The Orthodox Church of Finland is an autonomous Eastern Archbishopric of Constantinople Patriarchate. The Church has the legal status of a national church. in the country, together with the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Finland.
The Finnish Orthodox Church, rooted in medieval Novgorod missionary activity in Karelia, was part of the Russian Orthodox Church until 1923. Today the church consists of three dioceses and 59,000 members, which is 1.1 percent of the native population of Finland. The parish of Helsinki has the most followers.
Along with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, the Orthodox Church of Finland has a special position in Finnish law. The Church is considered a Finnish public education. The appearance of the church is regulated by an Act of Parliament, and spiritual and doctrinal issues of the church are regulated by the central synod of the church. The church has the right to tax its members and corporations owned by its members. Previously belonged to the Russian Orthodox Church, since 1923 it was an autonomous Orthodox archdiocese of Constantinople Patriarchate.
Wooden Church of St. Peter and Paul in Tornio, built in 1884.
The Orthodox Church of Finland is divided into three dioceses (hippakunta), each of which has a division into parishes (seurakunta). In total there are 21 parishes with 140 priests and over 58,000 members. The number of church members has been growing steadily for several years.
Priests and cantors elect their representatives on a diocesan basis, using the method of multiple elections. The representatives of laymen are elected indirectly. Candidates for representatives are determined by parish councils, which also elect electors, who then elect lay representatives to the central synod. The Central Synod elects bishops and is responsible for the economy and general teaching of the church.
The two executive bodies of the central church administration are the Synod of Bishops, responsible for the doctrinal and external affairs of the church, and the church administrative council (kirkollishallitus), responsible for the daily administration of the church.
The parishes are led by the rector and the parish council, which is elected by secret ballot. All adult members of the parish have the right to vote and be elected to the parish council. Members of the parish have the right to abstain from being elected to the parish trust only if they have reached the age of 60 years or have worked in the trust for at least eight years. The Parish Council shall elect a parish board that is responsible for the daily affairs of the parish.
In financial terms, the church is not dependent on the state budget. The income is financed by taxes paid by its members. The central administration is financed by the contributions of the parishes. The Central Synod annually determines the amount of contributions to be made by the parishes.
The special status of the Orthodox Church is most visible in administrative processes. The church is bound by the general administrative law, and decisions of its bodies can be appealed in regional administrative courts. However, the court limits itself to checking the formal legality of a decision. It cannot overturn a church decision based on its groundlessness. Decisions of the Synod of Bishops and the Central Synod are not subject to control by the administrative courts. On the contrary, district courts exercise similar legal oversight over private religious communities.
Finnish law protects the absolute privilege of a priest to repent. A bishop, priest or deacon of a church may not divulge information that he heard during a confession or spiritual care. The identity of the sinner may not be disclosed for any purpose. However, if a priest learns of a crime that is about to be committed, he must inform the authorities in such a way that it is not endangered.