December 22, 2014
Macedonian Orthodox Church-Ohrid Archbishopric on Monday officially asked for clemency for Zoran Vranishkovski its former Bishop Jovan who is in prison after being sentenced for defrauding the Church and embezzling its funds.
Vranishkovski left the Macedonian Orthodox Church and formed a Serbian run church in Macedonia in 2002, which added fuel on the long running feud between the two churches.
"The Holy Synod of the Macedonian Orthodox Church-Ohrid Archbishopric, in serving the Lord who through the holy prophet Hosea and through the words from our Saviour, speaks: "I desire mercy, not sacrifice", and guided by the love of man and the higher goals, calls on all relevant authorities in the Republic of Macedonia to show mercy in their treatment of imprisoned former Bishop Jovan. Despite the trespasses he has been tried and sentenced for, he should not be left without the hope of clemency in these holy days before Christmas", the Synod of the Macedonian Orthodox Church writes in its press release published on Monday.
The move comes shortly after the visit from Metropolitan Illarion from the Russian Orthodox Church, who met Macedonian leadership, including Archbishop Stephan, but also President Gjorge Ivanov, who has the power to grant pardons.
The Macedonian Church informs that it was on the initiative of the Russian bishop that the Church calls for clemency for Vranishkovski, in hope that it would open talks between Macedonia and Serbia for the recognition of the Macedonian Orthodox Church.
"Macedonian bishops with gratitude accept the initiative of the Russian Orthodox Church, which has announced it is fully prepared to give its contribution to resume and successfully complete the dialogue between the Macedonian Orthodox Church Ohrid Archbishopric and the Serbian Orthodox Church, and solve open issues between the two churches", the Holy Synod of the Macedonian Church informs.
Macedonia has struggled to have its church recognized as equal among other Eastern Orthodox churches due to objections from the Serbian Church, which has never recognized the reestablishment of the independent Macedonian Church in the 1960ies.
The ancient Ohrid Archbishopric, the corner stone of the modern Macedonian Orthodox Church, lost its independence during the Turkish rule in the 18 century, and Serbia, as later ruler of contemporary Macedonia, refused to accept its reestablishment in the 1960ies, even when Macedonia became an equal state in then Communist Yugoslavia.
Vranishkovski was tried in absentia, while living in Serbia, Greece or Bulgaria. He was the bishop of Veles and the Vardar region for the Macedonian Orthodox Church, but switched allegiance to the Serbian church in 2002, which promoted him into an Ohrid Archbishop of a newly founded orthodox church that, despite its tiny following, claims is the one, true Orthodox Christian church in Macedonia.
Different intermediaries, often from Russia, have tried to solve the issue between the two churches, further complicated by the influence the Greek Church has over the Eastern Orthodox Christianity, and the strong Greek positions against the promotion of the historic heritage of the Republic of Macedonia