Debar, Republic of North Macedonia, February 22, 2019
The schismatics of the “Macedonian Orthodox Church” are still expecting to eventually receive a tomos of autocephaly from the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and, they even have more arguments in their favor for receiving autocephaly than does Ukraine, believes “Metropolitan” Timotej of Debar and Kičevo.
“All of our expectations are that the Ecumenical Patriarchate will soon begin the process of recognizing the Macedonian Church,” the unrecognized hierarch said in a recent interview with mkd.mk.
Another Macedonian hierarch, “Bishop” Petar of Prespa and Pelagonia earlier said he expects they will receive a tomos of autocephaly from Constantinople by the end of this year, saying they meet all the necessary requirements.
At the same time, Timotej noted that there is no consensus in North Macedonian about whether they should recognize the newly-created Ukrainian schismatic church. For now, he says, the church prefers to remain restrained about this issue.
There also is no consensus, he said, about whether or not to change the name of the church, which Patriarch Bartholomew has placed as a condition on granting autocephaly. However, Timotej is certain they will not change their name.
“The Prespes Agreement does not oblige us to change our name. The church is not financed from the state budget. We will not change the name,” he said.
The Prespes Agreement was signed between representatives of Greece and Macedonia on June 12 and went into effect on February 12, officially changing the former’s name to the Republic of Northern Macedonia, thus ending a long-standing dispute over the country’s former name, as Macedonia is also a region in northern Greece, and Greeks fiercely defend the name as belonging only to them.
In September, Pat. Bartholomew declared that he would never recognize the church as long as it has the word “Macedonia” in its title. He also later declared that the Patriarchate would not grant autocephaly to the Macedonian church as its territory is, in fact, the canonical territory of the Serbian Orthodox Church, from which the Macedonian church schismed in 1967, despite the fact that in May he had declared that Constantinople would handle the Macedonian church issue “under the essential conditions of the observance of the historical-canonical powers and privileges of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.”
Archpriest Nikolai Danilevich, Deputy Head of the Department for External Church Relations of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, noted the double standard at play between the Patriarchate’s actions in Ukraine and its latest stance towards Macedonia—interfering in the Ukrainian Church’s territory on the one hand, while refusing to interfere in the Serbian Church’s territory on the other.
The Macedonian church 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 Macedonian Church then appealed to the Ecumenical Patriarchate as well for the regularization of its canonical status, receiving various answers from them.
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