by Efi Efthimiou
The Patriarchate of Serbia went ahead today with a move that… reminds Russian tactics and which further complicates things in Orthodoxy at a time when the war in Ukraine is raging from the Russian offensive.
During a concelebration of the Divine Liturgy at St. Archangel Michael’s Cathedral in Belgrade, Patriarch Porfirije with Archbishop Stefanos of Ohrid, the Patriarch of Serbia handed over to the Archbishop of the Church of North Macedonia, the “Tomos of Autocephaly”, in an ignorant of history move of impression, instigated -according to sources of orthodoxtimes.com- by the Metropolitan Irinej of Backa.
In this way, he directly questions the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate as the only competent ecclesiastical body for granting Autocephaly, and creates problems regarding the status of the Church of North Macedonia, whose head is scheduled to be in Constantinople in a few days to concelebrate with the Ecumenical Patriarch (it remains to be seen whether this concelebration will take place, in the light of the latest developments).
It was the Church of Serbia, long standing – either implicitly or openly – on the side of the Russian Church, that first raised the issue of the Church of North Macedonia, when one of its Hierarchs announcing at the beginning of May, that the Patriarchate of Serbia appears ready to provide a solution to the problem of the Church of Northern Macedonia.
The Ecumenical Patriarch, anticipating the developments, recognized the Ohrid Archdiocese, accepting in Eucharistic communion “the hierarchy, the clergy and the people of this Church, under Archbishop Stephen.”
In the relevant announcement of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, it is clear that the term “Macedonian” and any other derivative of the word “Macedonia” are excluded, recognizing the name of the Church as “Archdiocese of Ohrid”, while clarifying that it is up to the Church of Serbia to regulate its administrative issues with the Church of North Macedonia.
A few days later, the president of the country, Stevo Pendarovski, sent a letter to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew thanking him for the decision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to restore the canonicality of his country’s Church.
In this letter, the President of North Macedonia expressed his hope and expectation for a final settlement of the administrative status of his country’s church in the near future through the granting of an Autocephaly Tomos by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, stressing that the completion of the autocephaly of the church of North Macedonia is a top national interest.