Florina, Greece, October 2, 2020
The Greek Orthodox Church will not recognize the autocephaly of the schismatic “Macedonian Orthodox Church” (MOC) believes Metropolitan Theoklitos of Florina, Prespa, and Eordaia.
There is no “Macedonian Church” in Skopje, the Metropolitan told Sputnik, reports Romfea.
The independent MOC began in 1967 when its hierarchs left the Serbian Orthodox Church and declared the MOC autocephalous. No Local Orthodox Church recognized this move, and the MOC has been in schism since then. About 70% of North Macedonians identify as Orthodox, the vast majority of whom belong to the MOC, while a small minority belongs to the Serbian Church’s Archdiocese of Ohrid.
“Since we do not recognize the neighboring country as North Macedonia, how do you expect us to recognize ‘Macedonian’ autocephaly?” Met. Theoklitos asked.
“In my personal opinion, Patriarch Bartholomew should not grant them autocephaly,” he added.
Greece long disputed the name of the neighboring Republic of Macedonia, arguing that Macedonia is historically Greek and the Republic of Macedonia therefore does not have the right to name itself. On June 12, 2018, the Treaty of Prespa was signed between Greece and Macedonia, with the latter officially changing its name to the Republic of North Macedonia.
However, many hierarchs of the Greek Church reject this agreement and insist that North Macedonia be called “Skopje,” after its capital city.
In the past, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople has also placed emphasis on the name of the church in North Macedonia. In September 2018, he stated at a session of the Holy Synod that he will never recognize the MOC as long as its title contains the word “Macedonian” or any derivative thereof.
Last month, both the President and Prime Minister of North Macedonia wrote to Pat. Bartholomew, asking him to handle the situation and grant autocephaly to the MOC. President Pendarovski’s letter indicates that Constantinople has already begun the process of resolving the MOC’s status, and the MOC’s “Metropolitan” Peter of Prespa-Pelagoniski stated in June that the structure is already in preliminary discussions with Constantinople to be officially recognized as a canonical, autocephalous Orthodox Church.
PM Zoran Zaev and his predecessor Oliver Spasovski met with Pat. Bartholomew in Istanbul in January of this year at the politicians’ initiative. Both sides agreed at that time that the Patriarchate will invite representatives of the Serbian Church and of the unrecognized MOC to the Patriarchal residence in Istanbul for consultations and an attempt to find a mutually acceptable solution.