Prespa, North Macedonia, June 17, 2020
“Metropolitan” Peter of Prespa-Pelagoniski. Photo: romfea.gr
According to one of its hierarchs, the schismatic “Macedonian Orthodox Church” (MOC) is in preliminary discussions with the Patriarchate of Constantinople to be officially recognized as an Orthodox Church.
The MOC continues to hope for recognition and autocephaly from Constantinople, stated “Metropolitan” Peter of Prespa-Pelagoniski on Macedonian television, reports Romfea.
According to him, “no one but the Ecumenical Patriarchate can be the Mother Church.”
“The Patriarchate of Constantinople is the only Church that historically can give autocephaly to other Churches. Therefore, the path to recognition leads to the Mother Church,” he added.
He also noted that thus far, the MOC is only conducting preliminary, unofficial negotiations with Constantinople on the possibility of its recognition. Last October, the same hierarch commented that the Patriarchate of Constantinople was disposed towards resolving the issue and that there was a sense that talks would begin soon.
According to “Met.” Peter, the MOC has good relations with the Bulgarian Church, as opposed to the Serbian Church, with whom relations are strained. The MOC began as a schism from the Serbian Church in the 1960s, but in late 2017, it turned to the Bulgarian Church to help it become a canonical Orthodox Church.
At that time, the MOC asked the Bulgarian Church to become its “Mother Church.” The Bulgarian Church agreed to help the MOC, which greatly angered the Churches of Serbia and Greece, and also the Patriarchate of Constantinople, but it clarified that it would not cause a schism within the Church over the issue.
In May 2019, the Council of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church announced that it would resume negotiations on the resolution of the status of the MOC, though there does not seem to have been any progress between the two Churches since then.
After turning to the Bulgarian Church, the MOC then appealed to the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which initially indicated that it would consider the issue but later stated it was an issue for the Serbian Church to resolve.
However, since then, the MOC has continually expressed its hope that Constantinople will recognize it and grant it a tomos of autocephaly, as occurred with the Ukrainian schismatics.
In January, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople discussed the matter with several North Macedonian politicians. Together, they decided that the Patriarchate will invite representatives from the Serbian Church and the unrecognized MOC to Istanbul for consultations in an attempt to find a mutually acceptable solution.
Soon after, “Archbishop” Stefan Veljanovski of Ohrid and Macedonia of the MOC declared that they are full of hope after Pat. Bartholomew met with the politicians.