Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries Essays on Orthodoxy


The schismatic "Macedonian Orthodox church"

striving to disprove its historical "identity crisis"

by John E. Sidiras 
Source: http://www.xronos.gr/detail.php?ID=37154



The decade of 1940-1950 was the period with the biggest and most relentless persecutions for the Serbian Church, but also Her greatest and most vigorous resistance at every level. An indicative example: between the years 1943-1946 were the unsuccessful attempts by Tito's atheist regime for an un-canonical recognition by the Serbian Patriarchate of a new, ethnic "Macedonian" church in the South (of Jugoslavia) with its seat in Skopje - for obvious nationalist and anti-Hellenic aspirations.

On the 4th of March of 1945, the first, anti-canonical, clergy & laity conference convened in Skopje, with the participation of 300 priests and lay people, in which it was decided to found the "Archdiocese of Ohrid as an independent Macedonian church that would not be subservient to any local or ethnic church".  The Serbian Patriarchate then responded that the clergy & laity conference was anti-canonical, and on the 22nd of September 1945 it proceeded with an - especially daring for that era's political circumstances - decision.  In that decision, the hierarchy of the Serbian Patriarchate stressed - among other things - the following:

1) that the three provinces of the South (Skopje, Stromnitsa and Monasterion) had been allocated to the Serbian Patriarchate in 1922, with a patriarchal and conciliar Tome of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and as such, they belong to the Serbian Church.

2) that it is not possible for an independent Church to be re-established within federal Jugoslavia without the consent of the Mother Church of Constantinople.

3)  that the self-proclamation by any independent, self-styled "macedonian" church is a dictatorial and anti-canonical act.

The reaction by the -then- political and ecclesiastic circles of Skopje revealed their nationalist disposition for the disbanding of the Serbian Patriarchate as an institution, and its replacement by the new "Orthodox Church of Jugoslavia".  In the end, nothing of the kind occurred.  The attempts since 1944 to found an autocephalous "Macedonian Church" in Skopje aspired to the supporting of the hypostasis of the newly-formed "Slavo-Macedonian nation".  In other words, the new local "church" was called upon to serve political and racial requisites, and not any ecclesiastic needs.

Marshal Tito wanted a "Macedonian Church" in Skopje, and had envisaged it - backstage - as an autocephalous archdiocese or as a Patriarchate.  The hierarchy of the Serbian Orthodox Church had preoccupied itself with this issue, in 1958 and 1959.  On the basis of the sacred canons, this political request could not be satisfied. The only thing that could be done - providentially - within an ecclesiastic framework (which in fact was realized in 1959), was to allow a kind of autonomous status quo to the three metropolises of southern Jugoslavia, with the consent of the Ecumenical Patriarchate - and naturally under the full supervision of the Serbian Patriarchate.

The solution that was given had initially been accepted, but with much skepticism from the political side. In 1966, the political request to found an independent "Macedonian Church" re-surfaced. Then Dositheos, the Metropolitan of Skopje, on the 18th of November of 1966 at the standing Holy Synod of the Serbian Church made the following, revealing announcement:  "We have decided to ask for an autocephalous status from the Serbian Orthodox Church. This decision of ours has been brought to the attention of the executive council of Macedonia (Skopje)."

The Serbian hierarchy's refusal was absolute and categorical, with their decision No.44 of the 24th of May 1967.  The Serbian Patriarchate steadfastly and correctly insisted ONLY on an autonomous status quo, under its direct and close supervision.  Unfortunately, thereafter, the political and ecclesiastic carriers in Skopje proceeded on their own with the anti-canonical, coup d'etat-style and anti-ecclesiastic self-proclamation of the autocephaly of the self-styled "Macedonian Church".

Specifically, on the 17th of July 1967, the two bodies (of the pseudo-synod of 4 hierarchs, and the anti-canonical clergy & lay conference of 34 members) convened in Ohrid - the "formerly shining" historical Archdiocese of Ohrid - and finally proceeded with the establishment of the pseudo-macedonian, coup d'etat-like and anti-canonical "church" of Skopje.

The reaction of the Holy Synod of the Hierarchy of the Serbian Orthodox Church was a swift and austere one.  In an extraordinary convening in September of 1967, it preoccupied itself solely with the subject: "The problem of the proclamation of the autocephalous of the Macedonian Church". The decision of the Serbian Church was clear-cut and opined irrevocably that:  "The "Macedonian Church" of Skopje with its anti-canonical and political action has excised itself from communicating and communing with the whole of the Orthodox Church and has rendered itself a schismatic religious organization."  This placement of the Serbian Church - canonical from all aspects - also became the position of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and the other, local Orthodox Churches.

This decision by the Serbian Church was not an unfounded one, nor was it historically groundless, precisely because - since 1922 - the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople had ceded to the Serbian Patriarchate of the Skopje Metropolis with a Patriarchal and Synodical Tome the metropolises of Skopje, Devron & Velissou, Pelagonia, Prespes & Ohrid and Stromnitsa, which, since 1912/1913 - after the Balkan Wars - had been included in the Serbian kingdom.  Consequently, the reaction of the Serbian Church was absolutely justified and expected, since an organic section of her jurisdiction had been anti-canonically excised and with nationalist-racist and anti-Orthodox criteria to boot.

Besides, the involvement and active participation of the State for a forced concession of autocephaly to the "church" of Skopje is absolutely anti-canonical and illegitimate, because according to the canonical order and praxis of the Orthodox Church, no secular authority whatsoever can be the prerequisite or the criterion for conceding an autocephaly.

Furthermore, the assertion by the pseudo-macedonian "church" of Skopje, that it is supposedly related to the historical Archdiocese of Ohrid (which, ecclesiastically, had been absolutely independent for 800 years), is an entirely groundless and historically inaccurate and unfounded one, for two main reasons: 

Firstly, because the Archdiocese of Ohrid was never an autocephalous (independent) Church. The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople had never ceded or recognized this honorific status to the Archdiocese of Ohrid, which had always belonged to the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  For historical reasons alone, the Mother Church of Constantinople had ceded to the local Church of Ohrid a certain form of ecclesiastic semi-autonomy.

Secondly, inasmuch as there can be no comparison whatsoever between the pseudo-macedonian "church" of Skopje and the Archdiocese of Ohrid. This is also evidenced by the fact that the Archdiocese of Ohrid had a mixed flock - of Greek, Bulgarian and Serbian faithful. In other words, it did not have that "pseudo-macedonian" character - as so unhistorically and unfoundedly asserted by the Skopjians. Furthermore, the Archdiocese of Ohrid was never called "Macedonian Church".  This can be ascertained, from the official titles and signatures of the Ohrid archbishops, on numerous official documents. But also, the official language of the Ohrid Archdiocese was Greek, given that most of the Metropolitans and Bishops of that Church were Greek, or possessed a Hellenic Education, as they were all graduates of the Theological School of Halki.  We must also not overlook the fact that the Archbishops of Ohrid were elected by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and were sent from there to Ohrid.

From 1967 and to this day, every month of May a delegation of pseudo-bishops of the nonexistent, pseudo-macedonian "church" of Skopje visits the Vatican.  What does this "schismatic, religious organization" of Skopje want from the Vatican?  It seeks spiritual and ecclesiastic recognition.  What does the Vatican in turn seek? The expansion of the Pope's spiritual and ecclesiastic influence in Southern Jugoslavia, through a new form of Unia.

On the 15th of March 1992, when the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I convened all the Orthodox archbishops and patriarchs in the Phanar of Constantinople, an ecclesiastic delegation from Skopje also presented itself, on its own initiative.  Patriarch Bartholomew received the delegation, but only with the presence of the Serbian Patriarch, Paul, in order to underline and stress that Orthodoxy overall recognizes only the Serbian patriarchate, and no "church" from Skopje.  That delegation requested ecclesiastic recognition by the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The Patriarch however proposed that they return to the bosom of their Mother Church, which was and is the Serbian Patriarchate.

Even to this day, from time to time, discussions are still taking place for the solution to this entire problem. The results are negative, because the pseudo-macedonians of Skopje are seeking independency (autocephaly) of a "church" with the name "Macedonian".  However this has not been accepted, neither by the Serbian Patriarchate, nor by any other Orthodox Church.  Of late, the pseudo-macedonian, schismatic "church" of Skopje is striving to be subsumed by the Papist "church", in the form of a local, Uniate "church".

There can be no doubt that the anti-canonical and coup d'etat-like self-proclamation of "autocephaly" by Skopje aspired to serve political expediencies. In other words, it was called upon to contribute to the promotion of the so-called "Macedonian issue", to the detriment of Hellenic Macedonia, on the part of the Jugoslavian status quo of Tito, which, as an expansive policy is continuing to this day.  That is why the nonexistent and schismatic pseudo-macedonian "church" in Skopje is aptly characterized as a "schismatic religious organization" and is indeed a submissive instrument of Skopje's politics.

As we have been informed during the recent period of time, certain schismatic pseudo-bishops of the pseudo-macedonian, schismatic "church" of Skopje are returning to the Serbian Patriarchate, where they properly belong - administratively and spiritually.  One such bishop who repented and returned to the official Serbian Church is John of Velesson, whom one year ago the Serbian Patriarchate elected as the new Archbishop of Ohrid.

Already, the first internal rupture within the schismatic and anti-canonical pseudo "church" of Skopje has occurred. In the end, canonical ecclesiastic order will prevail.



Translation by A. N.

Article published in English on: 10-9-2011.

Last update: 28-02-2018.