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Верзија на Македонски

The Schism in FYRMacedonia


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section: news

12.12.2014

Today, December 12, 2014, marks whole three years of imprisonment of Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid and Metropolitan of Skopje.

On December 12, 2011, he voluntarily enter his homeland, at the border-crossing near Bitola, where he was arrested. Since that day, the state apparatus executes torture incomprehensible for the contemporary democratic societies upon him.

In the course of these three years, the members of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric were allowed to visit him only once, in August 2013.

At the same time, although Archbishop Jovan fulfills all conditions required by the law to be granted a two-day leave from prison, the prison authorities are violating all legal provisions and persistently deny him the leave that the law grants him.

Archbishop Jovan, who is currently imprisoned for the eighth time in the last twelve years, has diabetes. He is placed in a cell together with other thirty-three prisoners. The prison conditions are substandard, the cell has one toilet, and the overall conditions are altogether further deteriorating his health.

The Helsinki Committee for Human Rights declared Archbishop Jovan a political prisoner.


section: holy synod of bishops\correspondence

→ Ελληνικά

Holy Synod of Bishops
of the Serbian Orthodox Church

Nr. 1120
September 9, 2014
Belgrade

 

To His Eminence
Stefan, Archbishop of Ohrid in schism
Skopje

 

Subject: Your letter and Our reaction to it

 

Your Eminence,

We received Your letter SAS nr. 18 from July 25, 2014, through which You are informing us of the criminal activities – as You name them – of the Archbishop of Ohrid and Metropolitan of Skopje Dr. Jovan.

This letter was very saddening for us. We had expected that You inform us whether you had done something, and what exactly, for the release of His Beatitude, the imprisoned and suffering Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid and Metropolitan of Skopje. Instead, You are sending us “information” on some fictional criminal activities of this respectable Hierarch, and we also heard that You have sent such letters to other Prelates of the Orthodox Churches, and even personally to many Bishops around the world.

Although this defamatory campaign of Yours does not deserve an answer, for the sake of the truth in the face of history, as a response to the false accusations that you uttered, in Your style, take into knowledge the following facts:

  1. Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid passed from the schism into unity with the Serbian Orthodox Church on June 22, 2002, upon the call of our predecessor, Patriarch Pavle of blessed memory, which was sent to the Hierarchs, priests, monastics and the faithful people in the Republic of Macedonia. It was only Jovan, then Metropolitan of Veles and Povardarie, who responded to this call, while You could have, and should have done the same, alongside with the other Hierarchs that were in schism with the Orthodox Church. It is known to everyone, and even You are confirming that in Your letter, admitting that all ecclesiastical and civil court processes against Metropolitan Jovan began only after his passing into unity with the Church. You are stating that Your Synod had deprived him of his office(!) no sooner than July 10, 2003, and the civil courts began to prosecute him no sooner than 2004. These facts make it clear that the ecclesiastical and the civil court prosecutions are initiated only after he was accepted in unity by the Serbian Orthodox Church and appointed an Exarch of the Serbian Patriarch for the Church in the Republic of Macedonia.
  2. Already in the first paragraph, as you begin to list the “criminal activities” of Archbishop Jovan, you write of a sum of 375.540,00 Denars, that had been collected as tax for the Archbishopric, but he had “used it for other purposes”. You write the same, or something very similar to that, in the rest of the letter, regarding the remainder of the money that he has been accused for: that he either spent it inappropriately, or transferred it to different accounts of church companies. You accuse him of fully appropriating only a smaller amount of money. If that is so, do You have an answer to the question: how was it possible for him to perform a new crime of “money laundering” of the whole amount of 4.940.790,00 Denars that he was obliged with a court verdict to return to You? Because it is clear to everybody, and even You admit it clearly, that the largest part of that sum was already spent in the period between 1998 and 2002, when he was with You.
    It is understandable why You are not mentioning that criminal act – since You know that it was fully rigged by the authorities of the Republic of Macedonia, but with Your knowledge of that, and most likely, upon Your initiative. Hence, You are not leaving any room for anyone to believe that any of the criminal activities You attribute to Archbishop Jovan are indeed a criminal activities according to the law and not revenge of Your Church and Your authorities to the man who sacrifices himself for the unity of the Church and the well-being of his nation.
    We are very well aware with the means by which the funds for the purchase of a place for worship in Skopje were raised. We know who helped for that purpose. The raised funds were deposited on the account of the “Association for improving civil and religious freedoms Anastasia” solely because You are doing everything to hinder the registration of the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric as a religious community before the courts in Your country, and therefore it cannot be a legal entity and have its own bank-account. And now, upon Your initiative, the court has convicted Archbishop Jovan, two other Bishops, two priests, four nuns and ten believers – including the mother and the sister or Archbishop Jovan – for “laundering” the funds that had already been spent, money that you speak of as “appropriated from the MOC”.
    In the Serbian Orthodox Church the origin of the money that was subject of the latest verdict is very well known. We are sure that You too know well that that money is not the same money You accused Archbishop Jovan of “appropriating from the MOC”. We are sure that this fact is well known also to the prosecution and the courts in Your country. Because, everyone clearly understands that Archbishop Jovan could not have appropriated the sum of 4.940.790,00 Denars, since that is the sum of four annual budgets. When the court in Veles sentenced him, the same court in the verdict taxatively listed in what way was the sum of 4.940.790,00 Denars spent. How is it possible to launder money that had already been spent? Instead of being ashamed that the courts in the Republic of Macedonia reach political verdicts upon Your initiative, You are sending letters not only to us, but also to the Bishops of other Orthodox Churches, in order to justify the crimes.
  3. You are also mentioning another criminal act for which Archbishop Jovan was sentenced and imprisoned. Allow us to remind You that Archbishop Jovan has been sentenced to imprisonment for five times by Your courts. Why are You not mentioning that he was sentenced a year of imprisonment for the criminal act of “autocracy”? Archbishop Jovan in the last ten years was seven times either imprisoned or in custody, thus spending about five years in prison, and that is due to Your contribution, let us not forget. Therefore, it is not appropriate for You to stain his confession with humiliations and lies.
    When we say lies, we are having in mind what You are writing about the 57.180,00 Euros (not German Marks, as you incorrectly write in Your letter), donation of Mr. Trifun Kostovski, that has – according to your incorrect statement – ended up “in the hands of Jovan, i.e. on his personal bank account in Bulgaria”. It is not a secret, and the public both here and in Your country has already been informed that immediately after the arrest of the person in office at the Diocese of Veles and Povardarie that you mention, Archbishop Jovan deposited the whole amount of 57.180,00 Euros in the court, together with the bank interest for the two months the money had been deposited in the bank. When the court process ended, that money was given to You, and You took it.
    Hence, there is no bank account in Bulgaria, but there is something else. For the mentioned criminal act of “evasion”, Archbishop Jovan had been acquitted two times, and the third time, upon the pressure of the authorities in Your country, he was sentenced. The first time the charges were dismissed by the court because there was no written initiative upon which Archbishop Jovan was to be prosecuted. Then, a forgery has been made, and You took part in it: an initiative was written with an earlier date, although adjusting the date is forbidden by the law. But in order to have Archbishop Jovan sentenced, You personally, as well as the authorities of Your country, are breaking the laws. Exactly the same thing happened with the second verdict for “evasion” for which Archbishop Jovan was sentenced to thirty months of imprisonment, and he is serving that sentence now. In that case also the court acquitted him twice, to finally sentence him the third time, upon the pressure of Yourself and the Government of Your country.
    But, are you asking Yourself why Bulgaria did not extradite him to Your authorities when he was arrested upon a warrant? Because the case was then examined by an unbiased court which determined that “the verdict of the competent Macedonian authorities is a consequence of difficult and conflictive religious intolerance regarding the different views of the official representatives of the MOC and of Vraniskoski, and it is motivated by his decision to accept the liturgical and canonical unity with the Serbian Orthodox Church in 2002”. And that is the truth, Stefan! That is the truth that You and Yours in the Synod know very well, but You are deliberately overlooking it and You are using defamations against Archbishop Jovan.
  4. Speaking of the Hierarchs in Your Synod, there are more and more of them that do not agree with You that the merciless and inappropriate persecution of Archbishop Jovan should continue.  You are aware that they speak of that publicly. We are hearing the news that it were only You who were against releasing him from prison, and that is probably due to two reasons: first, because You do not have the courage to look into the eyes of Archbishop Jovan, after all the injustice You have caused to him, and second, because You are aware that Your ascension to the throne as Archbishop has not been confirmed not only by the Serbian Patriarch, but also not by any Prelate of any Orthodox Church.
    For that reason You had delivered to us, through the authorities of Your country, the utterly inappropriate suggestion in which the release of Archbishop Jovan is conditioned with his permanent leave of the Republic of Macedonia. His Beatitude Archbishop Jovan does not agree with that, even if that means not being released from prison earlier, but not only he, we too consider that such kind of pressure upon our Church is unacceptable.

 

You have many times heard that until Archbishop Jovan is released from prison, no negotiations for the overcoming of the uncanonical status of Your Church can be made. But, since we are convinced that You, Your Grace, are doing the most for Your Church to remain in schism, we have the uncomfortable duty to inform You that the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church, on the basis of the decision of the Holy Assembly of Bishops, ASbr. 50/zap.7 from September 15, 1967 and ASbr. 41/125 p.2 from May 21, 2003, on its meeting on August 26, 2014, made the decision nr. 1191/zap. 857 to initiate an ecclesiastical court process against You, as the one who is most responsible for the persistent remaining in schism of Your Church.

Greeting You fraternally, with hope that You will change Your unacceptable approach to the question of the canonical status of Your Church.

 

President of the Holy Synod of Bishops
AEM and Patriarch of Serbia
Irinej

http://spc.rs/sr/odgovor_na_pismo_njegovog_visokopreosveshtenstva_g_stefana_arhiepiskopa_ohridskog_u_raskolu


section: news

04.09.2014

Founded in 1989, Human Rights Without Frontiers International is a non-governmental organisation that focuses on research, analysis and monitoring of a wide range of human rights concerns in many countries throughout the world. The organisation is also dedicated to the promotion of democracy and the rule of law. Located in the heart of European policy-making in Brussels, it aims to the shape policy agenda of the EU and of other regional and global institutions in a way that protects human rights in and outside of Europe. The organisation also tries to influence opinions through almost daily communications in electronic newsletters sent to more than 8000 subscribers.

Recently in one of its information newsletters, Human Rights Without Frontiers published a text about the persecution of the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric, and especially its prelate Archbishop Jovan who is imprisoned for nearly three years. The text has the title “Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric – a hate crime victim” and it gives an overview of the state persecution on religious ground that our Church has been suffering in the last 12 years, with the denial of registration of the Church, imprisonment sentences for its Prelate, Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid, and latest – with confiscation of property and sentences against other bishops, priests, monastics and faithful people of the only canonical Orthodox Church in R. Macedonia – the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric.


section: holy synod of bishops\announcements

→ Ελληνικά

26.08.2014

The Holy Synod of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church, on its meeting held on August 26, the present year, decided to initiate an ecclesiastical court process against archbishop Stefan, the prelate of the “Macedonian Orthodox Church”, which is in schism with the Orthodox Church, due to his persistence to remain in schism, his unchristian participation in the persecution of Archbishop Jovan, the canonical prelate of the autonomous Ohrid Archbishopric, and of his clergy, monastics and faithful people, as well as due to a number of other anti-canonical activities.

From the Office of the Holy Synod of Bishops

Source: http://spc.rs/sr/saopshtenje_za_javnost_11


section: news

18.07.2014

On July 17, 2014, the domestic media published the news that the Court of Appeals in Skopje had confirmed the verdict of the Court of First Instance Skopje 1, by which His Beatitude Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid and Metropolitan of Skopje is sentenced to three years of imprisonment, and the rest of the convicted Bishops, priests, monastics and faithful people of the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric are sentenced to conditional two years of imprisonment, if they repeat the deed for which they are accused of by the Court in the next five years. At the same time, the Court is confiscating property of the members of the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric, which it decided to give to the schismatic Macedonian Orthodox Church.

Until this moment, neither Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid, who is currently imprisoned for already two years and eight months in the Idrizovo prison, nor any of the other convicted members of the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric, have received the verdict of the Court of Appeals.

As the media reported, through the confirmation of the verdict by the Court of Appeals, the verdict for three years of imprisonment for the Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid and Metropolitan of Skopje becomes effective.


section: holy synod of bishops\announcements

24.05.2014

The Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church held its regular meeting from 14th to 24th May 2014. The Assembly published an Announcement for its ten-day work, in one part of which it also speaks of the canonical Church in R. Macedonia, the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric.

In the mentioned part of the final Announcement, the Assembly stresses that: “the authorities in R. Macedonia, on basis of a judicial farce, continue to keep Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid in prison, in unhuman conditions, and are at the same time imposing pressure with threats and verdicts of a similar kind, also upon the other Bishops, priests, monks, nuns and believers of the autonomous Ohrid Archbishopric.

The Assembly once again appeals to all the responsible, to do everything for the liberation of the political prisoner number one in contemporary Europe, Archbishop Jovan, and calls for ceasing of the last religious persecution in Europe, the persecution of the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric.

The Assembly is grateful to the topical Orthodox Churches, to the World Council of Churches, to the Conference of European Churches, to the organisations for protection of the human rights and to many renowned persons for their intercession in regards to this painful issue.“

The Assembly also addressed many other important issues from the life of the Church.

 

The complete text of the Announcement:

http://spc.rs/sr/saopshtenje_za_javnost_svetog_arhijerejskog_sabora


section: news

11.01.2014

The Dean of the Faculty of Theology at the state University of Aristotle in Thessaloniki, Professor Michael Tritos, whose field of expertise is the history of the Slavic Churches, on the occasion of the passed two years of imprisonment of Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid, for Romfea, expressed his personal stance in regard to this subject:

“The case of the imprisonment of Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid represents a stain, and disgrace for the 21st century civilization and for the international human rights and religious freedoms organizations. This hierarch-martyr is being continuously convicted by the criminal courts in Skopje, because he had the courage to proclaim that the ‘macedonian’ church of Skopje is schismatic, since it violates the basic principles of orthodox ecclesiology and prefers ethnophiletistic goals.

Unfortunately, a country that claims it respects the human rights and which tends to join NATO and the European Union, is actually supporting an authoritarian regime, with the silent inaction and indifference of the European Union and the United States of America!

We believe that the solution for the problem of the church in Skopje, in the present conditions, shows great difficulties, due to the stifling embrace of the state upon this church, and its utilization as a public service for purposes foreign to its spiritual mission.

In order to have positive development of this issue, the following preconditions should be met:

  1. Immediate release of Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid, who already passed two years in imprisonment, in the Idrizovo prison, in Skopje.
  2. The authorities should leave freedom to the Church, so that she fulfills its spiritual goals.
  3. The Schismatic church should ask for forgiveness from the mother – church of Serbia, for the coup by which it had separated, and to acknowledge as anti-canonical its actions since 1967 until today.
  4. To accept the name of the luminous Archbishopric of Ohrid, and not of Macedonia.

Under these preconditions, it is possible that initially autonomy is granted, following the example of Finland and Estonia, and later – why not – autocephaly as well.

In that way, an open wound in the body of the Orthodox Church would be closed, and the one-and-a-half million Orthodox that live in Skopje would cease to be victims of every kind of proselytism.”

 

Source:

http://www.romfea.gr/arthra-apopseis/21609-2014-01-09-08-56-18


section: news

03.01.2014

His Holiness Patriarch Irinej of Serbia, in his most recent epistle for Christmas, which he delivered to the public on January 3, 2014, addressed the state persecution on religious basis that is performed against Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid and the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric.

In the epistle, Patriarch Irinej of Serbia sent an appeal to the authorities of R. Macedonia and to the international community:

“We wish a virtuous and blessed Christmas to our imprisoned brother and concelebrant, Archbishop of Ohrid and Metropolitan of Skopje Jovan, and all his persecuted and suffering Orthodox Church in the Republic of Macedonia. The government there holds him imprisoned unjustly, and they prohibit freedom of faith and conscience to his faithful flock because they have decided for the unity of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. That ethno-phyletistic schism is the biggest tragedy of our Church in the Republic of Macedonia. Unfortunately, schismatics have placed politics and ethno-phyletism above the unity of the Church.

We appeal to the government of the Republic of Macedonia to immediately and without delay release our father, brother and concelebrant the Archbishop of Ohrid and Metropolitan of Skople Jovan, and to afford full rights and freedom as guaranteed by law to God’s Church, the Archdiocese of Ohrid.

We also appeal to the international community, who before their very eyes see how basic human and religious rights are being violated in the Republic of Macedonia, that they take the measures necessary to prevent further discrimination against the Church and her people.”


section: news

16.12.2013

R. Macedonia’s Parliamentary Committee on Political System and Inter-Ethnic Relations, on December 12 and 13, 2013, organized a public hearing on the subject: “Analysis of the respect of the constitutionally guaranteed right to presumption of innocence, the findings regarding the abuse of the measure detention, violation of the freedom of speech and the freedom of the media, as well as the right for public protest in R. Macedonia”.

Politicians, officials, professors, journalists and citizens of R. Macedonia took part as witnesses in the hearing.

Taking part in the hearing was also the expert on human rights, university professor Mirjana Najcevska Ph.D., who in her exposition, amongst other issues, spoke of the treatment of Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid by the authorities, undoubtedly naming his imprisonment in the detention prison as – method of torture by the authorities! Namely, despite the fact that he was already in prison, as soon as the new staged court process against him began, Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid was transferred to detention prison, where he spent one whole year in severe and substandard conditions!

What was loudly spoken by prof. Mirjana Najcevska Ph.D, in the Assembly of R. Macedonia is certainly known to everybody, starting from the fact that what is happening to Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid had not happened to anyone in our recent history! It is a disgraceful school example of state torture on religious basis, taking into account that in the last eleven years Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid is imprisoned for the seventh time, and by a new verdict, he is being sentenced to an additional three years of imprisonment! This is known to everyone, but only few are not afraid to speak of it publicly!

We are addressing an appeal to the domestic and the international public, for ceasing the mentioned torture on religious basis, for taking in account the calls of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, of the World Council of the Churches, of the Conference of European Churches, for looking into the international reports that speak of the violation of the religious freedoms in R. Macedonia, and for finding the strength for immediate release from prison of Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid, and for respecting the religious beliefs of the Church whose prelate he is, the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric, with the purpose of reaching the high standards of the advanced democracies, and for a better future of all citizens of our homeland.


section: news

08.11.2013

The Tenth General Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) is taking place in Busan, South Korea, from 30 October to 8 November. Taking part in the assembly are 2.190 representatives of the topical Orthodox Churches, the Anglican and Protestant communities, as well as observers of the Roman-Catholic and other Churches that are not members of the WCC, who assembled to discuss the most important issues regarding the Christianity in the world.

The World Council of Churches has expressed deep concern over the issue of respecting the rights of the Orthodox believers R. Macedonia. During the General Assembly, the Council issued a public Statement about the politicization of religion and the rights of religious minorities, stating:

 “The Government of R. Macedonia categorically denied the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric the right to register as a religious community. The government’s involvement in the legal system of the country resulted in the unlawful confinement of the head of this Church.”

The World Council of Churches urged the governments of all countries to strengthen the mechanisms that would ensure survival and protection of the rights of religious minorities. Furthermore, the states are encouraged to implement anti-discrimination laws in order to protect individuals and communities that are being persecuted for professing their faith.



section: news

01.11.2013

The first President of the pluralistic Assembly of R. Macedonia, who on three terms presided the Assembly, the renowned politician Stojan Andov, in his article in the weekly magazine “Fokus” (nr. 942, from 25.10.2013) once again spoke of the court verdicts against Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid and Metropolitan of Skopje.

The Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric has already indicated that the intervention of the state through the interference of the judiciary, for providing the Macedonian Orthodox Church (MOC) a religious monopoly, makes our country a factor of instability in the region!

We are witnesses that the court which persistently denies the registration of the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric is the same court which sentenced Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid to three years of imprisonment, and the other Bishops, monastics and faithful people of the Archbishopric to a conditional prison sentence. In that way, the court has turned into an instrument of persecution of the religious freedoms in our homeland, causing destruction of the civilization values!

In his article, Stojan Andov writes that not a small number of court processes are received as purges of stalinistic character of the elements that are considered inappropriate by the authorities, and that is exactly what leads our homeland towards a dangerous state. He also highlights that: “the verdicts against Bishop Jovan Vraniskovski, for the civilized world, are of incomprehensible reasons, and are regarded as an outcome of the government’s insisting to court sentences motivated by religious intolerance!”

In the direction of respecting the human rights and religious freedom, it is necessary for the government to fully liberate itself from the communist heritage of persecution of the Church, the politicians and the publicity to liberate themselves from the memory of conflicts, in order to be able to pass from a state of conflict to a state of conciliation. The normalization of the state of the respecting of religious freedoms is one of the basic conditions without which it is not possible to continue on the path towards the advanced democratic polities!


section: news

06.10.2013

In his homily during the Divine Liturgy which he officiated during the celebration of 1700 years of the Edict of Milan, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew spoke of several burning issues for the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Orthodox Church.

Patriarch Bartholomew also indicated the persecution that is being performed against Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid and the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric, the canonical Church in R. Macedonia! In his addressing, he stated:

“… furthermore, in our orthodox ecclesiastical milieu, various schisms, apostasies, and even heresies  are appearing; thieves and robbers who do not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climb in by some other way (John 10, 2-3). Hierarchs are being persecuted, as for example His Beatitude and our beloved brother, Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid; priests, monastics and faithful people are being persecuted because they respect the canonical order, they recognize their spiritual adherence to the canonical Churches and they do not enlist in the anti-canonical – supported by various state factors – seemingly ecclesiastical formations, and thus, as the blessed John the Chrysostom says, they are being persecuted “only because the bear Christ’s name”.

Every soberly-thinking man will understand that these words are loudly witnessing across the world, that the state apparatus of R. Macedonia is not capable of practicing the Edict of Milan, hence it demonstrates that our homeland is brought back to the times before the Edict and not all citizens are equally allowed to enjoy religious freedoms!

Despite all this, may St Constantine the Great be a motivation and an example for every political leader!

It should not be forgotten that the Edict of Milan was signed by two Emperors who at the time of the signing were not Christians, but they knew what was the interest of the state: “may each one have the free opportunity to worship as he pleases; this regulation is made  that we may not seem to detract from any dignity of any religion” (from the text of the Edict of Milan)!

No matter how hard they try to mislead and misinform the domestic public by spreading untruths about Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid and the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric, the reality is revealing them, hence certain political figures, schismatics and journalists in the Orthodox world are being recognized exactly as those who raise their hands against Christ himself!

 

Homily of Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew spoken on the Liturgy in Nis, 06.10.2013.


section: news

26.09.2013

The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America (http://assemblyofbishops.org/about), held its fourth annual meeting in Chicago, Illinois. Forty-three Bishops representing eleven Church jurisdictions were present at the meeting. At the end of the meeting, an official announcement was published.

During the Assembly, the Bishops devoted time also to the state persecution on religious basis, which is performed upon Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid and the canonical Church in R. Macedonia, the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric. In the mentioned announcement, the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America states:

 “We have also been apprised and are deeply concerned about the arrest and detention of Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) as a result of exercising his fundamental human right of religious freedom. We urge our faithful to stand in prayer and solidarity for a prompt and positive resolution to this issue.”

http://assemblyofbishops.org/about/documents/2013-message-of-the-assembly-of-bishops


section: news

A Bishop behind bars

18.07.2013

In a recent posting, I noted that the European Union had put forward some detailed ideas about how religious freedom should be fostered outside its borders; and also that it still gave its own 28 members lots of leeway in handling church-state relations. That is not just a hypothetical point. Countries that aspire to join the EU find their governance, legal systems and performance on human rights (including religious freedom) scrutinised closely; once they squeeze through the gates, the pressure slackens.

As it happens, there is one would-be EU member whose recent record on religious freedom may fall short of the standard which the Union, albeit a tad hypocritically, expects from its aspiring neighbours. If the country were already inside the door, it might get off more lightly. But that doesn't make things any better. The country in question is Macedonia, where an internationally recognised Christian bishop has been locked up on charges which many human-rights campaigners regard as trumped-up. The World Council of Churches says he is the victim of persecution; the Conference of European Churches has called for his release; Amnesty International once called him a prisoner of conscience. 

Who is he? On July 2nd, Archbishop Jovan Vraniskovski of Ohrid (to use the title he uses, and most of the Christian world recognises) was given a three-year jail term for "embezzlement"; given that his current stay in jail (the latest in a series) has already lasted 18 months, he seems set to remained incarcerated until the end of next year. To explain his bizarre story, it helps to go back to the 1960s, when relations between communist Yugoslavia's republics were volatile and mostly conducted by party apparatchiks behind closed doors. Those apparatchiks controlled virtually everything that happened in the country, including the limited religious life which the communist system tolerated. As a way of cutting Serbia down to size, the party bosses agreed in 1967 that it would be a good idea if the republic of Macedonia had its own Orthodox church, instead of being part of the Serbian one.

Under Orthodox rules, new ecclesiastical bodies normally gain independence not through communist fiat but by the consent of their mother church, and of the other Orthodox churches round the world. So when a Macedonian Orthodox Church was duly proclaimed, it never gained full recognition from its Serbian parent, or any acknowledgement from global Orthodoxy. In 2002, with Marxism a distant memory, a meeting of Serbian and Macedonian bishops tried to heal the breach; it was agreed that the Macedonian church would realign with the Serbian one, and instantly be granted wide-ranging autonomy. 

But most of Macedonia's hierarchs soon renounced that deal. To a country that was struggling to consolidate its independence in the face of a bitter dispute with Greece over its name, nothing short of a fully independent national church seemed acceptable. But one prelate, Archbishop Jovan, stuck by the 2002 accord, and he is therefore regarded by global Orthodoxy as head of the only legitimate Orthodox authority in Macedonia, notionally based in the lakeside city of Ohrid. The leaders of the Macedonian Orthodox Church view Jovan as a schismatic – and that in turn is how he, and world Orthodoxy, view them.

Nothing unusual about all that. Orthodox bishops have a record of quarrelling about matters which seem arcane to outsiders. But Archbishop Jovan's treatment by the authorities in Skopje seems harsh. His first spell in jail followed his arrest for such heinous crimes as celebrating the Eucharist in a private house and conducting a baptism. The latest trial, which also led to suspended sentences for his mother and sister and a dozen prominent members of his church organisation, took a bizarre turn on the final day. 

I discussed the trial with Voislav Stojanovski, a Macedonian lawyer who observed the proceedings for the Helsinki Committee, part of a network of human-rights groups. He told me that just as people were awaiting the verdict, the chief judge unexpectedly called a last-minute witness, who claimed to have negotiated over a possible land sale with the accused cleric. The witness said he had negotiated both on his own behalf and on behalf of several neighbours who had authorised him, though a written proxy, to offer their land. The archbishop denied ever having met the witness. His defence lawyer requested to see the written proxy. The court president and his two fellow judges then left the court-room to consider that request and returned after 20 minutes, with a refusal. Mr Stojanovski said it was an unusual breach of procedure for judges to leave the court at such a sensitive moment.

None of that proves that the verdict was a miscarriage of justice. But it does look distinctly fishy. By their own lights, of course, the Macedonian authorities are simply cracking down in various ways on an illegal, unregistered organisation. But then, requiring religious bodies to submit to licensing from the state, which can be denied on whim, is a notorious way of suppressing freedom of conscience. At some point, they will have to explain themselves to the European Union and also to the European Court of Human Rights, which is considering the legality of the Macedonian authorities' refusal to register Archbishop Jovan's church.

Source: http://www.economist.com/blogs/erasmus/2013/07/bishop-behind-bars


section: news

09.07.2013

The Conference of European Churches, which from 3rd to 8th July held its 14th General Assembly in Budapest, at the end of its work issued an announcement in regard to the arresting and the imprisonment of His Beatitude Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid and Metropolitan of Skopje, by the authorities of R. Macedonia.

The announcement states:

The Assembly of CEC has learned with great concern about the arrest and detention of Archbishop Jovan in R. Macedonia. It is believed that his detention is a result of him exercising his human right of religious freedom. Reaffirming that freedom of religion and belief is a fundamental right guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human rights and the European Convention on Human Rights to which R. Macedonia is a party.

The CEC Assembly affirms the call by the World Council of Churches on the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief to carefully investigate this case.

The CEC Assembly calls on the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe and the EU Special Representative on Human Rights to urgently look into this case. In particular, the CEC Assembly requests that the institutions see whether the detention conditions are in line with standards as set out by the Council of Europe.

We urge the government of R. Macedonia and H.E. Nikola Gruevski, Prime Minister of R. Macedonia, to assure a fair trial and immediately release of Archbishop Jovan, pending his trial, in accordance with R. Macedonia’s national criminal law provisions.

We request the member churches of CEC to join in prayer and solidarity with Archbishop Jovan by sending letters of protest to the responsible authorities.

Source: http://blogg.svenskakyrkan.se/cecfuturewall/2013/07/08/churches-should-support-the-marginalised/


section: news

22.04.2013

The US State Department published its regular Human Rights Report on R. Macedonia.

The biggest accent is put on the government’s failure fully to respect the rule of law, primarily reflected in the interference in the judiciary and the media, in the selective prosecution of political opponents of the country’s leaders and significant levels of government corruption. The report stresses the existence of police impunity and the political interference in the judiciary, its favoritism, inefficiency and corruption that slowed the delivery of justice.

As one of the most acute problems, the report does not omit to mention the mistreatment of detainees and prisoners by the police and the prison guards, the poor conditions and overcrowding in the state prisons, as well as the delayed access to legal counsel by detainees and defendants. The report clearly indicates that the country’s prisons and detention centers do not meet international standards, they are in dilapidated condition, and the prisoners are held – as it is stated – in deplorable, dangerous and unhygienic environment, while most of the prisoners are locked in their cells for up to 23 hours a day.

The US State Department report also quotes the report of the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture which particularly criticizes the treatment of the prisoners and requests that they are not held in the equivalent of solitary confinement.

We remind that His Beatitude Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid and Metropolitan of Skopje, having serious health problems, for one year and five months is being held exactly in such conditions (locked in a cell for 23 hours a day) for which the Council of Europe concludes that they “equal solitary confinement”!

The US State Department report further highlights that the law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, but that is not being respected, and the arbitrary arrest and detention remained an open problem. The report states that although the Constitution and the laws provide for an independent judiciary, the government exercised political pressure and intimidation on the judicial branch. Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid in the last ten years is being imprisoned for the sixth time by the mentioned judiciary, against him series of politically rigged court processes are lead, and the last year a great number of monastics and faithful people of the Archbishopric were spectacularly arrested and detained with handcuffs on their hands. Also, through the rigged court processes, in 2012, the period covered by this US State Department report, the state persecution on religious basis has expanded against other Bishops, priests, monastics and faithful of the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric.

In regard to the freedom of speech, the US State Department again notes that although the Constitution and the laws provide for freedom of speech and press, the government do not always demonstrate respect for this right in practice, and government pressure on the media is a continuing problem!

The consequences of not respecting the human rights which are guaranteed by the Constitution and the laws of R. Macedonia, the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric and its Prelate, Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid, are suffering for more than one decade. More than one decade in regard to the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric through one-sided informing, with very few exceptions, a systematic campaign of hate speech is being conducted.

The torture on religious basis of the members of the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric, through the continuous politically motivated imprisonments of Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid, through the court processes against almost all Bishops, against the monastics and the faithful people of the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric, as well as through the illegal denial of its registration in the Macedonian courts – continues!

The report is available in full on the following location: http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/204523.pdf

In addition to this information, we are reminding of the following video material:


section: holy synod of bishops\correspondence

Archbishop of Ohrid and Metropolitan of Skopje

Protocol № 96 from 3rd March 2010

To: The Council of Europe, Strasbourg



Highly esteemed,

At the beginning of this addressing, we send You our greetings.

In continuation, we would like to very briefly inform You about the violation of the basic religious freedoms of the part of the citizens of R. Macedonia. We are acquainted with the fact that our country will be presiding the Council of Europe and we consider that it is necessary to draw attention to the paradoxical situation that an esteemed institution, such as the Council of Europe, will be presided exactly by R. Macedonia, which violates the basic religious freedoms of a part of its own citizens! Namely, in R. Macedonia exists the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric with a recognized autonomous status in the world of Orthodox Christianity, but persecuted by the state in its homeland. Her prelate, Archbishop of Ohrid and Metropolitan of Skopje k.k. Jovan, has served two prison terms because of his religious beliefs, and the court on two terms refuses the registration of the Archbishopric in the register of religious communities. In regard to the imprisonments of Archbishop Jovan and the refusal of registration of the Archbishopric to which, among the other nationalities, the Macedonian citizens of Serbian nationality also belong, the representative of the Serbs in the Government and Member of Parliament, Mr. Ivan Stoiljkovic stated: “it is not being mentioned that the Serbs in Macedonia cannot realize their religious freedom, granted by the Constitution” (Blic, 24th February 2010).

For a more precise insight into the above stated, in continuation we enclose a chronological overview of a part of the events, since the constitution of the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric in 2002 until today.

Many international institutions and organizations have also spoken out against this persecution. Following are only a few examples:

US Department of State constantly includes in its “Religious Freedom Report” and “Human Rights Report” information regarding the restrictions of the religious freedoms of the members of the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric, the existence of religious prisoners, the violation of freedom of movement, the police terror and demolition of a monastery, the prevention of OSCE from obtaining a copy of the decision upon which the demolition was carried out, the police interrogations of the members of the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric etc. (http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2008/108458.htm, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2007/90187.htm, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2006/71394.htm, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2005/51567.htm, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2004/35470.htm etc.)

US Mission to the OSCE warned of “Violation of freedom of religion” and “encouraged the authorities to apply the law fairly”, advising “the government should avoid involving in religious disputes”, reminding that “Article Nine of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 19 of the Macedonian Constitution as well as Macedonia’s OSCE commitments, and international norms, all guarantee his right to freedom of religion.” (http://osce.usmission.gov/media/pdfs/2004-statements/fyrom_2-5-04.pdf).

Amnesty International declared the Archbishop Jovan “a prisoner of conscience”. (http://amnesty.org/en/library/asset/EUR05/001/2006/en/28018728-d44a-11dd-8743-d305bea2b2c7/eur050012006en.html)

The Helsinki Committee for Human Rights constantly reports about the violation of the religious freedoms and human rights of the members of the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric, among other issues, pointing out that the imprisonment of the Archbishop Jovan is “The most high profile of religious freedom violation” (http://mhc.org.mk/default-mk.asp?ItemID=577B948E52C7B648A9F4398C90B0A71C&arc=1, http://mhc.org.mk/default-mk.asp?ItemID=D269C890ADF91F4D8B26B40C32163802&arc=1 etc.)

The European Commission pointed out that “cases of violations of religious freedom exist” and emphasized that “the new law should provide more liberal procedure for registering religious communities” in its report. (http://ec.europa.eu/enlargement/pdf/key_documents/2006/nov/fyrom_sec_1387_en.pdf)

Forum 18 reports that “Official discrimination continues”, “New Religion Law perpetuates discrimination” etc. (http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=1335, http://forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=1107 etc.)

Highly esteemed,

This is only a part of the persecution that the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric faces in the past eight years.

This information for continuation of the limitations of our rights is at the same time an appeal to all the persons being in position to assist the implementation of the Democratic laws and values regarding the respect of religious freedom for all the citizens in the Republic of Macedonia, without any ethnic or religious prejudice, as one of the basic conditions for integration in the Euro-Atlantic civilization trends.

With respect,

Bishop
† David of Stobi and Administrator of Strumica

© orthodox ohrid archbishopric 2004-2014
http://spc.rs - Serbian Orthodox Church Orthodox Christianity.ru www.kolivart.com

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