Macedonian Church received autocephaly “without conditions, pressure, concessions, hidden interests,” says Macedonian hierarch in fiery defense of MOC-OA name and status

Povardarie, North Macedonia, March 11, 2024

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The Macedonian Orthodox Church-Ohrid Archbishopric (MOC-OA) has full and complete autocephaly, and does not need to change its name in order to receive a new tomos from the Patriarchate of Constantinople, an elder bishop of the MOC-OA writes in a new statement.

His Eminence Metropolitan Agathangel of Povardarie, who has served the MOC-OA as a bishop since 1998, and as ruling hierarch of the Povardarie Diocese since 2000, published a strongly worded statement, “The Belittling of the Autocephaly of the Macedonian Orthodox Church-Ohrid Archbishopric,” over the weekend.

It was initially published on, then republished on the Macedonian Church’s official resource

In the article, Met. Agathangel defends the MOC-OA’s full autocephaly, its rights as a Local Church, its name and identity, and defends it against unjust accusations of outside influence. The Orthodox Church knows no Eastern Papacy, and it is unacceptable to belittle the MOC-OA based on any pretensions to such authoritarian rule, the hierarch argues.

Though the MOC-OA received a tomos of autocephaly from its Mother Church of the Serbian Patriarchate in June 2022, its independence has not been recognized by all Local Churches, including the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Church of Greece, both of which have specifically pointed to the Church’s name—“Macedonian”—as a problem, as Macedonia is also the name of a region in Greece.

Moreover, in March of last year, the Holy Synod of the MOC-OA decided not to concelebrate with the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” until its status is finally resolved within the Orthodox Church. This decision angered Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, who created the OCU on the canonical territory of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and is another reason why he refuses to recognize Macedonian autocephaly, according to His Eminence Metropolitan Timotej of Debar and Kičevo.

Last month, the Macedonian primate, His Eminence Archbishop Stefan of Ohrid, visited Rome and met with, among others, Ukraine’s local ambassador Andrei Yurash, who has distinguished himself as an enemy of the canonical Ukrainian Church.

Soon after his return to North Macedonia, the Macedonian Synod announced the creation of a commission to “study the status” of the schismatic OCU and to study the issue of the MOC-OA’s name, which seemed to many an indication that the Church was ready to bow to the demands of Constantinople. It is no coincidence, many outlets write, that a delegation from the Russian Orthodox Church’s Department for External Church Relations made a trip last week to Serbia, during which time Abp. Stefan of Ohrid also visited Serbia and met with the Russian Church delegation.

It is against this background that Met. Agathangel issued his new statement.

The tomos of autocephaly that the Macedonian Church received from the Serbian Church ruined the plans and calculations of certain forces in the country, who wanted the “final resolution” of the MOC-OA situation to be a loss for the Macedonian people. “Suddenly, without any prior notice, their years of effort and hard work were in vain,” the hierarch writes.

Instead, the MOC received “full autocephaly, without any conditions or bargaining, without any pressures, concessions, and hidden accrued interests, which were supposed to be called in in the near or distant future.”

This “noble Christian act” between the Macedonian and Serbian Churches staved off plans for the “complete … eradication of Macedonians,” forcing many “self-proclaimed ‘experts’” to have to explain their failure “before their global sponsors.” They did this, Met. Agathangel argues, by inventing the idea of “Russian influence” and imposing the thesis of the “primacy of Constantinople.”

However, there is no such “Russian influence” in the MOC, Met. Agathangel states. True, its people are influenced by the great Russian saints and has relations with the Russian Church, but the same can be said of Greek saints and the Greek Church. But Greek influence is “politically unacceptable,” unlike Russian influence the MOC-OA hierarch states.

“We look with deep sadness at the catastrophe in brotherly Ukraine, where two Orthodox peoples clashed to the point of bloodshed, from which, in the end, only the greedy satanic corporate liberalism, ready to trample over corpses just to gain control over the abundant Ukrainian and Russian resources, will benefit. We do not take sides, we do not fall for their cheap propaganda tricks.”

“Paradoxically, but invisible to the eyes of these ‘experts,’ Russian influence is much more present in Greece than in Macedonia. There, Russian investments are much more significant, and Russian clerics are much more present than they are here,” the Metropolitan writes.

Further, the idea that only Constantinople can grant full autocephalous has absolutely no canonical grounds, Met. Agathangel insists. “Let them prove me wrong with a canon,” he states.

Constantinople refers to the MOC-OA only under the name of Ohrid, which the MOC-OA should accept in order to receive full autocephaly, they’re told, but, “This is the same manipulation that was served to us for years regarding the state name. We all know that this ‘Greek opportunity’ will not go away so easily, because it’s a maximalist Byzantine trick.”

Just as the state did not solve all problems by changing its name to “North Macedonia,” so the MOC-OA will not benefit from altering its name to please Constantinople, Met. Agathangel writes (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”).

“One thing should be clear: Constantinople is not in the East what the Pope is in the West. Nowhere in the canons is it categorically stated and indicated that they are ‘all and all,” that they have the exclusive right to grant autocephaly. This is their long-standing desire.” Constantinople took advantage of the Soviet persecution of the Church, when the Churches were too busy trying to survive to “deal with the papacy of Constantinople,” His Eminence continues.

Constantinople’s primacy is one of honor, and the rest of its self-understanding “has nothing to do with Christ’s Gospel,” Met. Agathangel argues. It was granted this honor because it was the “New Rome” at the time, but “this canonical provision today is used only … to achieve some transient earthly material benefits, but by no means for some Church or spiritual purpose.”

The Macedonian Church, in fact, has all the characteristics of an autocephalous Church, but remains unrecognized as such by Constantinople. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian schismatics, who are demonstrably “less” autocephalous, are in the Constantinople diptychs.

In Orthodoxy, Christ is the sole head of the Church. There is no earthly center, because such “Western dualism” is a heresy and “perverted spirituality,” Met. Agathangel argues.

Both Rome and Constantinople “forget Jerusalem,” the hierarchs writes, “where Christ resurrected, where the First Apostolic Council was held. Is Jerusalem less ecumenical than them?” The caesaropapism of Constantinople “must be silenced,” lest we “crown the Papacy in the East,” he warns.

“Constantinople needs to solve its problem with nationalism and high self-esteem,” Met. Agathangel believes.

“Where did they get the idea that they should rule everyone's diaspora? There’s no canon for such a thing, there’s no justification for vanity, pride, and lust for power.”

Further, the MOC doesn’t forbid Constantinople from addressing them in its preferred terms, but the MOC itself won’t forsake its Macedonian identity and become something it’s not, the Metropolitan writes, because it is a sin to “devalue even one person, let alone an entire people.”

Macedonian primate Abp. Stefan said the same in an interview in July 2022—that the Greek-speaking Churches are welcome to refer to them only as the Church “of Ohrid,” but the MOC-OA will continue to refer to itself by its full name.

The MOC-OA has neither the “strength nor capacity” to get involved in the struggle between Moscow and Constantinople. “We hope that they will come to a resolution soon, to the joy of all Orthodox Christians in the world. Neither Moscow nor Constantinople are princes of this world, who sit at the top of humanity and rule over the peoples. This is foreign to the Spirit of Christ, Who did not come to be served.”

Moreover, the MOC-OA must not “leave its diaspora to those who have not sown there, and therefore have no right to reap.” Here, the Metropolitan refers to another stipulation of Constantinople, that the MOC-OA give up its diaspora in Europe, North America, and Australia, as Constantinople believes it has global rights to rule all diasporas.

And Met. Agathangel concludes: “May the Lord protect and shelter the holy autocephalous Macedonian Orthodox Church-Ohrid Archbishopric, the Macedonian people, our respected Archbishop, and the holy Macedonian land.”

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