Ohrid, Macedonia, October 8, 2018
Speaking at a recent Church celebration, His Eminence Jovan, Archbishop of Ohrid and Metropolitan of Skopje expressed the need for a new pan-Orthodox Council to deal with the problem of schismatics in the Church.
The celebration of the 1000th anniversary of the founding of the Ohrid Archdiocese was held September 29-30 in the Monastery of St. John Chrysostom in Nizepolje, Bitola, with Abp. Jovan, the sole canonical bishop in the Republic of Macedonia celebrating, and a number of other hierarchs concelebrating, including representatives of the Polish and Czech and Slovak Churches, reports the site of the Serbian Orthodox Church.
Following the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, an agape meal was offered at which Abp. Jovan gave an inspiring speech, in which he touched upon the painful topic of the schisms raging in the Church:
Ethnophyletism has caused great trouble in the Church. It was condemned at the Council in Constantinople in 1872, but unfortunately, since the nineteenth century it hasn’t disappeared from the Church. It has been tolerated for more than a century and half, and lately some individuals in the Church, for reasons only known to them, act as if they have forgotten that it is unacceptable, and even hypocritical for a Church which has been in schism for many years to be accepted and recognized without repentance and even rewarded just because they were persistent in the schism…
There is nothing more important than the unity of the Church, in the faith, dogmas, and in the canonical order.
Schisms are a problem for the whole Church, not only a problem for those who have seceded, but also a problem for the ones from whom they have seceded. Therefore, the concern of the First-Throned Church for the healing of all the schisms that exist in Orthodoxy is of no surprise. However, no one can justify the healing of one schism by creating a new one. A new Holy and Great Council that would improve on the weakness of the last one should be called.
In addition to the crisis in Ukrainian Orthodoxy, exacerbated by Constantinople’s unilateral and uncanonical actions there, Abp. Jovan personally suffers from the schism within the Serbian Orthodox Church of the “Macedonian Orthodox Church,” which declared itself autocephalous in 1967. It had been an autonomous Church within the Serbian Church since 1959.
Abp. Jovan was once a hierarch of this schismatic structure, but the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric under him separated from the “Macedonian Church” in 2002 to seek reunification with the Serbian Church.
In May 2015, the Synod of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church resolved to resume the dialogue of its representatives with the self-declared “Macedonian Orthodox Church” in order to settle the issue with its canonical status, which the synod stated depends upon the positive resolution of the proceedings against Archbishop Jovan.
His Eminence Archbishop Jovan was imprisoned for many years on trumped-up charges of “inciting national, racial and religious hatred, schism and intolerance.” At times he was placed in solitary confinement, and he was allowed few visitors from the Serbian Orthodox Church. He was released from prison on February 2, 2015, although new proceedings against him began soon afterwards.
The hierarchy of the “Macedonian Church” has appealed both to the Bulgarian Church and the Church of Constantinople over the past year to help it become a canonical autocephalous Church. The Bulgarian Church agreed to help, which angered the Serbian, Greek, and Constantinopolitan Churches.
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