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Macedonian Orthodox Church – Ohrid Archbishopric

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Macedonian Orthodox Church – Ohrid Archbishopric
Македонска православна црква – Охридска архиепископија
Coat of Arms of Macedonian Orthodox Church.png
Church of St. Sophia, Ohrid, the first synod church of the Archbishopric of Ohrid, depicted on the church's coat of arms
TypeEastern Orthodox
ClassificationEastern Orthodox
TheologyEastern Orthodox theology
PrimateStefan, Archbishop of Ohrid and Macedonia
RegionNorth Macedonia, diaspora dioceses in other countries
LanguageChurch Slavonic and Macedonian
HeadquartersSkopje and Ohrid
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 SOC on May 16th, 2022
  • Autocephaly from SOC granted on June 5th, 2022
  • Recognized as an autonomous church under SOC 1959–1967 and May–June 2022
  • Recognition of autocephaly to be determined
Separated fromSerbian Orthodox Church (SOC)
Membersapprox. 2,000,000+

The Macedonian Orthodox Church – Ohrid Archbishopric (MOC-OA; Macedonian: Македонска православна црква – Охридска архиепископија, tr. Makedonska pravoslavna crkva – Ohridska arhiepiskopija), or simply the Macedonian Orthodox Church (MOC; Macedonian: Македонска православна црква, tr. Makedonska pravoslavna crkva), is an Eastern Orthodox church in North Macedonia, soon to be autocephalous. It is the largest Christian 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 and of Justiniana Prima.

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] 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 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 canonical Orthodox churches for a period of five decades.[1] In May 2018, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople agreed to examine the church's canonical status.

The Macedonian Orthodox Church was formally reintegrated into the Eastern Orthodox community in 2022. First, on 9 May 2022, the Ecumenical Patriarchate accepted the church into communion under the name Ohrid Archbishopric as well as recognizing North Macedonia as its canonical territory. On 16 May, the schism between the Serbian and Macedonian churches was ended, with Macedonian church agreeing to be restored to the same autonomous status granted in 1959.[3] On 24 May, the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church had unanimously accepted the request of autocephaly of the Macedonian Orthodox Church.[4][5]


Church of St. Sophia, Ohrid, the first synod church of the Archbishopric of Ohrid, depicted on the church's coat of arms
Church of St. Sophia, Ohrid, the first synod church of the Archbishopric of Ohrid, depicted on the church's coat of arms
The Archbishopric of Ohrid circa 1020
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.[6][7]

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.[8] 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.[9][10]

Letter from Initiative board addressed to Presidium of ASNOM, asking to organize an independent Macedonian Orthodox church, February 1945
Letter from Initiative board addressed to Presidium of ASNOM, asking to organize an independent Macedonian Orthodox church, February 1945
Dositej Stojković, the first head of the MOC – Ohrid Archbishopric
Dositej Stojković, the first head of the MOC – Ohrid Archbishopric

The first modern assembly of Macedonian clergy was held in the village of Izdeglavje near Ohrid in 1943.[11] 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

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 is not recognized by other canonical Eastern Orthodox churches in defense of Serbian opposition.[1]

Since the breakup of Yugoslavia (the 1990s), the Serbian Patriarchate has sought to restore its control over the Macedonian Church.[12] The two churches had negotiated the details of a compromise agreement reached in Niš, 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 the 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 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.[13] The government has denied registration to his organisation,[14] 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[15] and jailed[16] with "extremely limited visitation rights".[17]

In turn, the Serbian Church denied a Macedonian delegation access to the monastery of Prohor Pčinjski, which was the usual site of Macedonian celebration of the national holiday of Ilinden (literally meaning St. Elijah Day) on August 2[18] 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.[19]

On 12 November 2009, the Macedonian Orthodox Church added "Ohrid Archbishopric" to its official name and changed its coat of arms and flag.[20]


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".[21] 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.[22][23][24] The Serbian Church expressed its surprise over the Bulgarian decision to be “mother” to the Macedonian Church.[25]

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.[26]

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.[27][28]

On 13 January 2020, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew received North Macedonia's prime minister Oliver Spasovski and his predecessor Zoran Zaev.[29] 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."[30] 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.[30] In September 2020, the President of North Macedonia, Stevo Pendarovski, wrote a letter asking the Ecumenical Patriarch, asking him recognise the MOC.[31]

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 was over North Macedonia. However, the Ecumenical Patriarchate explicitly refused to recognise the word "Macedonia" or any other derivative to designate the church, and used "Ohrid" to refer to it. 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.[32][33] After the Ecumenical Patriarchate announced communion with the Ohrid Archbishopric, 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 Ohrid Archbishopric's jurisdiction over North Macedonia.[34]

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

On 16 May, the Holy Synod of 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 Archbishopric under the Patriarchate of Serbia, bringing the MOC-OA fully into communion with the wider Eastern Orthodox world.[35][36][37]

On 24 May 2022, during a liturgy between hierarchs of the MOC-OA (including its primate) 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."[5][38][39][40]

On 5 June 2022, during a concelebration of the Divine Liturgy in Belgrade between the SOC and the MOC, Patriarch Porfirije of Serbia presented a tomos of autocephaly to Archbishop Stefan.[41][42][43][44]

On the same day, Archbishop Stefan stated that he only recognised autocephaly that is granted from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in accordance with the canons[45]. 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"[46][47][48] .


Map of the eight dioceses of North Macedonia (2013-present)
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 Josif;
  3. Diocese of Kumanovo and Osogovo, headed by Metropolitan Josif;
  4. Diocese of Debar and Kičevo, headed by Metropolitan Timotej;
  5. Diocese of Prespa and Pelagonia, headed by Metropolitan Petar;
  6. Diocese of Strumica, headed by Metropolitan Naum;
  7. Diocese of Bregalnica, headed by Metropolitan Hilarion;
  8. Diocese of Povardarie, headed by Metropolitan Agatangel

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.[49]

Church calendars follow the old Julian Calendar, and use the archaic names of the months of the year instead of the common Latin-derived names

See also



  1. ^ a b c d e The encyclopedia of Christianity, Volume 3. By Erwin Fahlbusch, Geoffrey William Bromiley. p. 381
  2. ^ a b "РУССКАЯ ПРАВОСЛАВНАЯ ЦЕРКОВЬ XX ВЕК. 10 ОКТЯБРЯ". Retrieved 14 September 2014.
  3. ^ "The Assembly of the SOC approved the canonical unity of the MOC-OA - Free Press (". Retrieved 16 May 2022.
  4. ^ "Serbian Patriarch Brings "Good News" to Newly-Recognised Macedonian Church". Balkan Insight. 24 May 2022. Retrieved 28 May 2022.
  5. ^ a b "RSE: SPC priznala autokefalnost Makedonske pravoslavne crkve". Vijesti (in Montenegrin). 2022-05-24. Retrieved 2022-05-24.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ Treadgold, Warren T. (1997). A History of the Byzantine State and Society. Stanford University Press. p. 528. ISBN 1-58057-314-2.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ Ivan Zhelev Dimitrov, “Bulgarian Christianity,” in The Blackwell Companion to Eastern Christianity, ed. Ken Parry (2010) John Wiley & Sons, pp. 47-72, ISBN 1444333615.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ Macedonia and Greece: the struggle to define a new Balkan nation By John Shea, p. 174
  12. ^ Macedonia and Greece: the struggle to define a new Balkan nation. By John Shea. P. 174
  13. ^ "MACEDONIA: Why is state interfering in Orthodox dispute?". Retrieved 2011-11-05.
  14. ^ "MACEDONIA: Serbian Orthodox "will never get registration"". Retrieved 2011-11-05.
  15. ^ "IWPR Institute for War & Peace Reporting". 1980-12-25. Retrieved 2011-11-05.
  16. ^ "Christianity - Faith in God, Jesus Christ - Christian Living, Trivia". Archived from the original on 25 March 2006. Retrieved 14 September 2014.
  17. ^ "Southeast Europe Online". Retrieved 2011-11-05.
  18. ^ "Press Online". Retrieved 2011-11-05.
  19. ^ "Eca 15". 1999-10-31. Retrieved 2011-11-05.
  20. ^ "Македонската Православна Црква со нов грб - Македонско хералдичко здружение".
  21. ^ Македонската архиепископия е готова да признае БПЦ за Църква-майка. "Вяра и общество с Горан Благоев", 18.11.2017.
  22. ^ Рeшение на Св. Синод по повод отправено писмо от Македонската православна църква. 27 November 2017, Българска Патриаршия
  23. ^ Bulgarian Holy synod will do all it can to make Macedonian church canonical. November 27, 2017.
  24. ^ BOC accepted to be mother-church of MOC-OA. Kurir News Agency, 28.11.2017.
  25. ^ Bulgarian Orthodox Synod supports the Macedonian Church strive for recognition. 30 November 2017.
  26. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 15 May 2018. Retrieved 22 May 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  27. ^ Orthodox Church of fYROMacedonia returns to normality ibna, 31 May 2018.
  28. ^ The Ecumenical Patriarchate accepts the request of the Schismatic Church of Macedonia (FYROM) to examine its canonical status, 31 May 2018.
  29. ^ "Премиерот Спасовски оствари средба со Вселенскиот Патријарх г. г. Вартоломеј во седиштето Цариградската Патријаршија во Истанбул". Government of North Macedonia. 13 January 2020. Retrieved 14 January 2020.
  30. ^ 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 14 January 2020.
  31. ^ "North Macedonia requests church autocephaly from Ecumenical Patriarch". 21 September 2020. Retrieved 2022-05-09.
  32. ^ "Phanar: Yes to the recognition, no to "Macedonia" for the Archdiocese of Ohrid". Orthodox Times. Retrieved 2022-05-09.
  33. ^ "Οικουμενικό Πατριαρχείο: Αναγνωρίζει τη σχισματική εκκλησία των Σκοπίων". Ορθοδοξία News Agency (in Greek). 2022-05-09. Retrieved 2022-05-09.
  34. ^ Лилия Чалева, Какво следва от решението на Вселенската патриаршия за Охридската епископия? 10 май 2022,
  35. ^ "Church of Serbia for North Macedonia: We are not under the influence or pressure of anyone". Orthodox Times. 16 May 2022. Retrieved 2022-05-16.
  36. ^ "Саопштење Светог Архијерејског Сабора". 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". Слободен печат. 2022-05-16. Retrieved 2022-05-16.
  38. ^ "Serbian Patriarch Brings "Good News" to Newly-Recognised Macedonian Church". Balkan Insight. 2022-05-24. Retrieved 2022-05-24.
  39. ^ "BREAKING: Patriarch Porfirije announces autocephaly of Macedonian Church (+VIDEO)". OrthoChristian.Com. Retrieved 2022-05-24.
  40. ^ "Patriarchate of Serbia recognizes the autocephaly of Archdiocese of Ohrid". Orthodox Times. Retrieved 2022-05-24.
  41. ^ Efthimiou, Efi (5 June 2022). "Patriarchate Of Serbia overrides centuries old traditions: It granted 'Tomos of Autocephaly' to Ohrid Archdiocese". Orthodox Times. Retrieved 2022-06-05.
  42. ^ "Macedonian Church receives tomos of autocephaly from Serbian Church". OrthoChristian.Com. Retrieved 2022-06-05.
  43. ^ "Патријарх Порфирије у Саборној цркви у Београду: Црква се умножава у духу Јеванђеља Христовог (ФОТО/ВИДЕО)". Televizija Hram. Retrieved 2022-06-05.
  44. ^ "Zvanično priznata autokefalnost – Porfirije uručio tomos arhiepiskopu Stefanu" (in Serbian). N1. 5 June 2022. Retrieved 5 June 2022.
  45. ^ "Архиепископот Стефан за То Вима: Единствено Вселенската Патријаршија издава томос за автокефалност". РЕЛИГИЈА.МК (in Macedonian). 2022-06-05.
  46. ^ "МПЦ-ОА: Со документот на СПЦ црквата се претставува како достојна за автокефаност". РЕЛИГИЈА.МК (in Macedonian). 2022-06-06.
  47. ^ "Соопштение од Кабинетот на Архиепископот". (in Macedonian). МПЦ. 2022-06-07.
  48. ^ "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 2022-06-06.
  49. ^ "Macedonian Orthodox Church today". Retrieved 2021-10-24.

Further reading

External links

This page was last edited on 8 June 2022, at 10:08
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