Istanbul, January 14, 2020
Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople received a number of North Macedonian politicians yesterday to discuss the matter of the autocephaly of the schismatic “Macedonian Orthodox Church.”
According to the Greek outlet Romfea, the Patriarch met with Prime Minister Oliver Spasovski, his predecessor Zoran Zaev, and their assistants Dane Talevski and Dejan Sotirovsky, at the politicians’ initiative. Pat. Bartholomew was accompanied by Metropolitan Emmanuel of France, Metropolitan Maximos of Silibria, Metropolitan Amphilochios of Adrianople, and other clerics and representatives of the Patriarchate.
The Orthodox Church is represented in North Macedonia by the canonical Ohrid Archdiocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church, though the majority of citizens belong to the breakaway MOC, which is seeking for autocephaly from the Patriarchate of Constantinople after the example of the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine.”
Pat. Bartholomew and the North Macedonian representatives decided the Patriarchate will invite representatives of the Serbian Church and of the unrecognized MOC to the Patriarchal residence in Istanbul for consultations and an attempt to find a mutually acceptable solution.
The Prime Ministers and their associates expressed their respect and trust in the Patriarchate of Constantinople following the “warm and sincere” discussion. Zoran Zaev earlier stated that he was prepared to offer Pat. Bartholomew a cash bribe to receive autocephaly for the MOC.
“The Ecumenical Patriarchate officially confirmed that it has not given up on the desire to resolve the issue of the autocephaly of the Macedonian Orthodox Church, despite the opposition of the Serbian and Russian Orthodox Churches,” writes the North Macedonian outlet Religija.
“During the talk, the previous stages of the discussion were raised, including the request of the Church [the MOC—Ed.] to return to the canonical name of the Archdiocese of Ohrid, in accordance with a timely request for an appeal on its part,” the Religija report reads.
In September 2018, Pat. Bartholomew declared that he would never recognize the MOC as long as it used “Macedonian” in its title.
The MOC, which formed as a schism form the Serbian Orthodox Church in 1967, reached out to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church in November 2017 for assistance in becoming a canonically-recognized autocephalous Church. The Bulgarian Church agreed to help, which greatly angered the Churches of Serbia and Greece, and also the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
The MOC then appealed to the Ecumenical Patriarchate as well in May 2018 for the regularization of its canonical status, which responded that it would take up the issue and take appropriate measures “under the essential conditions of the observance of the historical-canonical powers and privileges of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.”
After declaring his opposition to the title “Macedonian,” Pat. Bartholomew later declared in October 2018 that the issue of the MOC is within the Serbian Church’s competence.
At its May 2019 session, the Council of Bishops of the Serbian Church resolved to resume negotiations on the resolution of the status of the MOC, though there does not seem to have been any progress since then.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited “Archbishop” Stefan of the MOC in October, after which Stefan declared that the U.S. is committed to protecting the MOC.