The Macedonian Orthodox Church or MOC (in Macedonian: Македонска Православна Црква or МПЦ) is a jurisdiction in the Republic of Macedonia which declares itself to be autocephalous. It separated from the Church of Serbia in 1967. Its self-proclaimed autocephaly is not officially recognized by other Orthodox churches, nor is it in communion with any of them.
Formerly known as Vardarska Banovina (Province of the river Vardar), in March 1945, the People's Republic of Macedonia was created, as one of republics of Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, governed by the Communist Party of Yugoslavia. In Skopje, a Resolution to create the Macedonian Orthodox Church was submitted to the Serbian patriarchate which had since 1919 exercised sole jurisdiction in the area. This resolution was rejected. During World War II there was also an initiative to create an Armenian-Macedonian Church in the territory of occupied Greece, but this plan was supported only by few ethnic Armenians and Aegean Macedonians in the zone of Kastoria. After the war another resolution, submitted in 1958, proposing the Ohrid Archdiocese of St. Clement as a Macedonian Orthodox Church, was accepted (June 17, 1959) under strong pressure from the Communist authorities. Dositej Stojković, auxiliary bishop of the Serbian patriarch, left Belgrade and was proclaimed the first Metropolitan of Skoplje. In order to prevent schism, the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church granted autonomy to three Dioceses in Macedonia. A Macedonian was consecrated bishop. But two of them soon consecrated new bishops who were without the proper qualifications. Soon Macedonians started to organize churches in diaspora without approval of the Patriarch and bishops who were responsible for the dioceses in diaspora. During the so-called Third Clergy and Laity Assembly on July 19, 1967, in Ohrid, the Macedonian Orthodox Church was proclaimed as autocephalous with strong public support.
Since the breakup of Yugoslavia and the end of Communist repression of the Church, the Serbian patriarchate has been in conflict with the Macedonian Orthodox Church, which has yet to gain recognition from the Ecumenical Patriarchate or any other autocephalous church. The issue of dispute is the allegedly anti-canonical method used to gain autocephaly, the issue of the Serbian Orthodox minority (at least some 40,000 strong) and the question of some hundreds of Serbian Orthodox shrines from the medieval Nemanjić period. It is also presumed that the name Macedonian is a matter of dispute regarding the Church of Greece.
Relations with the Autonomous Archdiocese of Ohrid
The two churches had been negotiating the details of a compromise agreement reached in Niš, Serbia in 2002, which would have given the Macedonians de facto independent status just short of canonical autocephaly. However, the agreement, signed by Metr. Jovan (Vraniskovski) from the Macedonian side, was rejected by the Macedonian government and the MOC's holy synod. In turn, the Serbian Orthodox Church granted full autonomy to the Archdiocese of Ohrid, its embattled branch in the Republic of Macedonia, in late May 2005 and appointed Jovan as its archbishop.
The later chain of events turned into a vicious circle of mutual accusations and incidents involving the patriarchate and, partly, the Serbian government on one side, and the MOC, backed by the Macedonian government on the other. The Macedonian side regarded Jovan as a traitor and Serbian puppet. Jovan complained of a new state-backed media campaign against his church. "They are creating an unstable, explosive atmosphere among the population and are virtually inviting people to lynch us," he told Forum 18 News Service. The government has denied registration of his church, attacked its places of worship and launched a criminal case against him. He was arrested, removed from his bishopric and then expelled from the country. He returned in 2005 and, after attempting to perform a baptism, he was arrested, sentenced to 18 months in prison and jailed with "extremely limited visitation rights."
In September 2005 he was also accused of embezzlement of church funds at the time when he still was MOC clergyman. In turn, the patriarchate denied a Macedonian delegation access to the monastery of Prohor Pćinjski, which was the usual site of Macedonian celebration of the national holiday of Ilinden (St. Elijah) on August 2). Macedonian border police often deny Serbian priests entry into the country in clerical garb.
In August 2006, Abp Jovan was again convicted of embezzlement of MOC church funds and voluntarily surrendered himself to imprisonment after a short period in hiding. An appeal has been lodged on his behalf with the International Court of Justice at The Hague.
Despite public appeals from both churches for "Christian brotherhood and unity," both sides have failed to settle the dispute.
Since 1999, the Macedonian Orthodox Church has been headed by Archbishop Stefan of Ohrid and Macedonia. He presides over the Holy Synod of Hierarchs of the MOC, consisting of himself, and nine metropolitans and assistant bishops.
The 13 dioceses of the MOC are governed by ten bishops, with around 500 active priests in about 500 parishes with over 2000 churches and monasteries. The church claims jurisdiction over about twenty active monasteries, with more than 100 monks.
Dioceses of the territory of Republic of Macedonia
- Diocese of Skopje, headed by His Beatitude Archbishop Stefan of Ohrid and Macedonia
- Diocese of Polog and Kumanovo, headed by the Most Reverend Metropolitan Kyril
- Diocese of Debar and Kičevo, headed by the Most Reverend Metropolitan Timotej
- Diocese of Prespa and Pelagonia, headed by the Most Reverend Metropolitan Petar
- Diocese of Strumica, headed by the Most Reverend Metropolitan Naum
- Diocese of Bregalnica, headed by the Most Reverend Metropolitan Agathangel
- Diocese of Povardarie, administered by the Most Reverend Metropolitan Timotej
- ↑ MACEDONIA: Why is state interfering in Orthodox dispute?
- ↑ MACEDONIA: Serbian Orthodox "will never get registration"
- ↑ Church Rivalry Threatens to Brim Over
- ↑ The head of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Macedonia was put in Jail
- ↑ Macedonian delegation is not going to Prohor Pcinjski
- ↑ MACEDONIA: Human Rights Developments
- ↑ Archbishop kyr kyr Jovan (John) VI is released from prison
- Macedonian Orthodox Church, official site
- Macedonian Orthodox Cathedral Sts Peter and Paul-Crown Point, IN, USA
- St. Clement of Ohrid Cathedral in Toronto
- History of Macedonian Orthodox Church from MOC's point of view
- Macedonian Orthodox Cathedral of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary ("St. Mary") - Greater Columbus, Ohio, USA
- Failed agreemment between SOC and MOC