages, and clergy-exchanges. I am convinced that such actions will unite us as members of our Mother Church. Through such acts we will be able to get to know each other better, learn from each other, and strengthen our good relations with our World-wide Mother Church and its Sacred Center.

One aspect of the dialogue with the surrounding world is the Church’s concern for Creation, which is suffering because of human actions. For decades Your All-Holiness has shown us the way toward a more ecological worldview. Recognizing that the people living in the Arctic, especially its indigenous peoples, are the ones least responsible for the climate change and the loss of biodiversity, but at the same time among the most affected by these changes, we have made a donation in honour of Your All-Holiness towards saving the old-growth forests of Upper Lapland, the area of the indigenous peoples of the North.

Eis polla, eti Despota!

Father Jaakko Vainio, Chairman of the Orthodox Priests Association of Finland

September 11th, 2023