Macedonian bishop explains: Constantinople doesn’t recognize MOC as autocephalous because of its stance towards Ukrainian schismatics

Debar, North Macedonia, February 8, 2024

Photo: slobodenpecat.mk Photo: slobodenpecat.mk     

The Macedonian Orthodox Church-Ohrid Archbishopric’s stance on the Ukrainian ecclesiastical situation is the reason why the Patriarchate of Constantinople does not recognize it as autocephalous, says His Eminence Metropolitan Timotej of Debar and Kičevo.

In June 2022, the MOC received a tomos of autocephaly from its Mother Church, the Serbian Orthodox Patriarchate, which has since been formally recognized by several other Local Churches.

At the same time, there are those Local Churches, as well as some figures within the MOC itself, who are waiting for the Patriarchate of Constantinople to grant a second tomos of autocephaly. After learning of the negotiations between the Serbian Church and the previously schismatic Macedonian Church, Constantinople recognized the MOC as canonical (though not autocephalous) in May 2022, stipulating that the further administrative situation between the Serbian and Macedonian Churches was a matter for the Serbian Church to decide.

Later that month, the Serbian Church made an independent decision to receive the Macedonian Church back into communion as an autonomous Church within the Patriarchate, and the next month it granted the aforementioned autocephaly.

Met. Timotej, who is also the spokesman for the MOC Holy Synod appeared on Macedonian television recently, reports Religija.mk. When asked why, in the two years since the Serbian Church granted autocephaly, Constantinople has not done the same, he noted that negotiations continue, but “There are some questions that from a canonical point of view at this moment we can’t accept, and they insist on something that is unacceptable in our opinion and according to the canons.”

He then clarified that the impasse is specifically due to the MOC’s stance towards the so-called “Orthodox Church of Ukraine.”

“The ‘Orthodox Church of Ukraine’ is a non-canonical church. They were ordained without grace,” Met. Timotej explained.

In March of last year, decided “not to concelebrate with the hierarchy of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine until the full resolution of its status in the fullness of Orthodoxy.”

It’s also known that the Constantinople is so against the idea of the MOC using the title “Macedonian” that it insists it not even refer to itself as such for its own internal uses, as His Eminence Metropolitan Petar of Prespa and Pelagonia has explained.

However, the MOC Synod explicitly understands itself as the guardian of the Church’s statutory order and norms, including its full name of “Macedonian Orthodox Church-Ohrid Archbishopric.”

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Overall, the autocephaly of the Macedonian Church is recognized by the Churches of of Russia, Poland, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania, and the Czech Lands and Slovakia, in addition to the Serbian Church that granted it.

Meanwhile, the Churches of Constantinople, Greece, Antioch, Georgia, and Albania recognize the Macedonian Church as canonical but not autocephalous.

MOC hierarchs and clergy have also concelebrated with hierarchs and clergy from the Churches of Jerusalem and the Orthodox Church in America, though their Synods haven’t formally addressed the issue.

Thus far, there have no been Synodal decisions from or concelebrations with hierarchs or clergy of the Churches of Alexandria and Cyprus.

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2/8/2024

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