Ukrainian scenario for Macedonian "Church"

The autocephaly of the Macedonian Church is one of the puzzles of the Phanar's global politics. Photo: UOJ

The Phanar declared the need to heal the schism in North Macedonia. What is the schism and how is Constantinople going to "heal" it?

In recent statements by representatives of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, there has been a growing mention of the so-called "Macedonian Orthodox Church" or "the Church of Skopje”. It sounds in the context of legalization of this unrecognized structure by world Orthodoxy. And it seems that in relation to the provision of autocephaly to the "MOC", the Phanar will try to apply one of the variants of the "Ukrainian scenario", namely the OCU scenario.

The so-called 'Macedonian Orthodox Church' is a schismatic religious structure that exists in the territory of North Macedonia and the Macedonian diaspora. In 1967, it proclaimed its autocephaly and withdrew from the Serbian Orthodox Church, in which it had been autonomous from 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 MOC 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 to establish control over the Macedonian diaspora, because, according to Archbishop Jovan (Vranishkovsky), "other public services have failed".

On January 23, 2004, the Macedonian authorities issued the “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 and 3 bishops of the MOC signed an agreement, which was later rejected by the Macedonians under pressure from the authorities.

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 received no positive response.

Twelve years later, on November 23, 2017, the MOC Synod declared the recognition of the Bulgarian Patriarchate as its "Mother Church”. In response to this decision, the Synod of the Bulgarian Church pledged to "provide full assistance, intercession and mediation to the Local Orthodox Churches by doing everything necessary to establish the canonical status of the MOC. This decision was opposed by the Greek Orthodox Church, which considered that the Bulgarians had no right to interfere with the jurisdiction of the Serbian Church. At the time, it seemed that the Macedonian schism could only be overcome through 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”.

Phanar and Macedonia

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 Constantinople Patriarchate, at the request of Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, promised to resolve the "Macedonian question". In July it became known that Zaev was ready to pay real money to the Phanar for a positive resolution of the issue. On January 11, 2019, the Phanar hierarch Daniel (Zelinsky), who took the most 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 the Phana’s recognizing the MOC entered its most active phase. After his visit to Istanbul, Zoran Zaev, following the example of Petro Poroshenko, writes a letter to Patriarch Vafrolomei asking for autocephaly of the "Macedonian Orthodox Church – the Ohrid Archdiocese”. It is noteworthy that the head of the schismatic structure, "Archbishop" Stefan (Velyanovsky) of Ohrid and Macedonia, justifying 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".

However, the Greeks, who do not recognize North Macedonia, remain a rather big problem for Phanariots in this situation. Moreover, Metropolitan Theoklitos (Passalis) of Florina, Prespai and Eordaia stated that there is “no Macedonian Church” in Skopje, and therefore, in his personal opinion, “Patriarch Bartholomew should not grant them autocephaly”.

Metropolitan Theoklitos (Passalis) of Florina, Prespai and Eordaia 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 of Florina is not alone in his position on the issue of autocephaly for the MOC, because on the very next day after his application, another representative of the Greek Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Gabriel (Papanicolaou) of Nea Ionia and Philadelphia, arrived in Phanar. The Greek resource "Romfea", referring to its own sources, claims that Gabriel arrived in Phanar at the request of Metropolitan Ieronymos, the Primate of the Church of Greece, in order to "convey concern to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew" over the issue of autocephaly for Northern Macedonia. Probably, the hierarch of the Greek Church tried to agree with the Phanar head on an acceptable formula to recognise the Macedonian schismatics. The formula, which would rule out "autocephaly" for the country, unrecognized by the Greeks. The same "Romfea" writes that Patriarch Bartholomew made it clear to Metropolitan Gabriel that he had no intention "to grant autocephaly to the so-called ‘Macedonian’ church”, and promised to keep the Church of Greece updated on all the steps taken on this issue. On the same day, October 2, the Ecumenical Patriarchate published a fairly large press release, emphasizing that at the moment "there is no question of autocephaly for the Church of Skopje but of healing a schism”.

Therefore, we can state that now 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.

"Ukrainian formula" for the Macedonian "Church"

The schismatics claim that the Ecumenical Patriarchate, "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 disclosed details of how this issue will be resolved. According to them, with regard to Macedonia, the Patriarchate of Constantinople intends to apply the same model as for the OCU.

With regard to Macedonia, the Patriarchate of Constantinople intends to apply the same model as for the OCU.

The “healing of the schism” will take place in several stages. First, the Phanariots will demand that all Orthodox Christians in the country "unite" into one structure. It should be reminded 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, including imprisonment and extradition. Therefore, there is no doubt that the state structures of Macedonia will use various methods of "persuasion" to "unite" the Archdiocese with the schismatics. 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 the 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 like Ukrainian schismatics Filaret Denisenko and Makariy Maletich at the time.

It will be followed by a joint divine service of the "restored" Macedonian "hierarchs" and the Phanar representatives. And in this case, Ukraine is most likely to be taken as an example. The "exarchs" of the Patriarchate of Constantinople will come to Skopje, as well as to Kyiv in due time, to control the process of "unification", as well as to serve with representatives of the MOC. According to the schismatics themselves, such a step automatically provides them with an opportunity for Eucharistic communion with all other Local Churches of the world. And only after all this, the Phanar will proceed to sign the Tomos of the Autocephalous Church.

The 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 rule 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 confession of the schismatics of Macedonia, we see that the Phanar, having tested a certain tactic in Ukraine, decided to apply it in relation to other Churches as well. This tactic, in addition to the described method of "healing the schism", includes letters from the government, as well as appeals of the schismatics themselves.

The Phanar, having tested a certain tactic in Ukraine, decided to apply it in relation to other Churches as well. This tactic, in addition to the described method of "healing the schism", includes letters from the government, as well as appeals of the schismatics themselves.

So, what do we see in the end? The Patriarch of Constantinople, with the help of "tomoses", not only tries to establish his position as the sole head in the Orthodox world but also pursues a policy of strengthening international relations, which is beneficial to his overseas partners. It is no coincidence that Archbishop Elpidophoros (Lambriniadis) of America is such a frequent guest in the White House, and the head of the US State Department, Mike Pompeo, has visited the Balkans at least twice in the past few months.

In addition, the Macedonian schism is also being used by the Phanariots to torpedo the Serbian Orthodox Church, which is considered a constant partner of the Russian Church in the world. The Ecumenical Patriarchate, which promised in 2018 that the OCU would be recognized by all Orthodox Churches within a few months, has not made visible progress in this matter so far. That is why Macedonia, and then Montenegro, are just puzzles of big politics that the Patriarchate of Constantinople is pursuing against the Russian Church. And the main purpose of this policy is to do everything possible to assert its authority in world Orthodoxy.

And the price of this authority does not matter to the Phanar.


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