Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
We have gathered here today to celebrate the 50 year anniversary of the proclamation of the Macedonian Orthodox Church as an Autocephalous Church in the union of One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Orthodox Church)
I would like to use the opportunity to remind us on one equally big moment of the history of the Macedonian people, which we will be celebrating tomorrow, and that is 26 years of the independence of Republic of Macedonia.
It is also a honour to talk about the history of the Ohrid Archiepiscopy – the Macedonian Orthodox Church and it is very difficult for all of its rich history to distinguish some things to talk about them tonight.
How much the Macedonian people are connected and how much they love they church, can be seen from your presence tonight. The room was too small to gather all of the people interested to take part in the this historical celebration and let our hearts be wide enough to receive those who came, and those who wanted, and those who were invited and did not want to come or could not physically here with us. However, the doors are open to everyone for tomorrow’s liturgy which will be held in MOC St Petka in Rockdale at 9am, we will have an opportunity to pray and be thankful to Our Lord Jesus Christ for his care for us and granting according to our needs.
The Church is the Body of Christ
The Church, the Lord has left it to us as His graceful presence on the earth in which we all are gathered (we are en-churched) and we become one with ourselves and with Christ, i.e. we become the worshipened body of Christ. And as it is one body of Christ, so is one Church, according to the words of St. Paul: Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ, however much they are, one body is. … and yet: Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. (I Cor.12.12 -27). Also, the Church has many special local episcopal churches and they all constitute One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic church, without damaging their uniqueness and mutual unity.
Because the Church identifies itself with the Eucharist, and it is one, indivisible and always complete; so the Church, which is a community of faithful gathered in one place around its bishop of the Holy Eucharist, is one, indivisible and complete. Accordingly, the dioceses of the MOC OA as one, indivisible and complete Episcopal Church are in the unbreakable unity with the other remaining local Episcopal Churches in the whole Ecumena.
The unity of the local and universal (Catholic) Church is not a unity in ‘collectivity’ (where local Churches would constitute ‘parts’ of a larger ‘whole’), but a graceful identity unity, where all local episcopal Churches, in Holy Eucharist, identify each other with the Body of Christ, that is, with that original Apostolic Church in Jerusalem and with the Eschatological Church on the Inauguration Day of the Kingdom of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The beginning of the Church in Macedonia
The church in Macedonia or the Macedonian Orthodox Church, is not a “new” Church. It has roots to the times of the Holy Apostles. The Christianity in Macedonia was brought by St. Apostle Paul and this is witnessed by the Acts of Apostles. During those journeys the Holy Apostle Paul was accompanied by other Apostles, who later will also spread the knowledge and the church of Our God on our land. Through Macedonia also preaches the Saint apostle Andrew the First-Called, who also placed the saint Apostle Urban to be the first bishop of Macedonia. Also, there were other Apostles preaching in Macedonia.
In the lives of the Saints, we can see that the Christianity in Macedonia in the first three centuries was expanded throughout its territory. As a result, at the beginning of the 4th century, Christians in the area of Macedonia had an organized church with its own church hierarchy, whose bishops continued to regularly participate in the local and ecumenical councils.
In the 5th century, across the whole territory of Macedonia, there were several metropolises and episcopes, of which the more famous were Thessaloniki, Skopje, Heraclea, Bargala, Stobi and others. During that period, many early Christian basilicas have emerged throughout the whole territory of Macedonia.
In the 6th century, during the reign of Emperor Justinian I (527-565), who came from the village Taurision, close to today’s Skopje, R. According to the Eleventh Novel of his legal collections of regulations for the Church, the clergy and the monasteries (Novellae), he wanted to elevate his homeland and his birthplace, therefore he firstly erected the city of Justiniana Prima in the place of his small village, and appointed it to an episcopal seat of the newly founded Archiepiscopy Justiniana Prima (First). In that way, in 535, on the territory of Macedonia was established the independent Archiepiscopy Justiniana Prima. The first Archbishop was named Castellanus, who was ranked third after his reputation, just behind Constantinople and Rome, and before Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem.
The work of the Holy Apostle Paul and the holy Emperor Justinian I was continued by the Holy brothers Methodius and Cyril and their disciples St. Clement and Nahum of Ohrid. In the second half of the X century, the Ohrid Autocephalous Archiepiscopy was organized within Tzar Samuil’s state, on the foundations of Justiniana Prima, and the Archbishops were also signed as Ohrid Archbishops and Justiniana Prima.
Later, after the battle of Belasitsa, when Samuil’s kingdom was tragically overthrown, the Byzantine Emperor Basil II, who himself was a Macedonian, understood and knew the great significance of the Ohrid Patriarchate for the Balkan and Eastern peoples, did not abolish its autocephaly, but only took it to the rank of the Archiepiscopy.
In the second half of the X century, the Ohrid Autocephalous Archiepiscopy existed within Samuil’s state, on the foundations of Justiniana Prima, and the Archbishops were also signed as Ohrid Archbishops and Justiniana Prima. Later, after the Battle of Belasica, when the Samoil’s kingdom was tragically over, the Byzantine Emperor Basil II, who himself was a Macedonian himself, realized and knew the great significance of the Ohrid Patriarchate for the Balkan and Eastern peoples, did not abolish its autocephaly, but only dropped it in rank of the Archbishopric.
The borders remained the same, as well as its rights and privileges. As such, it has existed for eight centuries, until May 17, 1767, when non-canonically was abolished by the Turkish sultan Mustafa III, and its dioceses were joined to the Constantinople Patriarchate.
The Macedonian people did not come to terms with that. From that moment on, the Macedonian people made constant efforts for renewing the Church. These efforts were particularly intensified in the 1860s when a strong popular movement in all Macedonian cities came to the rejection of the jurisdiction of the Constantinople Patriarchate.
The great majority of the Macedonian people rejected the jurisdiction of the Constantinople Patriarchate, but due to the opposition of the Turkish government, which was alarmed by the Patriarchate, the Ohrid Archbishopric failed to be restored. The strong Bulgarian group of citizens in Constantinople succeeded in winning the High Court and in 1870 to establish a Bulgarian church, known as Bulgarian Exarchy.
A part of the Macedonian population remained under the spiritual guidance of the Constantinople Patriarchate, and some church-schools in the southern part of Macedonia resorted to Rome and through an alliance with it sought to organize their own Macedonian Church. In that way came to a church division of the Macedonian people, which later will have great influence through our national affirmation.
To be even more tragic, at the beginning of the 20th century, an even more complicated sitauation came when the Serbian Orthodox Church bought the dioceses from the Vardar part of the Constantinople Patriarchate and they entered their jurisdiction. The decision of the Synod of the Constantinople Patriarchate, adopted on March 19, 1920, reads: “The canonical order and custom is to regulate and bring the affairs of the church administration in line with the political changes that take place and according to those changes, the church affairs c and deploy not only because of their proper and complete performance, but also because of the greater benefits of the Church and the Christian people.” Something that today they challenge us with”.
Macedonian Orthodox Church – Ohrid Archiepiscopy
When the end of the Second World War was in sight, there were new political changes in the Balkans and Macedonian clergy and the people took up a new strong swing in the revival of the Ohrid Archiepiscopy.
Just before the very end of the 2nd World war, in 1944 in the village of Vranovci an Initiative Board for organizing the Macedonian Orthodox Church was created. On March 4 and 5, 1945, the first Macedonian Church and People’s Council was held in Skopje, and was attended by more than 300 delegates – priests and laymen, and adopted a Resolution for the renewal of the Ohrid Archiepiscopy as the Macedonian Orthodox Church.
This decision was also delivered to the Hierarchical Council of the Serbian Orthodox Church. The Serbian Orthodox Church’s Council of Bishops did not accept this decision, because in its further requests the Initiative Board asked the following: instead of being autocephalous, it required recognition as an independent Church.
But again, the request was not approved. From October 4th to October 6th, 1958 in Ohrid, the Second Macedonian Ecclesiastical Assembly was held, where the proposal for the restoration of the St. Clement of Ohrid Archiepiscopy, embodied in the independent Macedonian Orthodox Church, was accepted, and for its first bishop was elected Mr. Dositey.
This in fact means sanctioning the decision of the Second Macedonian Church and People’s Council. This is confirmed by the provision of the said decision, which reads: “With this decision the regulations of the Constitution of the Serbian Orthodox Church for the dioceses and bishops in Macedonia cease to be valid”
It is also said: “In the interest of preserving the canonical unity of the Serbian Orthodox Church, any changes in the Constitution and decrees adopted by the Metropolitan Council of the Church must be based on the canonical principles of the Orthodox Church.” And the Archbishops Council of the Macedonian Orthodox Church, is consistent with the traditions of the past, always and impeccably strives to base its activity exclusively on the dogmas and canons of the Holy Orthodox Church. What is actually a kind of canonical relise.
The Archbishops Council of Serbian Orthodox Church have agreed with the decisions of the Macedonian Ecclesiastical Council in the decision of the AC. no. 47/1959 and 6/1959 Zap. 57 of June 17/4, 1959. The decision on the autonomy of the Macedonian Orthodox Church was confirmed by the Serbian Orthodox Church through the completion of a joint Archbishopric Liturgy with the Serbian Patriarch Herman on July 19, 1959 in the church of St. Mina in Skopje, during that liturgy, the ordination of the Prespa-Bitola bishop Clement was performed.
By doing so, the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church granted independence to the Macedonian Orthodox Church, with the fact that it remained in canonical unity with the Serbian Orthodox Church through its Patriarch. After several days, in the church of St. Nicholas in Stip, a bishop was ordained, the bishop of the Zletovo-Strumica Diocese. Naum. The Macedonian Orthodox Church Synod was constituted according to the Constitution of the Macedonian Orthodox Church, as well as other administrative organs and bodies in the Archiepiscopy and in the dioceses.
In May 1962, accompanied by Patriarch Herman and few bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Patriarch Alexy has visited Macedonian Orthodox Church. The Patriarch of Moscow was accompanied by Metropolitan Nicodemus, Bishop Pimen and several high-ranking officials of the Russian Orthodox Church. On the feast of St. Cyril and Methodius in the church of the Most Holy Theotokos – Kamensko in Ohrid, a Hierarchical Liturgy was held, on which the patriarch Alexy served with the patriarch of the Serbian German and with the Archbishop of Ohrid and Metropolitan Dositej. This was the first meeting of the head of the Macedonian Orthodox Church with the heads of other autocephalous Churches.
In 1966, the relations with the Serbian Orthodox Church again deteriorated. After the new misunderstandings and clashes, the Holy Synod of the Macedonian Orthodox Church on July 17, 1967 in Ohrid convened the Third Ecclesiastical Council and proclaimed the Macedonian Orthodox Church for AUTOCEPHALUS at a solemn meeting in the Ohrid church of St. Clement of Ohrid. An amendment was also made to the Constitution of the Macedonian Orthodox Church by opening two new dioceses: Debar-Kicevo and American-Canadian-Australian.
The act of proclaiming the autocephality of the Macedonian Orthodox Church was done during the Holy Hierarchical Liturgy, served in the church of St. Clement of Ohrid on July 19, 1967, by the Holy Synod of Bishops of the MOC.
Creation of national Churches
Autocephality is a very important part of the practice and the success of the functioning of the Church. The most common reason for declaring autocephalous status of new autocephalous local churches through church history were and still are the territorial and administrative changes. These changes, especially during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, are related to the emergence of the so-called nation states, which is clearly evident from the names of the new local Orthodox churches created in that period. In the general mentality of time, the Roman (Byzantine) idea of the need for its own church is rebuilt, as a condition of creation and general recognition of the state.
As an example, I will give you a brief overview of the acquisition of the Autocephalus status of these Churches:
The Russian Orthodox Church: The beginnings of this church are from 988.
If we compare, in the period from 990 to 1037, the Ohrid Archiepiscopy ordained it’s bishops, and then up to 1448 (1453), the Patriarchate of Constantinople ordained the bishops. In 1448 (1453) declared itself autocephalous, and it was recognized by the Constantinople Patriarchate only in 1589;
The Georgian Orthodox Church: The beginnings of this church come from the ancient Kingdom of Iberia where Christianity became a state religion as early as 337. In 1811, the Russian government abolished it and subordinated it to the Russian Orthodox Church. In this condition remained until March 12, 1917, when the Georgian clergy unilaterally proclaimed the autocephalous status of their church, which was accepted by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1943, and the Constantinople Patriarchate did this only on March 3, 1990;
Romanian Orthodox Church: In 1859 a modern Romanian state was created. With the state decision of 1865/66 and the law of 1872, the Romanian state proclaimed the newly formed Roman Orthodox Church as autocephalous. The Patriarchate of Constantinople accepted this decision in 1885.
Bulgarian Orthodox Church: Its creation is connected with the publication of the Sultan’s Firman from 1870 and the church-people’s council held in Istanbul in 1872, after which the local Council of Constantinople in 1872 accused it of ethno-phyletism and proclaimed it as a schismatic church. The autocephaly was recognized by the Venetian Patriarch of Constantinople on March 13, 1945. In 1953 the Bulgarian Orthodox Church received patriarchal dignity, and the Patriarchate of Constantinople accepted this in 1961.
Greek Orthodox Church: The Greek Orthodox Church was established and proclaimed autocephalous on July 23, 1833 by the Greek government. Its autocephaly was accepted by the Constantinople Patriarch Antim in 1850.
Albanian Orthodox Church: This church was created at the Church and People’s Council held in Berat in 1922, which also declared its autocephaly, and it was recognized by the Patriarchate of Constantinople on April 12, 1937;
Serbian Orthodox Church: Historically looking, the Serbian Orthodox Church (Patriarchate of Pec) was confirmed as independent in 1219 by the Patriarch of Nicea, when St. Sava skipped the usual canonical order, taking an advantage of the then political (un) opportunities in the Balkans and instead of the Ohrid Archiepiscopy, he went through the Epirus king to seek the secession of the Serbian dioceses from the Ohrid Archiepiscopy and autocephaly. Soon a proclamation of schism and anathema was proclaimed by the Ohrid Archbishop of St. Demetrius Homatian and later the withdrawal of anathema and reconciliation.
As such existed until the death of Patriarch Arsenius II in 1463, and her dioceses stumped under the Constantinople jurisdiction. It was rebuilt in 1557 with the help of the Turkish authorities, but in 1766 it was abolished by the Turkish authorities. Its renewal occurs when in 1879 Serbia was recognized as an independent state (the Belgrade Metropolis becomes autocephalous) and ends in 1920 after the creation of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (1918);
Following the usual example of the other Orthodox churches, also the Macedonian Orthodox Church, after seeing that the opportunities are sufficiently matured, in 1967, exactly 200 years after its abolition by the Turkish Sultan, proclaimed its autocephality. This was nothing new and nothing unusual, but unfortunately, it still denies and slows down its autocephality, even we fulfil all the necessary things, it is not yet officially recognized by the other local Orthodox churches, but we hope that in the near future, it will prevail the Christian mind and will defeat some people’s petty nationalistic and narrow-minded assimilatory interests. And with hope to positively decide to re-establish the disrupted Eucharistic community and its formal administrative recognition.
Macedonian Orthodox Church – Ohrid Archiepiscopy – today:
The diocese of the Macedonian Orthodox Church extends not only to the territory of the Macedonian state, but also to the church municipalities outside the borders of the Republic of Macedonia, organized in 12 Dioceses.
Today, with the Holy Synod of Hierarchs of the Macedonian Orthodox Church presides over His Beatitude, the Archbishop of Ohrid and Macedonia. Mr.Mr. Stefan. The remaining members of the Synod are:
Metropolitan of Prespa and Pelagonia and Administrator of Australia and New Zealand. Peter
Metropolitan of Debar – Kichevo and Plaoski and Administrator of Australia – Sydney. Timothy
Metropolitan of Strumica; Naum
Metropolitan of Povardarie Agatangel
Metropolitan American – Canadian. Methodius
Metropolitan of Europe Pimen
Metropolitan Bregalnica Hilarion
Metropolitan of Tetovo – Gostivar city Joseph
Metropolitan Kumanovo – Osogovo city Joseph
Vicar Bishop Heracleus Clement
Bishop d. Gorazd, a former Metropolitan of the European Diocese
According to item 17 of the Explanation of the Decision on Autocephality, the Macedonian Orthodox Church, as an administrative part of one, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, will keep the Holy Scriptures, the Holy Tradition, the Apostolic Rules and the regulations of the ecumenical and local councils and will be administered according to them also with the Constitution of the Macedonian Orthodox Church
- Diocese of Skopje, headed by His Beatitude, the Archbishop of Skopje. d. Stephen;
- Prespa-Pelagonia diocese, headed by the Reverend Metropolitan Peter;
- Debar – Kichevo Diocese, headed by the Reverend Metropolitan Timothy;
- Strumica Diocese, headed by the Reverend Metropolitan Naum;
- Vardar Diocese, headed by the Reverend Metropolitan Agatangel;
- Bregalnica Eparchy, headed by the Reverend Metropolitan Hilarion;
- Tetovo – Gostivar Diocese, headed by the Reverend Metropolitan Joseph;
- Kumanovo – Osogovo diocese, headed by the Reverend Metropolitan Joseph;
- American-Canadian Diocese, headed by the Reverend Metropolitan Methodius; 10. European Diocese, headed by the Reverend Metropolitan Pimen;
- Australian – New Zealand Diocese, whose administrator is Metropolitan of Prespa – Pelagonia. Peter;
- Australian-Sydney Diocese, the administrator of which is the Metropolitan of Debar-Kichevo. Timothy.
The 12 eparchies of the MOC – OA are managed by ten active Bishops, which are currently assisted by about 600 active priests in about 500 parishes with more than 2000 churches and monasteries. Beyond the borders of R. Macedonia MOC pastoral acts in 4 dioceses in the Diaspora.
Continuing the Educational mission of the Saint Clement of Ohrid School, and in accordance with the contemporary trends of theological sciences, in the apostolic spirit, the secondary theological school “St. Clement of Ohrid” and the Faculty of Theology “St. Clement of Ohrid” within the Macedonian Orthodox Church – Ohrid Archiepiscopy train each year young theologians, religious teachers and priests.
In about twenty living monasteries under the jurisdiction of the MOC, over 200 monks and nuns are in prayer and monastic struggle to keep the living patristic Tradition OF THE TEACHINGS OF THE HOLY FATHERS GIVEN TO US THROUGHOUT THE GENERATIONS AND ASCETIC-ISICASTIC FEAT IN CHRIST, OUR LORD.
In this short period of time many new churches and monasteries were built across the diocese of MPCOA. In addition to this, the PRACTICE of the Byzantium iconography was also revived which is what Macedonia is especially known for – the beautiful fresco on the walls and icons.
The humanitarian acts are not forgotten, including the opening of the kitchens for the poor as well as the mission for enlightenment opening more publishing houses that printed hundreds of titles in modern Macedonian language including all liturgy books and hagiography of the saints.
What is most significant is the spiritual rebirth that occurred after the liberation of the atheistic chains of the communist regime, which filled all of our churches and monasteries with young people especially. All of this is witnessing a living church, presence of grace and a true life in Christ.
Last year and this year, the Macedonian Orthodox Church canonised some unusual Saints, who have dedicated their saintly-hood all their life.
It is sad that due to the worldly politics and nationalism that have infiltrated the church, MPCOA is still an outsider to the EUCHARISTIC unity of the other equivalent orthodox churches. We honestly hope that God will answer our sincere prayers and that the true love towards God and man will triumph.
We are especially grateful that on this occasion when we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the reinstatement of the independence of the Ohrid Archbishopric, we have guests and representatives from the Antiochian, Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (ROCA) and the Romanian Church. This is a step forward to accomplish our mutual goal and we would like to express our gratitude to our guests and their Archbishops that blessed their attendance tonight.
From the bottom of Our hearts, THANK YOU!
I would also like to say Thank you to All Our guests, brothers and sisters for your wholehearted support of this significant event for MPC OA and for attending tonight. We thank our Lord, the Holy Trinity, The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, as this celebration is dedicated to His Glory and Honour. Amen.
Thank you and For Many Years!
Father Gabriel (Galev), abbott
 Message on the commemoration and celebration on the jubilee of the „50th anniversary of the self-declaration of the Autocephalous of the Ohrid Archbishopric as the Macedonian Orthodox Church“.