Skopje, North Macedonia, January 27, 2020
The schismatics of the “Macedonian Orthodox Church” (MOC) are filled with the hope of obtaining autocephaly after Patriarch Bartholomew received their appeal from visiting North Macedonian politicians two weeks ago,
The primate of the MOC, “Archbishop” Stefan Veljanovski of Ohrid and Macedonia publicly expressed his optimism about the possibility of his structure being recognized during a service on January 19. With Constantinople’s help, the Local Orthodox Churches will “learn the truth” about the MOC and accept it into their family, Veljanovski believes, reports the Macedonian TV station Sitel.
Representatives of the MOC have repeatedly expressed their optimism after seeing Constantinople grant autocephaly to the Ukrainian schismatics. Like the Ukrainian schismatics, the MOC has also appealed to Constantinople for autocephaly rather than repenting and returning to the Church it broke away from—the Serbian Orthodox Church.
In his statement, “Abp.” Stefan recalls that on January 13, Pat. Bartholomew received Prime Minister Oliver Spasovski and his predecessor Zoran Zaev at the Patriarchal headquarters in Istanbul, to discuss ways to resolve the MOC’s ecclesiastical situation. The schismatic primate also thanked the Patriarch “for his determination to accept the appeal from the MOC and put the issue of its autocephaly on its agenda.”
“We thank His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew for what he has initiated, that he accepted the appeal and heard the voice of our Orthodox people, that we desire Eucharistic unity with all Orthodox Christians,” Veljanovski emphasized.
The “Archbishop” prays that “the Lord would enlighten the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Church of North Macedonia to move in the right direction to resolve their Church problems.”
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.”
In September 2018, Pat. Bartholomew declared that he would never recognize the MOC as long as it used “Macedonian” in its title. He then 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.