|Macedonian Orthodox Church |
|Classification||Independent Eastern Orthodox|
|Theology||Eastern Orthodox theology|
|Primate||Stefan, Metropolitan of Skopje|
|Language||Church Slavonic and Macedonian|
|Headquarters||Skopje and Ohrid|
|Possessions||United States |
|Independence||1967 from the Serbian Orthodox Church|
|Separated from||Serbian Orthodox Church (1967)|
The Macedonian Orthodox Church - Ohrid Archbishopric (MOC-OA; Macedonian: ? - (-), tr. Makedonska pravoslavna crkva - Ohridska arhiepiskopija (MPC-OA)), or simply the Macedonian Orthodox Church (MOC; Macedonian: ? (), tr. Makedonska pravoslavna crkva (MPC)), is the largest body of Christians in North Macedonia, not canonically recognized by the other Orthodox Christian Churches. It claims ecclesiastical jurisdiction over North Macedonia and is also represented in the Macedonian diaspora.
In 1959, the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church granted autonomy to the Macedonian Orthodox Church in the then-Socialist Republic of Macedonia as the restoration of the historic Archbishopric of Ohrid, and it remained in canonical unity with the Serbian Church under their Patriarch. In 1967, on the bicentennial anniversary of the abolition of the Archbishopric of Ohrid, the Macedonian Holy Synod unilaterally announced its autocephaly and independence from the Serbian Orthodox Church. The Serbian Holy Synod denounced the decision and condemned the clergy as schismatic. Thenceforth, the Macedonian Church has remained unrecognized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and all the other canonical Orthodox churches. The primate of the Macedonian Orthodox Church is the Metropolitan of Skopje and Archbishop of Ohrid and Macedonia and of Justiniana Prima.
Since May 2018, the Church?s status has been under examination by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.
Following the fall of the First Bulgarian Empire, Byzantine Emperor Basil II acknowledged the autocephalous status of the Bulgarian Church and set up its boundaries, dioceses, property and other privileges. The Archbishopric was seated in Ohrid in the Byzantine theme of Bulgaria and was established in 1019 by lowering the rank of the autocephalous Bulgarian Patriarchate and its subjugation to the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. In 1767 the Archbishopric was abolished by the Ottoman authorities and annexed to the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Efforts were made throughout the nineteenth and the first part of the twentieth centuries to restore the Archdiocese, and in 1874 it became part of the newly established Bulgarian Exarchate. The Christian population of the bishoprics of Skopje and Ohrid voted in 1874 overwhelmingly in favour of joining the Exarchate, and the Bulgarian Exarchate became in control of most of the Macedonian region.
Following Vardar Macedonia's incorporation into Serbia in 1913, several of the Bulgarian Exarchate's dioceses were forcefully taken over by the Serbian Orthodox Church. While the region was occupied by Bulgaria during World War I and World War II, the local dioceses temporarily came under the control of the Bulgarian Exarchate.
The first modern assembly of Macedonian clergy was held near Ohrid in 1943. In 1944, an Initiative Board for the organization of the Macedonian Orthodox Church was officially formed. In 1945, the First Clergy and People's Synod met and adopted a Resolution for the restoration of the Ohrid Archbishopric as a Macedonian Orthodox Church. It was submitted to the Serbian Orthodox Church, which since 1919 had been the sole church in Vardar Macedonia. The resolution was rejected, but a later one, submitted in 1958 at the Second Clergy and People's Synod, was accepted on June 17, 1959 by the Serbian Orthodox Church under pressure from the Socialist authorities. Dimitrija Stojkovski, a Macedonian, was appointed the first archbishop of Ohrid and Metropolitan of Macedonia under the name Dositheus II.
At its third synod in 1967, on the bicentennial anniversary of the abolition of the Archbishopric of Ohrid, the Macedonian Church proclaimed its autocephaly (full administrative independence). The Serbian Church bishops denounced the decision and condemned the clergy as schismatic. For all the subsequent efforts to gain recognition, the autocephaly of the Macedonian Church is not recognized by other canonical Orthodox churches in defense of Serbian opposition.
Since the breakup of Yugoslavia (the 1990s), the Serbian Patriarchate has sought to restore its control over the Macedonian Church. The two Churches had negotiated the details of a compromise agreement reached in Ni?, Serbia, in 2002, which would have given the ethnic Macedonians a de facto independent status just short of canonical autocephaly. The agreement was signed and agreed upon by three Bishops in the Macedonian Orthodox Church (Metropolitan Petar of Australia, Metropolitan Timotej of Debar and Kicevo; and Metropolitan Naum of Strumica). After government officials exerted pressure on the clergy of the MOC for accepting the agreement, the Bishops later reneged on the agreement, leaving only Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid from the Macedonian side in agreement. Suddenly the signed agreement was rejected by the Macedonian government and the Holy Synod of MOC. In turn, the Serbian Orthodox Church granted full autonomy to the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric, its branch in Macedonia, in late May 2005 and appointed Jovan as its Archbishop.
The later chain of events turned into a vicious circle of mutual accusations and incidents involving SOC and, partly, the Serbian government on one side, and MOC, backed by the Macedonian government on the other. The Macedonian side regarded Jovan as a traitor and Serbian puppet. Jovan complained of a new state-backed media campaign against his Church. The government has denied registration to his organisation, and launched a criminal case against him. He was arrested, removed from his bishopric and then expelled from the country and later sentenced to 18 months in prison and jailed with "extremely limited visitation rights".
In turn, SOC denied a Macedonian delegation access to the monastery of Prohor P?injski, which was the usual site of Macedonian celebration of the national holiday of Ilinden (literally meaning St. Elijah Day) on August 2 and the site where the First Session of ASNOM was held. Macedonian border police often denied Serbian priests entry into the country in clerical garb.
On 12 November 2009, the Macedonian Orthodox Church added "Ohrid Archbishopric" to its official name and changed its coat of arms and flag.
In November 2017, Bulgarian National Television announced the content of a letter that the MOC had sent to the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church requesting talks on recognition of the Macedonian Orthodox Church. The letter was signed by the Archbishop Stefan Veljanovski. Among other things, the letter stated: "The Bulgarian Orthodox Church - Bulgarian Patriarchate, taking into account the unity of the Orthodox Church and the real spiritual and pastoral needs, should establish eucharistic unity with the restored Ohrid Archbishopric in the face of the Macedonian Orthodox Church". 27 November, the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian patriarchate accepted the proposal that it become Macedonia's Mother Church and agreed to work towards recognition of its status. The Serbian Church expressed its surprise over the Bulgarian decision to be "mother" to the Macedonian Church.
On May 14, 2018 Bulgarian Orthodox Church decided to decline the invitation from the Macedonian Orthodox Church to participate in the festivities celebrating the 1000th anniversary of the establishment of the Archbishopric of Ohrid. They also declined to send a representative to the celebration.
On 13 January 2020, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew received North Macedonia?s prime minister Oliver Spasovski and his predecessor Zoran Zaev. According to the Ecumenical Patriarchate?s statement, "The purpose of the visit was to examine the ecclesiastical problem of the country. The previous stages of the matter were discussed during the meeting." It was announced that the Patriarch would invite both the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Church of Skopje to a joint meeting in a bid to find a mutually acceptable solution to the country's ecclesiastical issue.
The Macedonian Orthodox Church has about 1,200 churches in North Macedonia organized in 10 eparchies.
Since October 1999, the Primate of the Macedonian Orthodox Church has been Archbishop Stephan of Ohrid and Macedonia.
Outside the country, the church is active in 3 dioceses in the Macedonian diaspora. The 10 dioceses of the church are governed by ten Episcopes, with around 500 active priests in about 500 parishes with over 2000 churches and monasteries. The church claims jurisdiction of about twenty living monasteries, with more than 100 monks.