|Macedonian Orthodox Church |
|Independence||1967 from the Serbian Orthodox Church (unrecognized)|
|Headquarters||Skopje and Ohrid|
|Possessions|| United States |
|Language||Church Slavonic and Macedonian|
The Macedonian Orthodox Church - Ohrid Archbishopric (MOC-OA; Macedonian: ? - (-), tr. Makedonska pravoslavna crkva - Ohridska arhiepiskopija (MPC-OA)), or simply the Macedonian Orthodox Church (MOC; Macedonian: ? (), tr. Makedonska pravoslavna crkva (MPC)), is the largest body of Christians in the Republic of Macedonia. It is funded by state and claims ecclesiastical jurisdiction over Orthodox Christians in the Republic of Macedonia and the Macedonian diaspora. The Church was declared autocephalous in 1967 and remains unrecognised by the Orthodox Churches and regarded as schismatic by the Serbian Orthodox Church, which claims ecclesiastical jurisdiction over the Republic of Macedonia. Since May 2018, the Church?s status has been under examination of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.
In 1959, the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church afforded autonomy to the Orthodox Church in the then-Socialist Republic of Macedonia as the restoration of the historic Archbishopric of Ohrid, and it remained in canonical unity with the Serbian Church under their Patriarch. In 1967, on the bicentennial anniversary of the abolition of the Archbishopric of Ohrid, the Macedonian Church unilaterally announced its autocephaly and independence from the Serbian Orthodox Church. The Serbian Holy Synod denounced the decision and condemned the clergy as schismatic. Thenceforth, the Macedonian Church has remained unrecognized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and all the other canonical Orthodox churches in defense of Serbian opposition.
After the fall of the First Bulgarian Empire, Byzantine Emperor Basil II acknowledged the autocephalous status of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and by virtue of special imperial decrees set up its boundaries, dioceses, property and other privileges. The Archibishopric was seated in Ohrid in the Byzantine theme of Bulgaria and was established in AD 1019 by lowering the rank of the autocephalous Bulgarian Patriarchate and its subjugation to the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. In 1767 the Archbishopric was abolished by the Ottoman authorities and annexed to the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Efforts were made throughout the nineteenth and the first part of the twentieth centuries to restore the Archdiocese, and in 1874 it became part of the newly established Bulgarian Exarchate. The Christian population of the bishoprics of Skopje and Ohrid voted in 1874 overwhelmingly in favour of joining the Exarchate, and the Bulgarian Exarchate became in control of most of the Macedonian region.
Following Vardar Macedonia's incorporation into Serbia in 1913, several of the Bulgarian Exarchate's dioceses were forcefully taken over by the Serbian Orthodox Church. While the region was occupied by Bulgaria during World War I and World War II, the local dioceses temporarily came under the control of the Bulgarian Exarchate.
The first modern assembly of Macedonian clergy was held near Ohrid in 1943. In 1944, an Initiative Board for the organization of the Macedonian Orthodox Church was officially formed. In 1945, the First Clergy and People's Synod met and adopted a Resolution for the restoration of the Ohrid Archbishopric as a Macedonian Orthodox Church. It was submitted to the Serbian Orthodox Church, which since 1919 had been the sole church in Vardar Macedonia. The resolution was rejected, but a later one, submitted in 1958 at the Second Clergy and People's Synod, was accepted on June 17, 1959 by the Serbian Orthodox Church under pressure from the Socialist authorities. Dimitrija Stojkovski, a Macedonian, was appointed the first archbishop of Ohrid and Metropolitan of Macedonia under the name Dositheus II. The Macedonian Orthodox Church at that time only held autonomous status.
After the Serbian Church agreed with the decisions, the agreement was celebrated in a common liturgy by the Macedonian priests and the Serbian Patriarch German in Skopje, a sign that the Serbian church recognized the autonomy of the Macedonian Church. In 1962, Serbian Patriarch German II and Russian Patriarch Alexy visited the Macedonian republic.
At its third synod in 1967, on the bicentennial anniversary of the abolition of the Archbishopric of Ohrid, the Macedonian Church proclaimed its autocephaly (full administrative independence). The Serbian Church bishops denounced the decision and condemned the clergy as schismatic. For all the subsequent efforts to gain recognition, the autocephaly of the Macedonian Church is not recognized by other canonical Orthodox churches in defense of Serbian opposition.
The Macedonian Orthodox Church has about 1,200 churches in Macedonia organized in 10 eparchies, whose bishops make up the "Holy Synod of Bishops", headed by the "Archbishop of Ohrid and Macedonia". At its session in 1994, the Holy Synod stated that
|"||"The autocephalous status of the Macedonian Orthodox Church and the interest of the Macedonian people and state are holy and inalienable values, which it has no intentions of ever giving up."||"|
After Archbishop Mihail was elected in as head of the Macedonian Orthodox Church in 1993, he stated that the church wanted to cooperate with neighboring Greek, Bulgarian, and Serbian churches. He hoped that:
|"||we will find understanding after we give our true information about the restoration and autocephaly of the Ohrid Archbishopric and the activities of our dear Macedonian Orthodox Church... the Macedonians are an ancient nation, we are an ancient church, we did not create a church, we renewed our illegally abolished Ohrid Archbishopric.||"|
The church also pays special attention in preserving the national identity and cultural traditions among Macedonian expatriates in Western countries. Many Orthodox churches who are recognized with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople admit the faithful of the Macedonian Orthodox Church to holy communion. The hierarchy of some churches serve with the Macedonian Orthodox priests, but will not serve liturgically with the hierarchy.
Since the breakup of Yugoslavia, the Serbian Patriarchate has sought to restore its control over the Macedonian Church. The Macedonian church sees these efforts, supported by other Orthodox churches, as closely connected to the Serbian government agenda. The main issue of dispute mainly revolves around the church's autocephaly, although there are some other minor issues including Macedonia's Serb Orthodox minority (according to the last census, there are 40,000 citizens of the country declared as Serbs) and the question of some hundreds of Serb Orthodox shrines from the medieval Nemanji? period.
The two Churches had negotiated the details of a compromise agreement reached in Ni?, Serbia, in 2002, which would have given the ethnic Macedonians a de facto independent status just short of canonical autocephaly. The agreement was signed and agreed upon by three Bishops in the Macedonian Orthodox Church (Metropolitan Petar of Australia, Metropolitan Timotej of Debar and Kicevo; and Metropolitan Naum of Strumica). After political officials exerted pressure on the clergy of the MOC for accepting the agreement, the Bishops later reneged on the agreement, leaving only Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid from the Macedonian side in agreement. Suddenly the signed agreement was rejected by the Macedonian government and the Holy Synod of MOC. In turn, the Serbian Orthodox Church granted full autonomy to the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric, 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 SOC and, partly, the Serbian government on one side, and 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, and sentenced to 18 months in prison and jailed with "extremely limited visitation rights". On March 19, 2006, after spending 220 days in prison, archbishop Jovan was released.
In turn, SOC denied a Macedonian delegation access to the monastery of Prohor P?injski, which was the usual site of Macedonian celebration of the national holiday of Ilinden (literally meaning St. Elijah Day) on August 2 and the site where the First Session of ASNOM was held. Macedonian border police often denied Serbian priests entry into the country in clerical garb.
Despite public appeals from both churches for "Christian brotherhood and unity", both sides did little to settle the dispute.
On 12 November 2009 Macedonian Orthodox Church added to its name "Ohrid Archbishopric" as the coat of arms and the flag are also changed.
On November 18, 2017 the Bulgarian National Television announced a letter calling it a "historic document". The Macedonian Church sent it on November 9, to the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. It asks to discuss the issue on the recognition of the Macedonian Orthodox Church and includes a proposal the Bulgarian Orthodox Church to become Macedonia's Mother Church. The letter has been signed by the Macedonian Archbishop Stefan. Bulgarian National Television has supposed, if the Bulgarian Orthodox Church agrees to this proposal, it would face the resistance from the Serbian and Russian Orthodox Churches, as well that from the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Among other things, in the letter is claimed: "The Bulgarian Orthodox Church - Bulgarian Patriarchate, taking into account the unity of the Orthodox Church and the real spiritual and pastoral needs, should establish eucharistic unity with the restored Ohrid Archbishopric in the face of the Macedonian Orthodox Church". At its meeting on November 27, the Holy Synod accepted the idea the Bulgarian Orthodox Church to become Macedonia's Mother Church and agreed to cooperate with it, and to advocate before all the Orthodox Churches to the establishment of the canonical status of the Macedonian Church and to its recognition. The MOC thanked the Mother Church BOC. The Serbian Church expressed its surprise over the Bulgarian decision to be "mother" to the Macedonian Church.
As of 1999, the Macedonian Orthodox Church is headed by Archbishop Stephen of Ohrid and Macedonia. He presides over the Holy Synod of Hierarchs of the church, consisting of 9 metropolitans and titular bishops.
Outside the country, the church is active in 3 dioceses in the Macedonian diaspora. The 10 dioceses of the church are governed by ten Episcopes, with around 500 active priests in about 500 parishes with over 2000 churches and monasteries. The church claims jurisdiction of about twenty living monasteries, with more than 100 monks.
According to the 2006 Australian census, a total of 48,085 people there reported that they are Macedonian Orthodox (53,249 in 2001), out of a total of 67,833 who said they speak the Macedonian language at home.