Macedonian authorities seize canonical bishop’s passport

Skopje, July 13, 2018


Macedonian authorities have seized the passport of the sole canonical Orthodox bishop serving in the country, whom they have already persecuted for years.

At the border crossing at Medžitlija, near Bitola, the Ministry of Internal Affairs confiscated the passport of His Beatitude Jovan (Vraniskovsky), Archbishop of Ohrid and Metropolitan of Skopje, without explanation on July 9, reports the site of the Archbishopric of Ohrid.

The move is likely to increase the already-existing tensions between the Macedonian church and the canonical Orthodox Churches, especially against the background of its current bid to receive canonical recognition as an autocephalous Church with the help of the Bulgarian Church, which has already been criticized by several brother Churches.

The Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric under Abp. Jovan separated from the schismatic Macedonian church in 2002 to seek reunification with the Serbian Church. His Eminence was then 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.

In its statement on the latest provocation, the Church writes that such discrimination without any explanation is characteristic of states in which there is no rule of law.

On the one hand, the Macedonian government declares that it is fair to all, the Archbishopric writes, but in reality, it violates religious freedoms. In this case, they believe the authorities are intending to disrupt the upcoming celebrations for the 1000th anniversary of the Archbishopric of Ohrid.

The schismatic Macedonian Orthodox Church, which is the majority church in the country, has already held its celebrations for the anniversary. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church, which has generally friendly relations with the Macedonians, declined to take part in the schismatics’ celebration.

The Archbishopric also adds that by religious persecution, the authorities are violating both the constitution and the various international conventions they have signed, “thus continuing the practices of the previous government, which was recently ordered by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg to pay damages to the Orthodox Archbishopric of Ohrid.”

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