Istanbul, October 5, 2020
At the moment, there is no question of autocephaly for the schismatic “Macedonian Orthodox Church” (MOC), but of healing a schism, the Patriarchate of Constantinople stated in recent comments to the National Herald.
The Patriarchate also stated that the Serbian Church has to date been unresponsive to its attempts to make contact on the issue. The MOC was an autonomous body within the Serbian Church until it declared its own autocephaly in 1967, breaking from the Serbian Church—a move that remains unrecognized by the Orthodox world.
The National Herald reached out to the Patriarchate of Constantinople after the North Macedonian President and Prime Minister both sent appeals to Patriarch Bartholomew to handle the situation with the MOC. Prime Minister Zaev specifically called on the Patriarch to grant autocephaly to the MOC.
The MOC problem has existed for many decades, the Patriarchate recalls, emphasizing that “as the Mother Church of all the Churches of the Balkans, and not only,” it has made many efforts to resolve the schism, “proclaiming the unity of Orthodoxy.”
“At this time the issue has entered a new phase,” as the North Macedonian authorities have entreated Constantinople to help the MOC enter into communion with the Local Orthodox Churches.
Recall that Pat. Bartholomew resolved to grant autocephaly to the Ukrainian schismatics at the request of the secular authorities under then-President Petro Poroshenko.
Constantinople sent a large delegation to Belgrade nearly a year ago, holding extensive talks with the Church of Serbia “in continuation of its efforts to heal this wound in the body of Orthodoxy,” the Patriarchate commented. In January of this year, representatives from both North Macedonia and the Serbian Church were invited to Istanbul for discussions but the Serbian Church did not respond.
The Serbian Church has taken a firm stance against Constantinople’s interference in Ukraine and worries that it will do the same in Macedonia. In an interview last August, His Eminence Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid, the sole MOC hierarch who joined the Serbian Church during failed agreements between the churches in 2002, stated characteristically: “After what happened in Ukraine, anything can be expected” from Constantinople.
The MOC argues that as its schismatic status is not due to any dogmatic or theological problems, it has the right to appeal to Constantinople.
“At the moment there is no question of autocephaly for the Church of Skopje [the MOC] but of healing a schism, for which everyone has a sacred debt,” the Patriarchate stated.
The Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Greek Church refuse to recognize the name “North Macedonia” or “Macedonian Orthodox Church,” insisting that both be named “Skopje” after the nation’s capital. In 2018, Pat. Bartholomew stated that he would never recognize the MOC as long as its title has “Macedonia” in it. Met. Theoklitos of Florina of the Church of Greece recently expressed the same stance.
Constantinople concluded its statements, saying: “Only the devil is not happy with the healing of schisms because he himself causes them and desires their perpetuation. We are convinced that with the grace of our Holy God, our steps will be led to the right path for the good of the Church.”