Athens, December 8, 2021
A delegation from Bigorsky Monastery of the “Macedonian Orthodox Church” (MOC), headed by its abbot Bishop Partenij, visited Athens over the weekend to participate in an international Orthodox music festival.
On Sunday, the Bigorsky choir helped sing the Divine Liturgy at the Church of the Great Martyr and Healer Panteleimon in Athens. The service was celebrated by Bishop Philotheos of Oreoi, vicar of the Greek primate Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens, the monastery reports.
Recall that the MOC separated from the Serbian Orthodox Church in the 1960s and has been considered schismatic by the Orthodox world ever since, although, unlike the situation in Ukraine where the canonical Church is the largest confession and the schismatics are divided amongst themsleves, the MOC unites the overwhelming majority of the North Macedonian population.
Although the MOC is officially unrecognized, the monastery reports that its brothers communed during the Greek Orthodox Liturgy:
The spiritual unity of the Orthodox brothers from both countries was further strengthened by the union with the pure and immortal Mysteries of Christ, through the Holy Communion of the Cup of the Lord.
This report was confirmed to OrthoChristian by a source close to the Macedonian delegation.
The report concludes: “The participation of the Bigorsky brotherhood in the First Festival of Byzantine Singing and the services in the Athenian temples was greeted with joy and warmth and was very positively and warmly accepted by the Orthodox brothers in Athens, including by high Church and state representatives.”
Sources in the Serbian Orthodox Church have informed OrthoChristian that the MOC delegation also traveled to Istanbul for discussions about the MOC receiving a tomos of autocephaly from the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
The discussion went well for the MOC, though no formal plan has as yet been drawn up. The Patriarchate stipulated that the MOC must remove the word “Macedonian” from its title and rename itself the Ohrid Archbishopric, after which the Patriarchate is willing to issue a tomos of autocephaly.
North Macedonian politicians have met with and called upon Patriarch Bartholomew to grant autocephaly to the MOC several times, and ecclesiastical representatives have expressed confidence that they’ll eventually receive a tomos.
Patriarch Bartholomew expressed his opposition to the use of the word “Macedonian” in the name of the church already in September 2018, given that Macedonia is also the name of a region in Greece.