Letter of His All Holiness, the Patriarch Bartholomew to His Excellency Mr. Boris Trajkovski, President of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (20/01/2004).

His Excellency Mr. Boris Trajkovski,
President of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia,

Your Excellency,

On the occasion of the New Year, we wholeheartedly wish your beloved and distinguished Excellency and the pious people of your country every blessing from God for progress and prosperity in peace, freedom and justice, by which man is advanced and the harmonious functioning of the community of citizens is given added lustre in the world’s new reality.

In this spirit, we write to your Excellency, having (with justified uneasiness) been informed of the tensions that have arisen between the religious communities in your country (which ought never to have happened). These ignite the well-known existing jurisdictional problem and make constructive dialogue for the overcoming of the tragic and painful divisions of the past difficult.

Your Excellency knows well the initiatives repeatedly undertaken by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to overcome the crisis in the relations between Belgrade and Skopje, since this crisis is the antithesis, not only of the sacred interest of the Orthodox Church, but also of the properly understood interest of your State.

It is true that our persistent initiatives have not yet brought about the desired and hoped-for positive results for the restoration of the ecclesiastical relations, since ecclesiastical crises, although quickly provoked, nevertheless are cured slowly and with great difficulty. Therefore, the present tension adds greater problems to the promotion of a spirit of constructive dialogue.

Your Excellency knows well that the ready involvement of the civil authority in these internal frictions of religious communities increases tension and religious fanaticism, and therefore makes difficult the supervisory role of the State, especially in a multi-cultural society. Thus, the use of police measures in such instances has always been shown to be not only profitless but also detrimental to the prestige of the civil authority, especially at a time of increased sensitivity for the protection of religious worship and the freedom of religious consciousness.

Your Excellency knows well that the relation of legality and order is a particularly complex matter for the civil authority, in particular in the divergences between religious communities, and therefore precautionary or constructive dialogue is to be preferred to complete suspension, which nurtures religious fanaticism and produces unforeseen consequences for the social cohesion of the people. Furthermore, international guarantees for the protection of religious liberty and the freedom of religious conscience ought not to be ignored in similar crises.

Your Excellency,

In this spirit we address your Excellency, who has already given conspicuous examples of constructive initiatives to promote the spirit of dialogue between religions and cultures, so that through your new initiatives extreme options may be avoided in the confrontation of venerable persons and the undesirable tensions therefrom.

We know well that your Excellency shares in this same anguish for the unforeseen consequences of this, and therefore we assure you that we will continue with never-ceasing care the promotion of constructive dialogue to encourage the peaceful settlement of the existing differences.

For this cause, we have the firm conviction that your Excellency would wish for the solution of the matter that has arisen (although it ought not to have done so), damaging your country in the face of worldwide public opinion; and we assure you of our prayers for your health and prosperity and, praying that you may be granted every strength from on high to continue your high service, we remain with love in the Lord and every honour.

20 January 2004
Your Excellency’s
fervent supplicant before God,
+Bartholomew of Constantinople