Skopje, North Macedonia, March 22, 2021
Prime Minister Zoran Zaev of North Macedonia has appealed to the new Serbian Patriarch, His Holiness Porfirije, to hold a dialogue with the “Macedonian Orthodox Church” (MOC) and find a resolution to its canonical status.
In the 1950s, the MOC was an autonomous Church within the Serbian Orthodox Church, but in 1967 it declared its own independence and has been unrecognized by the Orthodox world since then. There have been attempts to heal the schism over the decades, and the issue has arisen again over the past few years after Patriarch Bartholomew granted autocephaly to the schismatics in Ukraine.
In May 2019, the Serbian Council of Bishops resolved to resume negotiations with the MOC, though no discussions materialized.
Referring to his letter in an interview on the N1 TV channel, PM Zaev noted that he wrote Pat. Porfirije to congratulate him with his enthronement and wish him well in his duties. At the same time, he also appealed to him to work to find a solution to the MOC problem within the framework of fraternal relations between the two peoples, reports Romfea.
“We can find a solution between the Churches. We are Orthodox, we are fraternal peoples and we can find a solution,” Zaev said.
The Prime Minister recalled that the issue has also been raised with Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople,
“but through dialogue we see the hope and the solution between the Macedonian Orthodox Church and the Serbian Orthodox Church, with the ultimate goal of recognizing the Macedonian Orthodox Church.”
He visited Patriarch Bartholomew in January 2020 to discuss the issue, and in September, both Zaev and the North Macedonian President called on the Patriarch to find a solution and grant autocephaly. The MOC has repeatedly expressed its confidence that it will receive autocephaly from Constantinople, though Pat. Bartholomew said in October that autocephaly is not presently on the table.
With an optimistic tone, the politician also noted that the Serbian Orthodox Church operates within North Macedonia and that “many citizens from the Serbian community” attend its churches. Politicians can create the conditions for the two Churches to discuss, but it’s up to the bishops to find a solution, PM Zaev said.
He concluded: “Through my letter I wanted to ask the Patriarch of Serbia to devote part of his time and attention to finding a solution through dialogue. We are very close nations, brotherly nations and this issue must to be resolved.”