Constantinople doesn’t want Macedonian Church to use its own name even for internal use, says MOC hierarch

Skopje, North Macedonia, April 27, 2023

Photo: Met. Petar of Prespa and Pelagonia. Photo: Photo: Met. Petar of Prespa and Pelagonia. Photo:     

The Patriarchate of Constantinople is so against the idea of the Macedonian Orthodox Church-Ohrid Archbishopric using the title “Macedonian” that it insists it not even refer to itself as such for its own internal uses, one Macedonian hierarch said after yesterday’s session of the MOC Synod.

His Eminence Metropolitan Petar of Prespa and Pelagonia’s comments to TV Thelma come against the background of the question of the MOC’s precise status within the Orthodox world.

In early May of last year, having learned that the Serbian Orthodox Church and the MOC were close to healing the decades-long schism, the Patriarchate of Constantinople first made its own decision to recognize the MOC as canonical. The Patriarchate stipulated that the MOC not use the name “Macedonia” or any variation thereof, and also dictated that its territory be confined to the modern state of North Macedonia, which would cut the MOC off from its diaspora dioceses.

However, later that month, the MOC returned to the Serbian Church with the status of autonomy, and in June it was granted full and complete autocephaly by the Serbian hierarchs, with no limitations on its territory or stipulations abouts its name. The tomos of autocephaly only advises that the MOC work out the issue of its name in concert with the other Local Churches.

Since then, several Local Churches have recognized the full autocephaly of the MOC, though others have recognized it as canonical but not autocephalous.

Notably, in its decision last year, Constantinople stipulated that the MOC’s administrative status be resolved by the Serbian Church, which it did by granting the MOC autocephaly.

However, there are still those who insist that the MOC won’t be autocephalous until Constantinople grants it another tomos of autocephaly. Even within the MOC itself, there is a faction, led by Bigorsky Monastery and its abbot Bishop Partenij, that is inclined towards servility to Constantinople.

However, accepting a tomos from Constantinople would mean the MOC losing its name and full territory.

Last July, the primate of the MOC, His Eminence Archbishop Stephan, made a conciliatory move, saying the Greek-speaking Churches are welcome to refer to them only as the “Ohrid Archbishopric” while the MOC will continue to call itself “Macedonian.” The MOC Synod also understands itself as the guardian of the Church’s statutory order and norms, including its full name.

The issue is also very sensitive among the MOC faithful, among whom a popular petition has been circulating, insisting on the Church’s full autocephaly, name, and diaspora.

Thanks to Constantinople’s ultimatum on the MOC’s name, the process of obtaining a tomos from Constantinople is becoming more and more complicated, says Met. Petar.

He commented:

The Ecumenical Patriarchate demands an erga omnes for the name of MOC-OA and that no derivation of the name Macedonia, Macedonian be used. It demands that we renounce the name Macedonia, Macedonian. We’re not interested in what someone will call us and what someone will tell us that we are and how we are. We’re not interested in if someone forbids us to calls ourselves the Macedonian Orthodox Church-Ohrid Archdiocese of Justiniana Prima. If someone forbids me from that, I don’t need anything from him. Neither a tomos, nor this, nor that, nothing. And if someone doesn’t forbid me, and wants to call us the Ohrid Archbishopric, Justiniana Prima, or the Macedonian Church, that’s their right. We’re being asked, specifically by the Patriarchate of Constantinople, not to call ourselves anywhere and not to say that we are the Macedonian Orthodox Church.

Met. Petar also insisted that Constantinople has no right to take the MOC’s diaspora dioceses away from it.

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