by Aggelos Skordas
In what is seen as a historic move the schismatic Orthodox Church of FYROM, which in 1967 declared its autocephaly and independence from the Serbian Orthodox Church, has now requested canonical recognition from the Ecumenical Patriarchate that heads the several autocephalous churches that make up the Eastern Orthodox Church. Specifically, the self-proclaimed “Macedonian Orthodox Church” applied to be re-incorporated in the canonical order of the Church under the name Archbishopric of Ohrid.
Amid ongoing negotiations between Athens and Skopje on the long-lasting Macedonian naming dispute, the request was submitted to the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, with a letter from FYROM’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev on Wednesday.
Commenting on the issue the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ office issued the following statement: “The only thing we have now is the decision of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to do what is necessary to satisfy the request of the Prime Minister of FYROM to remove the word Macedonia from the name of the Church of our northern neighbours.”
On its behalf, the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate issued the following announcement: “The Holy and Sacred Synod, convening today under the presidency of His All Holiness, examined the petition of the schismatic Church of Skopje, supported by a letter from the Prime Minister of FYROM, His Excellency Mr. Zoran Zaev, that the Ecumenical Patriarchate undertake an initiative to return that Church to the canonical order, under the name Archdiocese of Ohrid, and decided to undertake the matter and do what is necessary, in accordance with the inviolable terms of the historic-canonical jurisdiction and privileges of the first-throne Ecumenical Patriarchate.”
Skopje’s church in November 2017, requested the Bulgarian Orthodox Church to become its mother church causing the strongly worded reaction of Bartholomew, who then characterised such a development as “wrong”. “The mother church of all Balkan nations is that of Constantinople”, he declared.
In 1959, the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church afforded autonomy to the 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 Ecumenical Patriarch, although it lost recognition in 1967 after claiming autocephaly (independent self-rule).