Latvia’s national broadcaster, Latvian Television (LTV), has made the decision to stop airing Orthodox services following a televised prayer for Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC). This move comes after the network’s pledge to uphold religious freedom.
During the recording of an Orthodox church service at the Riga Holy Trinity Sergius Women’s Monastery, LTV producers noticed that a prayer for Patriarch Kirill was included. As a result, the broadcast was canceled, and LTV announced that no new Orthodox services would be aired on the network.
LTV editor-in-chief Sigita Roķe stated, “Praying for Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church, who openly supports and blesses Russia’s war in Ukraine, goes against not only the values and beliefs held by LTV but also our editorial position.”
The Latvian Orthodox Church was previously under the jurisdiction of Patriarch Kirill as part of the Moscow Patriarchate until 2022. However, in response to Russia’s military operation in Ukraine, the Latvian parliament demanded that the church declare autocephaly, or independence from Moscow. This declaration has not been recognized by any other Orthodox church.
Orthodoxy is the third-largest Christian denomination in Latvia, with approximately 370,000 Orthodox Christians. The country’s primary Christian denominations are Lutheranism and Catholicism.
Last August, LTV aired a service that included a prayer for Kirill but took no action at the time. Roķe explained that they respected all religions and assured that the network would not cease broadcasting ecumenical services.
Latvia has maintained a firm anti-Russia stance since the conflict in Ukraine began. In addition to allocating more than 1% of its GDP to provide weapons for Kiev, the country has announced the deportation of ethnic Russians who fail or refuse to pass a mandatory language test. Latvia has also demolished Soviet-era World War II monuments and arrested individuals for celebrating the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany.
The decision to no longer air Orthodox services aligns with Latvia’s anti-Russia policy, reflecting the country’s dissatisfaction with Patriarch Kirill’s support for Russia’s actions in Ukraine. It remains to be seen how this will impact the Orthodox community in Latvia and their access to religious services through mainstream media.
As LTV upholds its commitment to religious freedom, the network has decided to exclude Orthodox services from its programming. This move demonstrates the power of media in shaping public debates and reflects the tensions surrounding religion and national politics in Latvia.