By Efi Efthimiou
Patriarch Kirill of Moscow welcomed the “granting of autocephaly” to the Archdiocese of Ohrid by the Patriarchate of Serbia during the meeting of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church on Thursday.
In this way, it overlooks the fact that the right to grant autocephaly has been held for centuries by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and that the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, by its decision on May 9, recognized the Archdiocese of Ohrid, given in a Eucharistic communion “the hierarchy, the clergy and the people of this Church, under Archbishop Stephen”.
With that decision, it had become clear that the term “Macedonian” and any other derivative of the word “Macedonia” were excluded, and that the name of the Church would be recognized as “Ohrid”.
According to an announcement on the official website of the Patriarchate, the Patriarch of Moscow stressed that “the Holy Synod, at its meeting on May 27, accepted the news of the restoration of communion between the Patriarchate of Serbia and the “Macedonian” Orthodox Church of the Archdiocese of Ohrid, under the status of the autonomous Church, which was granted to it in 1959.”
In his message, the Patriarch of Moscow refers to the co-liturgy of Patriarch Porfirije of Serbia and Archbishop Stephen of Ohrid, which took place on June 5 at St. Michael Cathedral in Belgrade, at the end of which Patriarch Porfirije issued “the Tomos solemnly to Archbishop Stephen of Ohrid and Macedonia, confirming the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Macedonia -Archdiocese of Ohrid”.
This move by the Patriarch of Serbia at the time, to hand over the “Tomos of Autocephaly” to the Archbishop of the Church of North Macedonia, had caused an impression on the Orthodox world and had been criticized, as it is an unhistorical movement of impressiveness, prompted – according to sources of orthodoxtimes.com – by Metropolitan Irinej of Backa.
In this way, he directly challenged the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate as the only competent ecclesiastical body for granting Autocephaly and poses problems regarding the status of the Church of North Macedonia.
The answer had come from Archbishop Stephen of Ohrid himself, who seems to have realized that if there is a way for his Church to receive Autocephaly, it is from the Ecumenical Patriarchate and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.
He, therefore, rushed to clarify that “the granting of the Tomos of Autocephaly will come from the Ecumenical Patriarchate” and that the move of the Patriarchate of Serbia concerned an “official document, a kind of recommendation with which our Church is presented as ready and worthy to be granted Autocephaly”.
Patriarch Kirill, for his part in yesterday’s message, informed the Holy Synod that the Patriarch of Serbia had informed him by letter on August 8 “about the event” (editor’s note: “Autocephaly”), expressing his wish and request to the Russian Orthodox Church “that you also accept the completely canonical Church, which has already been mentioned as the youngest sister of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church, thus setting an example for the other Local Orthodox Churches”.
He commented that Archbishop Stephen of Ohrid also sent a letter dated July 13 to Patriarch Kirill, informing him of these “happy events, in which God honored our Local Church”.
The Patriarch of Moscow himself called on the Holy Synod to recognize the “Orthodox Church of Macedonia – Archdiocese of Ohrid as an Autocephalous Sister Church, and to include in the diptychs the name of the Primate, Archbishop Stephen of Macedonia.”
He expressed the hope that the new Church will maintain “the faith of the Holy Orthodox faith in purity and integrity and will maintain the faithfulness of the canonical Orthodox tradition”.