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The Macedonian Orthodox Church

The disintegration of Yugoslavia led to Macedonia's independence in 1991, recognized by most of the international community as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). In December of that year, Archbishop Gavril (d. 1996) resigned his post as head of the church, possibly because of tensions within the hierarchy concerning the church’s canonical status. But he was persuaded to withdraw his resignation after the Holy Synod assured him of its confidence.

Serbian Patriarch Pavle received a delegation of Macedonian Orthodox bishops in mid-1992 to discuss the church’s status, but no progress was made. In 2002 an agreement between the two churches was drafted that would have restored the Macedonian church to canonical status as an autonomous church within the Serbian Patriarchate, but its terms were rejected by the Macedonian Holy Synod.

In May 2005 the Serbian Orthodox Church formally reestablished its own jurisdiction in Macedonia, creating an autonomous Archdiocese of Ohrid along the lines of the failed 2002 agreement. The Serbian Holy Synod named former Macedonian Orthodox bishop Jovan Vraniskovski as Archbishop, and two auxiliary bishops as well. The FYROM government, which supports the Macedonian church’s autocephaly, refused to register the very small Serbian jurisdiction. Jovan himself began an 18 month prison sentence in late 2005 after being convicted of charges that his religious activity was offensive to members of the Macedonian Orthodox Church, and that he had violated the law by “inciting religious and ethnic hatred.” After winning an appeal, he was released after 220 days.

By 2007 there were ten active bishops in the Macedonian Orthodox Church, seven of them heading the seven dioceses in the country, plus three titular bishops who administered the three dioceses in the diaspora. Bishop Methodios of Velika administered the Diocese of America and Canada, with cathedrals in Toronto, Ontario, and Crown Point, Indiana. Bishop Pimen of Poljana administered the Diocese of Europe with headquarters in Dortmund, Germany. Metropolitan Petar oversaw the parishes and monasteries in New Zealand and Australia. Altogether there were about 500 active priests in the Macedonian Orthodox Church in an equal number of parishes. Monasticism has experienced a renewal in the Macedonian church recently; today there are some 20 monasteries inhabited by more than 100 monastics. About two thirds of the FYROM population is Orthodox.

Location: Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, North America, Australia
Head: Archbishop Stefan (born 1955, elected 1999)
Title: Archbishop of Ohrid and Macedonia
Residence: Skopje, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
Membership: 1,300,000

Last Modified: 13 Jul 2007

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