Sremski Karlovci, Serbia, May 16, 2022
Updated 5/16, 5:40 PM
The hierarchs of the Serbian Orthodox Church, gathered in the Bishops’ Council in Sremski Karlovci, resolved to receive the previously schismatic Macedonian Orthodox Church-Ohrid Archbishopric back into communion today.
According to the Serbian Council’s statement, the hierarchs of the Macedonian Church were willing to accept their previously canonical status as an autonomous body within the Serbian Patriarchate, and thus are granted the “full internal independence” originally granted them in 1959.
This joyous decision comes just a week after the Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople resolved to enter into communion with the Macedonian Church. A few days before that, it was revealed that a Serbian Church delegation had held a very fruitful talk with a Macedonian Church delegation.
Thus, the interruption of liturgical and canonical communion caused by the Macedonian Church’s 1967 schism is ended, and “full liturgical and canonical communion is established.” The Macedonian Church has an estimated 2 million members.
The Serbian Church will continue the dialogue to fully determine the “future and eventual final status” of dioceses within North Macedonia, “guided only and exclusively by ecclesiological-canonical and Church-pastoral principles, criteria and norms, not caring about ‘realpolitikal,’ ‘geopolitical,’ or ‘Church-political,’” norms.
And while the Synod of Constantinople stipulated that the Macedonian Church must be known as the Ohrid Archbishopric, the Serbian Council of Bishops state that the official name will be resolved in “direct fraternal dialogue with the Greek and other Local Churches.”
Additionally, while the Synod of Constantinople stipulates that the Macedonian Church only has jurisdiction within the state of North Macedonia, the Serbian hierarchs state that they have no intention of limiting its jurisdiction in the diaspora. The Macedonian Church already has established dioceses in North America, Europe, and Australia.
In its earlier letter to the Serbian hierarchs, the Macedonian Synod expressed hope that the other Local Churches would recognize its return to the Serbian Church. Representatives of the Bulgarian, Russian, and Ukrainian Churches expressed reservations about the resolution of the Constantinople Synod, saying it remained to be seen how the Serbian Church would respond. However, following today’s decision from the Serbian hierarchs, Archpriest Nikolai Balashov, the Deputy Head of the Russian Church’s Department for External Church Relations, told the press that the Russian Church welcomes the Serbian-Macedonian reconciliation.
Updated to include the reaction of Fr. Balashov as a representative of the Russian Church.