The sudden move of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to proceed with the recognition of the Ohrid Archdiocese, under Archbishop Stefan, continues to cause “upheaval” within the Orthodox Church.
While we await the first official reaction of the Patriarchate of Serbia, statements on the recognition of the Church of North Macedonia were made by Metropolitan Gabriel of Lovech of the Patriarchate of Bulgaria, as well as by Archpriest Nikolay Balasov, vice-president of the Department of External Church Relations of the Patriarchate of Moscow.
Balasov, speaking to the Russian agency TASS, stressed that the recognition of the Church of North Macedonia by Constantinople was “a blatant and politically motivated intrusion to the Serbian Orthodox Church”.
Specifically, the Archpriest of the Russian Church stressed that “The Patriarchate of Constantinople, as in the case of Ukraine, decided again to act as the sole mediator for the fate of the entire Orthodox world, as the sole and undisputed arbitrator in all ecclesiastical matters.
It has made a blatant non-cannical and politically motivated intrusion into the jurisdiction of the Serbian Orthodox Church. However, a legitimate decision on the status of the Orthodox Church of Northern Macedonia can only be taken by the Council of Bishops of the Patriarchate of Serbia. Any other decision without the participation of the Orthodox Church will not be recognized by the Russian Church. I hope that the other local Orthodox Churches will not do so either.”
Metropolitan Lovech (Patriarchate of Bulgaria): This move will bring more problems to the Orthodox Church
Speaking to the Bulgarian website BNT, Metropolitan Lovech stressed that this move by the Ecumenical Patriarchate “will bring more problems for the Orthodox Church”.
As he pointed out, “the Ecumenical Patriarchate has no more rights than any other Orthodox Church.”
The Metropolitan of the Bulgarian Church said that “I don’t know what will happen, how the Church of Serbia and other Churches will react, but this is a reason to intensify the schism.”
He went on to say: “The Church of North Macedonia has been under the jurisdiction of Serbia since the 1920s, and is recognized by all Orthodox Churches around the world. Therefore, according to the rules, the Serbian Orthodox Church had the right to grant autocephaly to the Church of North Macedonia, or a Pan-Orthodox Synod.”
According to Metropolitan Lovech, there is also another problem. The Church of North Macedonia cannot be given the name of the Ohrid Archdiocese, because this is the historical name of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, for the period 1018-1767.
In fact, he stressed that in 2017 the Holy Synod of the Church of North Macedonia stated that it recognises the Bulgarian Patriarchate as a Mother Church.
“Initially our Church intended to help with recognition, but because of the name issue, the process was delayed.”
On his part, Metropolitan Timothy of Debar and Kičevo stressed that there are some Churches that will not agree with the decision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
“That is why we are looking for a way to be recognized by everyone, and not by individual Orthodox Churches. This is our wish, so we pray,” said Metropolitan Timothy.