Source: The Tablet
Bartholomew welcomed the Church into communion, “thereby healing the wound of schism and pouring ‘oil and wine’ on the ordeal of our brethren”.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople has said that his patriarchate is in full communion with the breakaway Macedonian Church, hitherto treated as a pariah in the Orthodox world.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate has surprised the Orthodox world – and added to already strained relations with the Russian Orthodox Church – with a declaration that it is in full communion with the breakaway and unrecognised Macedonian Orthodox Church.
On Monday, the Istanbul-based Patriarchate said it “welcomes into eucharistic communion the hierarchy, clergy and laity under Archbishop Stefan of this Church, thereby healing the wound of schism and pouring ‘oil and wine’ on the ordeal of our Orthodox brethren in that country”.
North Macedonians has no idea this was coming. “This was a big surprise to the public here,” journalist Sinisa Marusic told The Tablet. “It’s significant – the Macedonian Orthodox Church is big part of our identity.”
Darijan Sotirovski, head of the government commission on religious dialogue, agreed. “This is a decision that will give us more importance as a nation and a state. We have achieved what generations failed to achieve. It is a confirmation that the path we are following is the right path,” he told local Slobodne Pecat media outlet on Wednesday.
The Macedonian Orthodox Church unilaterally seceded from the Serbian Orthodox Church in 1967, when Macedonia was part of the former Yugoslavia. It became an independent state in the 1990s. The Church’s move has never been recognised by the rest of the Orthodox Churches, which have treated it as a schismatic entity and a pariah.
But, as the power struggle between the Russian and Ecumenical patriarchates intensifies – with the Russian Church demanding more acknowledgement of its size, wealth and power – Constantinople has increasingly confronted Russian positions on ecumenism, relations with the West, Ukraine, and now Macedonia.
Patriarch Bartholomew outraged the Russian Church when he recognised the autocephaly, or ecclesial independence, of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in 2019, after which the Russian patriarchate severed relations.
On the Macedonian Church, both the Serbian and Russian Churches have insisted that it must return to autonomous status within the Serbian Church, and forget all hope of autocephaly.
Bartholomew has now challenged that policy and brought the pariah church out of isolation.
Branko Gjeogjevski, a journalist specialising in religious issues, said the next step was to push Bartholomew for a tomos, or decree, “to pronounce us as an independent Orthodox Church … as was the case with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church”.
Bartholomew has, however, held back from that final step. In his statement, he referred to the Patriarchate being in communion with the “Archbishopric of Ohrid” and “this church”, avoiding use the expression “Macedonian Orthodox Church”.
Observers also noted that while the Russian Church was quick to condemn the patriarchate’s move, insisting it changed nothing, the Serbian Church – the more injured party – has remained uncharacteristically silent.
This has raised speculation that, under its new patriarch, Porfirije, the Serbian Church wants to leave the Russian Church’s orbit. Porfirije has notably refrained from endorsing the Russian war in Ukraine despite Russia’s popularity among the Serbian people.
Christ is risen!
Why not give America, the United States its full freedom to be Orthodox Christians governing ourselves in our own country? This is at the heart of the Schism that has fueled this current war. Surprise us! The Orthodox Christians engaged in the World Council of Churches are meeting now in Cypress. Do it. because we will be doing it anyway, No stopping us now. New Tikhvin Skete of the Holy Mother of God.
I agree with Mother Elizabeth!
All Patriarch Bartholomew needs to do in order to resolve the un-canonical situation of Orthodoxy in America is to authorize Archbishop Elpidophoros and the Bishops of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America to convene a special meeting of the Assembly of Bishops and agree to unite with the OCA and those bishops under the Antiochian Archdiocese who are willing, into a single Synod and ask Constantinople to grant the Orthodox Church of America Autocephaly.
Together, the GOA, OCA and AOCA comprise the overwhelming majority of Orthodox Christians in the territory of the United States. The remaining Bishops in the Assembly will eventually join when they are assured that they can retain their liturgical languages and customs as long as they need to.
In addition to all of its other benefits such a united, growing, sister Church in America would provide the Patriarchates of Constantinople, Antioch, Jerusalem and Alexandria considerably more financial, political and moral support than the current fragmented, overlapping, and dwindling, ethnic jurisdictions are capable of providing.
The timing could not be better. This year’s Fourth of July Clergy-Laity Congress of the GOA in New York would be the ideal time and setting for another bold surprise from Constantinople. If Ukraine and Macedonia are entitled to be Autocephalous, so is America.
The Canons are clear on this: In every separate territory, they are to have their own autocephalous church. Now, ask +Bart what his problem is with the OCA?
I’m not sure what +Bart’s problem is with the OCA. I don’t think Constantinople has a serious problem with the OCA. As a practical matter, the OCA hasn’t been excluded from participation in the Assembly of Bishops and +Bart has concelebrated with the OCA. From this side of the ocean, it looks like posturing in the service of maintaining a position on process with regard to which canon governs the granting of Autocephaly.
The problem is Moscow’s attempts to replace Constantinople as the “first among equals” among the 15 Autocephalous Orthodox Churches. Constantinople’s defense of its “primacy” too often sounds “papal” as some of its supporters make noises that +Bart is the “first WITHOUT equals”.
This doesn’t help in the dispute between Constantinople and Moscow on the issue of how and by whom Autocephaly is granted.. or seized. That issue was supposed to be addressed at the first Holy and Great Council in over a thousand years, but the issue was so contentious that it was removed from the agenda. In the end, Moscow boycotted the meeting which had been moved from Turkey to Crete at Moscow’s insistence.
The geopolitical landscape has changed dramatically with the seizure of Crimea by Putin/Kirill in 2014; the on-going Russian aggression in Eastern Ukraine; the granting of Autocephaly to Ukraine by Constantinople; this-year’s all-out invasion of Ukraine by Putin/Kirill; the granting of Autocephaly to Macedonia by Constantinople; the increasing isolation of Putin/Kirill; and +Bart’s recent call for Kirill to resign as Patriarch.
All of this may be the tipping point that will finally bring about the unification of the Church in America. The only stumbling block is assuring Constantinople (and Antioch?) that a united Orthodox Church in America will provide more political and financial support than they can ever receive from the GOA and AOAC.
It’s time for the lay leadership of the GOA, L100, FAITH, and the Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to provide those assurances to Constantinople. Perhaps the establishment of the Foundation for the EP is a move in that direction. Let’s pray that it is, because without the GOA the AOB is stalemated.
Bartholomew did not give the tomos to the UOC in 2019 as the author indicates; he gave it to the schismatic group known as the OCU in Ukraine. The UOC is the canonical Church under Russia.
Bartholomew didn’t “heal” anything. He was pre-empted by the Serbian Church. It was the Serbian Church that healed the schism with Macedonia by bringing them back and then granting them autocephaly.
Bartholomew did not bring “the pariah church out of isolation,” nor do they need a tomos, as Macedonia is not under Bartholomew. They are autonomous! They are “an independent Orthodox Church” now.
The “Russian Church was quick to condemn the patriarchate’s move” to bring Macedonia under him and change their name to protect what he considers his diaspora. Fortunately, Serbia beat him to it and did it the RIGHT way and NOT like in Ukraine.
The author needs to print some retractions.