Macedonians in Greece ask Constantinople for services in their own language

Northern Greece, March 11, 2019

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Following on the heels of the newly-implemented decision to rename Macedonia as the Republic of North Macedonia and with the schismatic “Macedonian Orthodox Church” continuing to hope for autocephaly from Constantinople, the Macedonians living in Greece have petitioned the Patriarchate of Constantinople to allow them to have services in their own language.

Greece’s Rainbow political party, representing ethnic Macedonians living in Greece, sent a letter to Patriarch Bartholomew calling for services to begin to be celebrated in the Macedonian tongue, reports Romfea.

“We want the Divine Liturgy to be held in the modern Macedonian language … in the regions of Greece where Macedonian Orthodox Christians, citizens of Greece, live,” the letter reads, noting that their language belongs to the South Slavic family of languages that date back to the 9th-century mission of Sts. Cyril and Methodius.

According to Romfea, this is the first comprehensive framework of claims for the religious rights of minorities. However, it is unlikely that Pat. Bartholomew will grant such a request, given that his Greek sensibilities are highly offended by the suggestion that a Slavic people could be called Macedonians and speak the “Macedonian” language.

In September, Pat. Bartholomew declared that he would never recognize the schismatic “Macedonian Orthodox Church” only because of its name.

The letter stresses that Macedonians have been at times violently forced to change their language, names, and national identity through persecutions and restrictions against them that began in 1913.

“In the past, Metropolitans in northern Greece led the destruction of Macedonian Orthodox churches with hagiographies and inscriptions in Cyrillic, under the pretense that they were dilapidated,” the Macedonians write. Even today, the Macedonians in Greece are victims of implicit hostility and intolerance from many clergy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s New Lands dioceses.

Given the ratification of the agreement between Greece and North Macedonia, it is time to put an end to the injustice and find a solution to religious problems through dialogue, the Rainbow party writes.

“There is no democracy without tolerance for minorities. This is what you, Your Eminence, emphasize at every opportunity,” the letter stresses.

The party also asks to be able to baptize their children with traditional Macedonian names, noting how offensive it is that even the dead are commemorated under a name other than that which they bore while on earth, by which all their loved ones knew them.

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 Patriarchate of Constantinople.

The Macedonians then appealed to the Constantinople as well for the regularization of its canonical status, receiving various answers from them.

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