Photo: – 1/2/18

Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokolamsk, the Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations, recently addressed the ongoing issue of the non-canonical status of the Macedonian Orthodox Church in an interview with the “Church Television” ministry of the Serbian Orthodox Church, emphasizing the importance of the role of the Serbian Church.

Finding a resolution to the problem of the schismatic Macedonian Church which is currently seeking recognition from the canonical Orthodox Churches is “inconceivable without the Serbian Orthodox Church” the metropolitan stated.

“We are convinced that settling the ‘Macedonian’ Church issue must be resolved within the canonical framework, and it is inconceivable not to, in this process, take into account the leading role of the Serbian Orthodox Church, from which ‘the Macedonian Church’ seceded 50 years ago,” he said.

On November 9, the Macedonian Church sent a letter to the Bulgarian Church, seeking restoration of Eucharistic communion and asking for the Bulgarians to take the Macedonians under their wing as the “Mother Church,” and to represent their desire for communion and autocephaly to the other canonical Orthodox Churches.

The issue is complicated by the fact that the Macedonian Church formed as a separate body when it schismed from the Serbian Orthodox Church, of which it had been an autonomous member, in 1967. Further, the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric under Archbishop Jovan (Vraniskovski) separated from the Macedonian church in 2002 to seek reunification with the Serbian Church. The archbishop then endured several years of heavy persecution, including imprisonment.

Met. Hilarion’s statement echoes the sentiments of both the Serbian and Greek Churches.

His Holiness Patriarch Irinej of Serbia has reportedly expressed his bewilderment at the Bulgarian Orthodox Church’s decision to present the case for the canonicity and autocephaly of the schismatic Macedonian Orthodox Church. The Serbian Holy Synod also met on November 27, stating that it “was surprised by the decision of the Bulgarian Patriarchate” and that they “hope that the Synod in Sofia will adhere to the canonical order, given that the Archbishopric of Ohrid, headed by Archbishop Jovan (Vraniskovski) is the legitimate canonical Church in Macedonia, and this is acknowledged even by the European Court of Human Rights.”

In addressing the Bulgarian Church’s decision to assume the role of “Mother Church” of the Macedonian Church, the Greek Holy Synod has also expressed its concern about the fact that the Bulgarian Church is thereby intervening in the jurisdiction of another Local Church, namely the Serbian Orthodox Church, from which the Macedonian Church schismed. In the Greek Church’s estimation, this constitutes an act contrary to the sacred canons and the Tradition of the Church.

His Holiness Patriarch Neofit of the Bulgarian Church recently told reporters that there is “a consensus on the main issues for future unity” with the Macedonian Orthodox Church.