Stevo Pendarovski, the president of North Macedonia, sent a formal letter to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew asking that his country’s Orthodox Christian Church be recognized as an independent Church.
Known as the the “Macedonian Orthodox Church – Ohrid Archbishopric,” the church represents some 2 million faithful both inside the country and abroad in large diaspora communities in the United States, Canada and Australia.
In 1959, the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church granted autonomy to the Church in the then-Socialist Republic of Macedonia and it remained in canonical unity with the Serbian Church.
In 1967 the Macedonian Holy Synod unilaterally announced its autocephaly and independence from the Serbian Orthodox Church, which denounced the decision and condemned the clergy as schismatic, refusing to accept the decision.
Since then, the “Macedonian Church” has remained unrecognized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and all the other canonical Orthodox churches have considered it “schismatic.”
The split meant that “canonical” or recognized Orthodox Churches throughout the world, were not in communion with the “Macedonian” Church, adding a particular complexity in large cities like Chicago, Melbourne, Pittsburgh and elsewhere where multiple Orthodox jurisdictions had parishes.
“I turn to you, on behalf of a large portion of my fellow citizens, who identify themselves as Orthodox Christians and whose only wish and need is to reconcile with their close ones and focus on a common future, coexistence and true freedom,” Pendarovski told Bartholomew in a letter.
“Let me ask Your Holiness to esteem the call of our people and our Church to use Your prerogative and finally give our citizens of the Orthodox Christian faith the opportunity to be equal with the other Orthodox Christians across the globe,” he added.
Serbia’s Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic expressed his hope that Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople would refuse to support the request for autocephaly.
“We want an agreement to be reached, but the rules of the Orthodox Church must be observed,” Dacic told reporters. “We expect that the Patriarch of Constantinople will take the same position as when he opposed the creation of the so-called Montenegrin Orthodox Church.”
In June 2019, Patriarch Bartholomew refused to acknowledge a similar request from the breakaway Orthodox Church in Montenegro.
But a year earlier, he did grant independent status to the Church in Ukraine, to the dismay of the Russian Church.
Featured photo at the top of this article: Macedonian Orthodox in Canberra, Australia
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