His­tory of Mace­don­ian Ortho­dox Church (MOC)

St. Paul, the apostle

Accord­ing to the sources in the Acts, Saint Paul, Christ’s dis­ci­ple, began spread­ing Chris­tian­ity in Mace­do­nia and else­where on the Balkan Penin­sula towards the mid 1st cen­tury AD. He vis­ited this region on two occa­sions dur­ing his jour­neys through Europe and Asia. He was fol­lowed by Tim­o­thy and Silas, who remained in Mace­do­nia after his depar­ture. At that time, as a Roman province Mace­do­nia often changed its bor­ders and its eth­nic com­po­si­tion. As a result of the Chris­tian­iza­tion in the first three cen­turies, the Chris­tians in Mace­do­nia at the begin­ning of the 4th cen­tury already had an organ­ised Church with an estab­lished eccle­si­as­ti­cal hier­ar­chy, whose bish­ops reg­u­larly par­tic­i­pated at the ecu­meni­cal councils.

In the 5th cen­tury the Church had sev­eral metrop­o­lises and dio­ce­ses. The metrop­o­lises of Thes­sa­lonica and Skopje were the most dis­tin­guished among them. Sev­eral Chris­t­ian basil­i­cas orig­i­nate from this period, includ­ing the one near the vil­lage of Bar­dovci, in the west­ern out­skirts of Skopje.

Dur­ing the reign of the emperor Jus­tin­ian I (527565), who came from the vil­lage of Tau­re­sium in the Skopje region, a new town was built near the emperor’s birth­place, named Jus­tini­ana Prima after him. The Met­ro­pol­i­tan of Skopje was appointed an auto­cephalous Arch­bishop. Cathel­lian was the first Arch­bishop of the Arch­dio­cese Jus­tini­ana Prima, at the time the third by hon­our among the local Ortho­dox Churches, after Rome and Con­stan­tino­ple. The other arch­bish­ops were: Bene­nat, Paul, John I, Leon and the last one John IX, who in 68081 took part at the Trullo Coun­cil in Constantinople.

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 Saints Clement and Nahum of Ohrid. In the sec­ond half of the 10th cen­tury, within the bor­ders of Samuel’s state, the auto­cephalous Ohrid Arch­dio­cese was estab­lished with the rank of patri­ar­chate, on the foun­da­tions of Jus­tini­ana Prima. After the fall of Samuel’s state, the Ohrid Arch­dio­cese was reduced to a lower rank of church hier­ar­chy (arch­bish­opric) and it existed as such for eight cen­turies, until its abol­ish­ment in 1767 by the Turk­ish sul­tan Mustapha III, and its dio­ce­ses were annexed to the Patri­ar­chate of Con­stan­tino­ple. From this moment on Mace­don­ian peo­ple made all pos­si­ble efforts to restore the Arch­dio­cese. Its dio­ce­ses were under sev­eral juris­dic­tions of the neigh­bour­ing Ortho­dox Churches and this strug­gle became par­tic­u­larly fierce in the sec­ond part of the 19th and the first part of the 20th cen­tury. Con­ve­nient con­di­tions for restora­tion of the inde­pen­dence were cre­ated not ear­lier than dur­ing World War II (1St. Clement of Ohrid9411945). Right before the end of the war, in 1944, in the vil­lage of Gorno Vra­novci, an Ini­tia­tive Board for Organ­i­sa­tion of the Mace­don­ian Ortho­dox Church was formed. In March, 1945, in Skopje, a Res­o­lu­tion to restore the Arch­dio­cese of Ohrid as Mace­don­ian Ortho­dox Church was made at the First Clergy and Laity Assem­bly. This deci­sion was sub­mit­ted to the Holy Synod of the Ser­bian Ortho­dox Church, since before World War II sev­eral dio­ce­ses in Mace­do­nia were under the United Ortho­dox Church of Serbs, Croats and Slove­ni­ans, known later as Ser­bian Ortho­dox Church. The Synod of the Ser­bian Ortho­dox Church did not accept this deci­sion, which resulted in the fol­low­ing actions of the Ini­tia­tive Board: instead of as an auto­cephalous, the Board insisted on the Church being recog­nised as autonomous. This request was also rejected. In 1958, the Sec­ond Clergy and

Laity Assem­bly was held in Ohrid and the pro­posal for restora­tion of the Ohrid Arch­dio­cese of Saint Clement as a Mace­don­ian Ortho­dox Church was accepted and Dositheus was­ap­pointed the first archbishop

The Holy Synod of the Ser­bian Ortho­dox Church agreed with the deci­sions of the Mace­don­ian Clergy and Laity Assem­bly in the res­o­lu­tion AS. No 47/​1959 and 6/​1959, min­utes 57 of June 17/​4, 1959.

As a sign of agree­ment, a Liturgy was con­cel­e­brated with the Ser­bian Patri­arch Ger­man, on July 19, 1959, in Skopje, in the church of Saint Menas. At the same time, Clement was ordained the bishop of Prespa and Bitola. This meant that the Holy Synod of the Ser­bian Ortho­dox Church gave auton­omy to the Mace­don­ian Ortho­dox Church, which remained in canon­i­cal unity with the Ser­bian Church under their Patri­arch. Few days later, in the church of St. Nicholas in Štip, H.E. Nahum was ordained the bishop of the dio­cese of Zle­tovo and Stru­mica. The Holy Synod of the Mace­don­ian Ortho­dox Church was estab­lished together with other admin­is­tra­tive bod­ies in the Arch­dio­cese and the dio­ce­ses in con­for­mity with the Con­sti­tu­tion of the Mace­don­ian Ortho­dox Church. In May, 1962, accom­pa­nied by Patri­arch Ger­man and other rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Ser­bian Ortho­dox Church, Patri­arch Alexis of Moscow vis­ited the Mace­don­ian Ortho­dox Church. Among them were Met­ro­pol­i­tan Nicode­mus, Bishop Pimen and other dig­ni­taries of the Russ­ian Ortho­dox Church.

On the feast of Saints Method­ius and Cyril, in the church of the Holy Mother of God Kamen­ska, in Ohrid, Patri­arch Alexis of Moscow, Patri­arch Ger­man and the Mace­don­ian Met­ro­pol­i­tan Dositheus con­cel­e­brated Holy Liturgy. It was the first Holy Liturgy to be con­cel­e­brated by the head of the Mace­don­ian Ortho­dox Church with heads of other auto­cephalous Ortho­dox Churches.

In 1966 the rela­tions with the Ser­bian Church got worse again. Due to the con­flicts and mis­un­der­stand­ings, the Holy Synod of the Mace­don­ian Ortho­dox Church sum­moned the Third Clergy and Laity Assem­bly on July 17, 1967, in Ohrid. At the for­mal ses­sion in the Ohrid church of St. Clement, the Holy Synod pro­claimed the Mace­don­ian Ortho­dox Church as AUTO­CEPHALOUS. The act of procla­ma­tion was made by the Holy Synod of the Mace­don­ian Ortho­dox Church dur­ing the Holy Liturgy cel­e­brated in the church of St. Clement of Ohrid on July 19, 1967, or exactly on the sec­ond cen­ten­nial after it had been banned by the Ottoman authorities.

The juris­dic­tion of the Mace­don­ian Ortho­dox Church spreads not only through­out Mace­do­nia, but also in the church com­mu­ni­ties abroad.

Accord­ing to Arti­cle 17 from the Procla­ma­tion of Auto­cephaly, the Mace­don­ian Ortho­dox Church as an admin­is­tra­tive part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apos­tolic Church is to observe the Holy Scrip­tures and the Holy tra­di­tion, the Canons of the Apos­tles and the decrees of the ecu­meni­cal coun­cils and is to fol­low them and the Con­sti­tu­tion of the Mace­don­ian Ortho­dox Church.

Pray­ing humbly for the other ones, the Mace­don­ian Ortho­dox Church will always rely on the prayers, bless­ings and assis­tance of the elder sib­ling holy local Ortho­dox Churches.

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