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Push For “Autocephalous” Montenegro Church Failed, It’s Now North Macedonia’s Turn

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Push For "Autocephalous" Montenegro Church Failed, It's Now North Macedonia's Turn

ILLUSTRATIVE IMAGE. Click to see full-size image

In recent days, the attempts to establish a new “autocephalous” church in Montenegro failed. However, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and his Phanar still plan on attempting to repeat the “Ukrainian Success”.

The new target appears to be the Republic of North Macedonia, and the Macedonian Orthodox Church.

The time has come for Constantinople to “heal” what isn’t even broken.

In recent statements by representatives of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, references to the so-called “Macedonian Orthodox Church” or “Skopje Church” are increasingly heard.

Sounds in the context of the legalization of this structure not recognized by world Orthodoxy.

And it looks like the Phanar will try to apply one of the variants of the “Ukrainian scenario”, that is, the OCU scenario, in relation to the provision of autocephaly to the “MOC”.

The so-called “Macedonian Orthodox Church” (MOC) is a schismatic religious structure that exists in the territory of North Macedonia and in the Macedonian diaspora.

In 1967, it proclaimed its autocephaly and seceded from the Serbian Orthodox Church, in which it had been autonomous since 1958.

Such actions were openly supported by the Macedonian government, whose members were present at the appointment of an archbishop for the MOC. None of the Local Orthodox Churches recognized the “autocephaly” of the Macedonians, and in 2005 the Council of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church excommunicated the believers of this church structure.

Since its inception, the MPC has been closely cooperating with the state. Moreover, one of the reasons why the authorities so actively supported the “independence” of the so-called Macedonian Church was the establishment of control over the Macedonian diaspora, because, according to Archbishop John (Vranishkovsky), “other state services have failed.”

On January 23, 2004, the Macedonian authorities issued a “Declaration in Support of the Macedonian Orthodox Church,” according to which only the MOC is recognized as legitimate in the country, and the autonomous Ohrid Archdiocese of the Serbian Patriarchate is deprived of registration and outlawed.

Attempts to heal the Macedonian schism were made in the early 2000s. Then 4 bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church, 3 bishops of the MOC signed an agreement, which later, under pressure from the authorities, the Macedonians rejected.

In June 2005, the Macedonian authorities appealed to the head of the Phanar, Patriarch Bartholomew, with a proposal to mediate in the conflict with the Serbian Church, but did not receive a positive response.

12 years later, on November 23, 2017, the MOC Synod announced the recognition of the Bulgarian Patriarchate as its “Mother Church”.

In response to this decision, the Synod of the Bulgarian Church undertook “to provide full assistance, intercession and intercession before the Local Orthodox Churches, doing everything that is necessary to establish the canonical status of the MOC.”

This decision was opposed by the Greek Orthodox Church, according to which Bulgarians have no right to interfere in the jurisdiction of the Serbian Church.

Then it seemed that the Macedonian schism could only be overcome by canonical means and with the direct participation of the Serbian Patriarchate. However, since 2018 (that is, in fact, in parallel with the provision of the Tomos to the OCU), the Patriarchate of Constantinople has actively intervened in the “Macedonian process”.

On February 9, 2018, the Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople declared that the negotiations between the Bulgarian Church and the unrecognized Orthodox Church in the “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” were non-canonical.

A little later, the head of the Phanar, commenting on the MOC’s request for recognition, said that the term “Macedonia” or its derivatives would not be used in its name, and the intervention of the Bulgarians in the issue of recognizing the MOC is uncanonical, because “The Patriarchate of Constantinople is the Mother Church for all Balkan peoples. “.

In May 2018, the Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, at the request of Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, promised to resolve the “Macedonian issue”. In July it became known that for a positive solution of the issue Zaev was ready to pay Phanar a round sum.

On January 11, 2019, the Phanar hierarch Daniil (Zelinsky), who took an active part in granting the Tomos to the OCU, said that “every nation that wants to have its own Orthodox Church should have the right to establish it and ask for its recognition by other Orthodox churches. Including when it comes to Macedonia and Montenegro. ”

In January 2020, the issue of recognition of the MOC by the Phanar entered its most active phase.

After his visit to Istanbul, Zoran Zaev, following the example of Petro Poroshenko, wrote a letter to Patriarch Bartholomew asking for autocephaly of the “Macedonian Orthodox Church – Ohrid Archdiocese.”

It is noteworthy that the head of the schismatic structure “Archbishop” of Ohrid and Macedon, Stefan Velyanovsky, substantiating the need for autocephaly, does not give a single church argument.

According to him, the “independence” of the church will contribute to the “unification of the nation.”

For the Phanar in this situation there remains a rather big problem in the face of the Greeks, who do not recognize North Macedonia.

Moreover, Metropolitan Florinsky, Prespian and Eordean Theoclitus (Passalis) stated that there is “no Macedonian church” in Skopje, and therefore, in his personal opinion, “Patriarch Bartholomew should not grant them autocephaly”.

Most likely, Metropolitan Florinsky is not alone in his position on the issue of autocephaly for the MOC, because the very next day after his statement, another representative of the Greek Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Gabriel of Neo-Ionia and Philadelphia (Papanikolaou), arrived at the Phanar.

The Greek edition of Rompheus, citing its own sources, claims that Gabriel arrived in Phanar at the request of the head of the Greek Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Jerome, in order to “convey concern to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew” on the issue of autocephaly for North Macedonia.

Probably, the hierarch of the Greek Church tried to agree with the head of the Phanar on an acceptable formula for recognizing the Macedonian schismatics.

A formula that would rule out “autocephaly” for a country unrecognized by the Greeks. The same “Romfeya” writes that Patriarch Bartholomew made it clear to Metropolitan Gabriel that he was not in the mood to “assign autocephaly to the so-called” Macedonian “church,” and promised to inform the Greek Orthodox Church about all the steps taken by the Phanar on this issue.

On the same day, October 2, Phanar publishes a fairly large press release, which says that “in Macedonia, we are not talking about autocephaly, but about healing the schism.”

Therefore, it can be observed that at the moment the Patriarchate of Constantinople is trying to work out a formula for the recognition of the Macedonian schismatics, which would suit Greece, Macedonia and Istanbul. A version of this formula was voiced by the Macedonian schismatics themselves on their official website.

The schismatics claim that the Phanar, “despite the pressure from the Russian Church and its supporters in Greece and Serbia,” does not intend to abandon the solution of the “church issue in Macedonia.”

In particular, Phanar representatives revealed details of how this issue will be resolved. According to them, in relation to Macedonia, the Patriarchate of Constantinople intends to apply the same model as in relation to the OCU. It wants the same scenario as in Ukraine to transpire.

In particular, the “healing” will take place in several stages.

First, the Phanar will demand that all Orthodox Christians in the country “unite” into one structure.

Let us recall that in addition to the MOC, there is also an autonomous Ohrid Archdiocese of the Serbian Patriarchate on the territory of the country, which is not recognized by the authorities of Macedonia, and whose bishops and priests are undergoing real persecution – up to imprisonment and extradition.

Therefore, there is no doubt that in order to “unite” the Archdiocese with the schismatics, the state structures of Macedonia will use a variety of methods of “persuasion.”

The same methods that were used against the bishops and priests of the UOC in order to persuade them to participate in the “unification council of the OCU”.

The second stage is the restoration of the “Macedonian hierarchy”.

That is, without repentance, but solely for reasons of “economy” (Phanariot, apparently, and not ecclesiastical), the head of the “Macedonian Church” together with the “clergy” will be accepted into communion with the Phanar in “existing dignity”, just as in Ukrainian schismatics – Filaret Denisenko and Makariy Maletich – were accepted in due time.

Then there will be a joint divine service of the “restored” Macedonian “hierarchy” and representatives of the Phanar.

And in this case, most likely, they will take Ukraine as an example.

The “exarchs” of the Patriarchate of Constantinople will come to Skopje, as well as to Kiev in due time, in order to control the process of “unification”, and in order to serve with representatives of the MOC.

In the opinion of the schismatics themselves, such a step automatically provides them with an opportunity for Eucharistic communion with all the other Local Churches of the world. And only after all this the Phanar will proceed to the process of signing the Tomos of the Autocephalous Church.

Macedonian schismatics, commenting on this development of events, write that “although the final status of the local Church will not be determined immediately, it will not affect the Holy Synod of Bishops, which will retain its independence and the right to make decisions and govern, so that the established status and legal internal functioning of the MOC – O.A. will remain unchanged.”

Moreover, they do not hide the fact that “the same method was used in Ukraine, where such a period lasted several months before the granting of autocephaly.”

But, even without the confessions of the schismatics of Macedonia, it can be observed that the Phanar, having tested certain tactics in Ukraine, decided to apply it in relation to other Churches as well. This tactic, in addition to the described method of “healing”, includes letters from the government, as well as appeals of the schismatics themselves.

What would the result be?

The Patriarch of Constantinople, with the help of a “tomos”, is trying not only to assert his position in the Orthodox world as the sole head, but also pursues a certain policy of consolidating international relations, beneficial to his overseas partners.

It is no coincidence that Archbishop Elpidophorus of America is such a frequent visitor to the White House, and US Department of State Mike Pompeo has visited the Balkans at least twice in the past few months.

In addition, the Macedonian schism is used by the Phanar in order to torpedo the Serbian Orthodox Church, which is considered in the world as a permanent partner of the Russian Church.

The Phanar, which back in 2018 promised that the OCU would be recognized by all Orthodox Churches within a few months, has not yet achieved visible success in this matter.

Therefore, Macedonia, and then Montenegro, are only puzzle pieces, part of the big policy that the Patriarchate of Constantinople is leading against the Russian Church.

And the main goal of this policy is to do everything possible to assert one’s power in the global Orthodoxy.

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