Macedonian Orthodox Church - Ohrid Archbishopric
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Macedonian Orthodox Church %E2%80%93 Ohrid Archbishopric

Macedonian Orthodox Church - Archdiocese of Ohrid
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Coat of Arms of Macedonian Orthodox Church.png
Coat of arms of the MOC, with the Church of St. Sophia, Ohrid, the historical seat of the Archbishopric of Ohrid, depicted on it
AbbreviationAO, MOC, MOC-AO
TypeEastern Orthodox
TheologyEastern Orthodox theology
PrimateStefan, Archbishop of Ohrid and Macedonia
RegionNorth Macedonia
TerritoryNorth Macedonia
PossessionsUnited States
European Union
FounderDositej II, Archbishop of Ohrid and Macedonia
  • Self-proclaimed autocephaly in 1967 from the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC)
  • Returned to autonomous status under the SOC on 16 May 2022
  • Autocephaly granted on 5 June 2022 by the SOC
  • Recognized as an autonomous church under the SOC 1959-1967, and mid-May-early June 2022
  • Autocephaly recognized by several Eastern Orthodox Churches
Separated fromSerbian Orthodox Church (SOC)

The Macedonian Orthodox Church - Archdiocese of Ohrid (MOC-AO; Macedonian: ? - ), or simply the Macedonian Orthodox Church (MOC) or the Archdiocese of Ohrid (AO), is an autocephalous Eastern Orthodox church in North Macedonia. The Macedonian Orthodox Church claims ecclesiastical jurisdiction over North Macedonia, and is also represented in the Macedonian diaspora. The primate of the Macedonian Orthodox Church is Stefan Veljanovski, the Metropolitan of Skopje and Archbishop of Ohrid and Macedonia.

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;[1] the MOC was united with the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC) as a part of the SOC. In 1967, on the bicentennial anniversary of the abolition of the Archbishopric of Ohrid, the Macedonian Holy Synod unilaterally announced its autocephaly from the Serbian Orthodox Church. The Serbian synod denounced the decision and condemned the clergy as schismatic.[2] Thenceforth, the Macedonian Church had remained unrecognized by all mainstream Eastern Orthodox churches for 55 years.[1][3]

The Macedonian Orthodox Church was formally reintegrated into the Eastern Orthodox community in 2022. On 9 May 2022, the Ecumenical Patriarchate accepted the MOC into communion and recognized North Macedonia as its canonical territory. On 16 May of the same year, the schism between the Serbian and Macedonian churches ended, with the Serbian church stating the MOC was restored as an autonomous part of the Serbian church according to its 1959 status. In June 2022, the Serbian Orthodox Church officially granted autocephaly to the MOC, and the Ecumenical Patriarchate officially recognized the MOC as a legitimate autocephalous church. On 22 June, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church restored communion with the MOC.



The Archbishopric of Ohrid circa 1020

Following the fall of the First Bulgarian Empire, Byzantine Emperor Basil II acknowledged the autocephalous status of the Bulgarian Orthodox 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.[4][5]

In 1767 the Ohrid Archbishopric was abolished by the Ottoman authorities and annexed to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. During the Bulgarian National awakening, efforts were made in Ottoman Macedonia for the restoration of a Bulgarian church in the region separate from the Greek Patriarchate, and in 1870 the Bulgarian Exarchate was created. 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. There were also unsuccessful attempts made by some to specifically restore the Ohrid Archbishopric itself, most notably by Theodosius of Skopje.

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.[6] 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.[7][8]

Letter from Initiative board addressed to Presidium of ASNOM, asking to organize an independent Macedonian Orthodox church, February 1945

The first modern assembly of Macedonian clergy was held in the village of Izdeglavje near Ohrid in 1943.[9] In October 1944, an initiative board for the organization of the Macedonian Orthodox Church was officially formed.[1] 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 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.[1]

Self-proclaimed autocephaly

Dositej Stojkovi?, the first head of the MOC

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). Serbian Church bishops denounced the decision and condemned the clergy as schismatic.[2] For all the subsequent efforts to gain recognition, the autocephaly of the Macedonian Church was not recognized by other canonical Eastern Orthodox churches, due to opposition from the SOC.[1]

Since the breakup of Yugoslavia (the 1990s), the Serbian Patriarchate had sought to restore its control over the Macedonian Church.[10]

The later chain of events turned into a vicious circle of mutual accusations and incidents involving the Serbian Orthodox Church and, partly, the Serbian government on one side, and the 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.[11] The government has denied registration to his organisation,[12] 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[13] and jailed[14] with "extremely limited visitation rights".[15]

In turn, the Serbian Church 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[16] 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.[17]

On 12 November 2009, the Macedonian Orthodox Church added "Archdiocese of Ohrid" to its official name and changed its coat of arms and flag.[18] This name change was a way for the MOC to proclaim itself as the successor of the Archbishopric of Ohrid.[19]

Recognition efforts

Church of St. Sophia, Ohrid of the Archbishopric of Ohrid, which is depicted on the church's coat of arms

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 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".[20] 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.[21][22][23] The Serbian Church expressed its surprise over the Bulgarian decision to be "mother" to the Macedonian Church.[24]

On May 14, 2018, the 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.[25]

In late May 2018, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople announced it had accepted the request from Skopje to examine the canonical status of the Ohrid Archbishopric.[26][27]

On 13 January 2020, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew received North Macedonia's prime minister Oliver Spasovski and his predecessor Zoran Zaev.[28] 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."[29] It was announced that the patriarch would invite both the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Macedonian Orthodox Church to a joint meeting in a bid to find a mutually acceptable solution to the country's ecclesiastical issue.[29] In September 2020, the President of North Macedonia, Stevo Pendarovski, wrote a letter asking the Ecumenical Patriarch, asking him to recognise the MOC.[30]

Communion with mainstream Eastern Orthodoxy

On 9 May 2022, the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate stated it recognised the Macedonian Orthodox Church, its hierarchy and faithful, and established eucharistic communion with it. It also stated that it recognised the MOC's jurisdiction as being over North Macedonia. However, the Ecumenical Patriarchate explicitly refused to recognise the word "Macedonia" or any other derivative to designate the church, and stated it would use "Ohrid" to refer to it.[a] The Holy Synod also stated it was the role of the Serbian Orthodox Church to settle the administrative issues the Serbian Church had with the MOC.[31][32][33] The decision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate was welcomed by North Macedonia's Prime Minister, Dimitar Kova?evski.[19] After the Ecumenical Patriarchate announced communion with the MOC, the Russian Orthodox Church came to the conclusion that it recognizes only the canonical rights of the Serbian Orthodox Church and refuses to recognize the MOC's jurisdiction over North Macedonia.[34]

Archbishop Stefan (L) in Belgrade with Patriarch Porfirije (R) on 19 May 2022.

On 16 May, the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church released a statement that the situation of the MOC was resolved. The Holy Synod stated that full ecclesiastical autonomy was restored to the MOC under the Patriarchate of Serbia, bringing the MOC-OA fully into communion with the mainstream Eastern Orthodox world.[35][36][37]

Recognized autocephaly

On 24 May 2022, the feast of saints Cyril and Methodius,[38] during a liturgy presided by both primates of the MOC-OA and the Serbian Orthodox Church in Skopje, Patriarch Porfirije of the Serbian Church announced to the faithful that "the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church has unanimously met the pleas of the Macedonian Orthodox Church and has accepted and recognized its autocephaly."[39][40][41][42] During this liturgy, the primate of the MOC-OA stated he considered the Mother Church of the MOC to be the Ecumenical Patriarchate.[38][43]

On 5 June 2022, during a concelebration of the Divine Liturgy in Belgrade between the SOC and the MOC, Patriarch Porfirije of Serbia gave a tomos of autocephaly to Archbishop Stefan.[44][45][46][47]

On the same day, Archbishop Stefan stated that he only recognised autocephaly that is granted from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in accordance, he stated, with canon law.[48] The formal statement from the MOC released the following day explained that it viewed the document it had received from the SOC as a mere "recommendation [...] of autocephaly".[49][50][51]

On 10 June 2022, on a visit to Istanbul, Archbishop Stefan was handed the Patriarchal and Synodal Act confirming the canonical and liturgical unity with the Church of Constantinople.[52][53] On 12 June, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Archbishop Stefan concelebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Church of St. George in the Phanar.[54][55] Present at this liturgy was a delegation of the Government of North Macedonia: the prime minister of North Macedonia, Dimitar Kova?evski, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bujar Osmani, the Minister of Defence, Slavjanka Petrovska, and the Minister of Internal Affairs, Oliver Spasovski; also present was a delegation of the Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy led by its General Secretary Maximos Charakopoulos.[3][56] After this liturgy, Kova?evski was received by the Ecumenical Patriarch in a private audience; Kova?evski thanked the Ecumenical Patriarch for his decision of recognizing the MOC, and stated the Patriarch had corrected a historical injustice by doing so.[56]

On 22 June, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church established communion with the MOC.[57]

On 25 August, the Russian Orthodox Church established communion with the MOC.[58]


Map of the eight dioceses of North Macedonia (2013-present)

Dioceses on the territory of North Macedonia

  1. Diocese of Skopje, headed by Archbishop Stefan of Ohrid and Macedonia;
  2. Diocese of Tetovo and Gostivar, headed by Metropolitan Joseph;
  3. Diocese of Kumanovo and Osogovo, headed by Metropolitan Joseph;
  4. Diocese of Debar and Ki?evo, headed by Metropolitan Timothy;
  5. Diocese of Prespa and Pelagonia, headed by Metropolitan Peter;
  6. Diocese of Strumica, headed by Metropolitan Naum;
  7. Diocese of Bregalnica, headed by Metropolitan Hilarion;
  8. Diocese of Povardarie, headed by Metropolitan Agathangel

Diaspora dioceses

Outside the country, the church is active in 4 dioceses in the Macedonian diaspora. The 12 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.[59]

The MOC church calendar follows the Julian Calendar, and uses the archaic names of the months of the year instead of the common Latin-derived names.


  1. ^ This has been interpreted by the Athens-Macedonian News Agency as the Ecumenical Patriarchate recognizing the name Church of Ohrid to designate the MOC.[19]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e The encyclopedia of Christianity. Vol. 3. Erwin Fahlbusch, Jan Mili? Lochman, John S. Mbiti, Jaroslav Pelikan, Lukas Vischer, G. W. Bromiley. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. 2003. p. 381. ISBN 0-8028-2413-7. OCLC 39914033.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  2. ^ a b "? ? XX . 10 ?". Retrieved 2014.
  3. ^ a b " -? ? " [Ecumenical Patriarch, Archbishop of Ohrid in the Phanar]. News Agency (in Greek). 2022-06-12. Retrieved .
  4. ^ Nevill Forbes; Arnold J. Toynbee; D. Mitrany; D. G. Hogarth (2004). The Balkans: A History of Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece, Romania, Turkey. Digital Antiquaria. pp. 28-29. ISBN 1-58057-314-2.
  5. ^ Treadgold, Warren T. (1997). A History of the Byzantine State and Society. Stanford University Press. p. 528. ISBN 1-58057-314-2.
  6. ^ Klejda Mulaj (2008) Politics of Ethnic Cleansing: Nation-State Building and Provision of In/Security in Twentieth-Century Balkans, Lexington Books, p. 24, ISBN 073914667X.
  7. ^ Ivan Zhelev Dimitrov, "Bulgarian Christianity," in The Blackwell Companion to Eastern Christianity, ed. Ken Parry (2010) John Wiley & Sons, pp. 47-72, ISBN 1444333615.
  8. ^ Shkarovsky, Mikhail Vitalyevich (2017) "Church Life in Macedonia During World War II," Occasional Papers on Religion in Eastern Europe: Vol. 37: Iss. 4 , Article 5.
  9. ^ Macedonia and Greece: the struggle to define a new Balkan nation By John Shea, p. 174
  10. ^ Macedonia and Greece: the struggle to define a new Balkan nation, John Shea. p. 174
  11. ^ "MACEDONIA: Why is state interfering in Orthodox dispute?". Retrieved .
  12. ^ "MACEDONIA: Serbian Orthodox "will never get registration"". Retrieved .
  13. ^ "IWPR Institute for War & Peace Reporting". 1980-12-25. Retrieved .
  14. ^ "Christianity - Faith in God, Jesus Christ - Christian Living, Trivia". Archived from the original on 25 March 2006. Retrieved 2014.
  15. ^ "Southeast Europe Online". Retrieved .
  16. ^ "Press Online". Retrieved .
  17. ^ "Eca 15". 1999-10-31. Retrieved .
  18. ^ " - ? ? ".
  19. ^ a b c "North Macedonia welcomes Ecumenical Patriarchate's recognition of Church of Ohrid". Athens-Macedonian News Agency. 10 May 2022. Retrieved .
  20. ^ ? ? ? -. "? ? ? ?", 18.11.2017.
  21. ^ ?e . . 27 November 2017, ?
  22. ^ Bulgarian Holy synod will do all it can to make Macedonian church canonical. November 27, 2017.
  23. ^ BOC accepted to be mother-church of MOC-OA. Kurir News Agency, 28.11.2017.
  24. ^ Bulgarian Orthodox Synod supports the Macedonian Church strive for recognition. 30 November 2017.
  25. ^ "? . 14.05.18?". Archived from the original on 15 May 2018. Retrieved 2022.
  26. ^ Orthodox Church of fYROMacedonia returns to normality ibna, 31 May 2018.
  27. ^ The Ecumenical Patriarchate accepts the request of the Schismatic Church of Macedonia (FYROM) to examine its canonical status, 31 May 2018.
  28. ^ " ? ?. ?. ? ? ". Government of North Macedonia. 13 January 2020. Retrieved 2020.
  29. ^ a b "The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew had a meeting with the Prime Minister of North Macedonia, at Oliver Spasovski's request, regarding the country's ecclesiastical problem". Orthodox Times. 13 January 2020. Retrieved 2020.
  30. ^ "North Macedonia requests church autocephaly from Ecumenical Patriarch". 21 September 2020. Retrieved .
  31. ^ "Phanar: Yes to the recognition, no to "Macedonia" for the Archdiocese of Ohrid". Orthodox Times. Retrieved .
  32. ^ " ? ? ?". News Agency (in Greek). 2022-05-09. Retrieved .
  33. ^ " ? ? ? ? ? ? ?". (in Greek). 9 May 2022. Retrieved .
  34. ^ , ? ? ? 10 2022,
  35. ^ "Church of Serbia for North Macedonia: We are not under the influence or pressure of anyone". Orthodox Times. 16 May 2022. Retrieved .
  36. ^ " ? ". 16 May 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  37. ^ "The Assembly of the SOC approved the canonical unity of the MOC-OA - Free Press". . 2022-05-16. Retrieved .
  38. ^ a b " ? ? ? ? (24.05.2022)". Premin. 25 May 2022. Retrieved .
  39. ^ "RSE: SPC priznala autokefalnost Makedonske pravoslavne crkve". Vijesti (in Montenegrin). 2022-05-24. Retrieved .
  40. ^ "Serbian Patriarch Brings "Good News" to Newly-Recognised Macedonian Church". Balkan Insight. 2022-05-24. Retrieved .
  41. ^ "BREAKING: Patriarch Porfirije announces autocephaly of Macedonian Church (+VIDEO)". OrthoChristian.Com. Retrieved .
  42. ^ "Patriarchate of Serbia recognizes the autocephaly of Archdiocese of Ohrid". Orthodox Times. 24 May 2022. Retrieved .
  43. ^ " ? - ! | a ?a ?a [ ?]". (in Serbian). Retrieved .
  44. ^ Efthimiou, Efi (5 June 2022). "Patriarchate Of Serbia overrides centuries old traditions: It granted 'Tomos of Autocephaly' to Ohrid Archdiocese". Orthodox Times. Retrieved .
  45. ^ "Macedonian Church receives tomos of autocephaly from Serbian Church". OrthoChristian.Com. Retrieved .
  46. ^ " ? ? ? ? ? (?/)". Televizija Hram. Retrieved .
  47. ^ "Zvani?no priznata autokefalnost - Porfirije uru?io tomos arhiepiskopu Stefanu" (in Serbian). N1. 5 June 2022. Retrieved 2022.
  48. ^ "? ? ?". . (in Macedonian). 2022-06-05.
  49. ^ "Archbishop of Ohrid finks out on the Serbs: We will get the Tomos of Autocephaly from the Ecumenical Patriarch". Orthodox Times. 6 June 2022. Retrieved .
  50. ^ "-? ? ? ? ". . (in Macedonian). 2022-06-06.
  51. ^ "? ?". (in Macedonian). . 2022-06-07.
  52. ^ " ? ? ? ?". «? ?» (in Greek). 2022-06-11. Retrieved .
  53. ^ Spirovska, Aleksandra (10 June 2022). "? ? ". Macedonian Radio Television (in Macedonian).
  54. ^ "Concelebration at the Phanar with Bartholomew and the Archbishop of Ohrid (LIVE)". Orthodox Times. 12 June 2022. Retrieved .
  55. ^ " ? ? ?: "? ? ? "". 12 June 2022.
  56. ^ a b ": ? ? ?" [Kovacevski: We thank Patriarch Bartholomew for ending a historic injustice]. (in Greek). 2022-06-12. Retrieved .
  57. ^ "Bulgarian Orthodox Church restores canonical communion with Church of Northern Macedonia". OrthoChristian.Com. Retrieved .
  58. ^ "? ? ? -- ? ? -?".
  59. ^ "Macedonian Orthodox Church today". Retrieved .

Further reading

External links

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