Lesnovo, North Macedonia, January 16, 2023
Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Macedonian Orthodox Church-Ohrid Archbishopric celebrated the Divine Liturgy in North Macedonia last week, marking the first concelebration between hierarchs of the two Churches since the MOC received autocephaly in June, which was formally recognized by the Russian Holy Synod in August.
On January 12, His Eminence Metropolitan Anthony of Volokolamsk, head of the ROC’s Department for External Church Relations, visited the famous Lesnovo Monastery in North Macedonia for the feast of St. Gabriel of Mt. Athos, Bishop of Velić, who is highly venerated in the monastery.
The service was led by the primate of the MOC, His Eminence Archbishop Stefan of Ohrid, with His Eminence Metropolitan Ilarion of Bregalinca (MOC), joined by Met. Anthony and the Russian delegation, clerics of the Romanian Orthodox Church, and local Macedonian clergy, reports the ROC DECR.
In his sermon, Abp. Stefan emphasized that this was the first ROC-MOC hierarchical concelebration since 1962, when His Holiness Patriarch Alexei I of Moscow, His Holiness Patriarch German of Serbia, and His Eminence Archbishop Dosithey of Macedonia concelebrated in Ohrid.
Abp. Stefan welcomed Met. Anthony and the Russian delegation
to the country from which Slavic writing was transferred to Russia more than 1100 years ago, to the country of churches, the country of monasteries, the country of crosses, the country to which numerous Russian monks arrived and found refuge more than 100 years ago, fleeing from Bolshevik persecution, to the country where the great Russian and pan-Orthodox holy hierarch—St. John of Shanghai—lived, a country small in territory but great in history, to a country whose ecclesiastical autocephaly has just been re-granted, but whose ecclesiastical history is ancient.
After the service, the hierarchs and clergy venerated the relics of St. Gabriel that rest in the Lesnovo Monastery’s Archangel Michael Church.
Abp. Stefan of Ohrid also had a phone conversation with Pat. Kirill on January 12, expressing his gratitude for the ROC’s recognition of MOC autocephaly and for the visit of the ROC delegation.
In turn, Pat. Kirill spoke about the love that the ROC traditionally feels for their Orthodox brethren in North Macedonia, and asked the MOC primate to pray for the ROC in these difficult times.