Macedonian Orthodox Church - Ohrid Archbishopric
- Establishment of the Archbishopric of Ohrid
- The struggle for the church autonomy
- Restoration of autocephaly
- Churches and monasteries
- Ecumenical cooperation
Following their settlement in Macedonia, Slavic tribes came into close contact with the earlier Christianized Byzantine empire. Starting from the 7th century, they gradually adopted the Christianity and the process was completed by the time of the brothers Sts. Cyril and Methodius and their disciples St. Clement of Ohrid and St. Naum of Ohrid. St. Clement was to become the first bishop and founder of the Macedonian Church with a seat in Ohrid.
The Patriarchate of Ohrid, an autocephalous church, was established at the time of Samoil's Macedonian empire. But following the fall of his empire in 1018, the Ohrid Patriarchate was demoted by the victorious Byzantine emperor Vasilius 2nd to the rank of an Archbishopric although preserving the status of an autocephalous church. Despite the fact that Greek-Byzantine clergy was installed at its head, as was the case in the rest of Eastern Orthodox autocephalous Churches, during the almost 8 centuries of existence, the Archbishopric played a crucial role for the Macedonian people in their survival in the difficult periods of subjugation until its uncanonical abolition in 1767.
In the medieval period autocephalous Churches were named according to their seats (Constantinople, Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria), and thus the Macedonian Orthodox Church, the oldest in the Balkan Peninsula, was named the Patriarchate/Archbishopric of Ohrid. Until its abolition in the 18th century it was equal to the 4 Eastern Patriarchates and it had under its jurisdiction, in certain periods, particularly in the Turkish period, all the Slavic eparchies on the Balkan peninsula. Among these were Pec (Serbian), the Archbishopric of Trnovo (Bulgarian), the Albanian eparchies, and even the Moldavian Church and some orthodox eparchies in southern Italy.
"Cross - Symbol of Christianity"
Considering the fact that, for purpose of their identification, most of the spiritual centuries on the territory under the jurisdiction of the Archbishopric of Ohrid were always classified by the adjective of the people to which they belonged, the spiritual culture of the Macedonian people has been classified as a Macedonian spiritual culture. This process of development of the Macedonian spiritual culture has left permanent traces with an established logic and set of rules.
Like all others churches and societies, the Macedonian Orthodox Church is a product of history. The Macedonian people emerged from the group of Slavs and became a separated while following their settlement in Macedonia. Thus the Macedonian Church and Macedonian Orthodox Christian culture were formed and developed on the territory of Macedonia.
Unfortunately, at that decisive period for the establishment of a district Macedonian orthodox society a large number of political and territorial changes in the Balkans occurred which were reflected in the development of the Macedonian Orthodox Christian Church and culture under the Macedonian national name. Following the abolition of the Archbishopric of Ohrid and in the next two centuries (18th and 19th) the Churches of the peoples whose states had established political authority in Macedonia enjoyed greatest influence.
In the period after the abolition of the Archbishopric of Ohrid (1767), the Macedonian eparchies were annexed to the Greek Patriarchate of Constantinople. Until the Balkan Wars in 1912-1913 the Macedonian people found itself in an extremely difficult situation with regard to its independent historical development because it had no medieval state and church of its own with attribute "Macedonian". Having no feudal class of bourgeoisie of its own, the Macedonian people directed its struggle towards the independence of the church and education.
Following the First World War, the situation with the church in Macedonia remained unchanged. The Greek authorities in the Aegean part of Macedonia treated the Macedonian people with extreme hatred and cruelty. Bulgaria conducted a similar policy towards that part of the Macedonian people in the Pirin section of Macedonia. After the establishment of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes in 1918, the Serbian Orthodox Church, with the blessing of the Serbian Karadzordzevic dynasty and in agreement with the Constantinople Patriarchate, annexed the Macedonian eparchies of the Vardar part of Macedonia.
Following Macedonia's liberation, conditions were created for the restoration of the old Archbishopric of Ohrid as a national Macedonian Orthodox Church. On March 4th, 1945, the first popular Church Congress was held in Skopje, at which a unanimous decision was passed in favor of the establishment of the Macedonian Orthodox Church as autocephalous, headed by an archbishop. In spite of opposition from the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Macedonian Orthodox Church continued to exist independently through its Initiative Organizational Committee until 1967, when at Third Church Popular Congress, the Macedonian Orthodox Church proclaimed itself autocephalous headed by an Archbishop of Ohrid and Macedonia, adopted a Constitution.
The Macedonian Orthodox Church has based its autocephalous status on the 34th Apostle's rule which decrees that "bishops of each people should recognize the first among themselves", as well as on Rule 17 of the 4th Ecumenical Chalcedonian Council which says: "If a new city (refers to any political and territorial whole) has been established by emperor's authority or such city is to be established in future, in that case the division of the church domains (refers to autocephalous churches) shall follow the state's and citizens division."
In December 1993 a Church Popular Congress was held in Ohrid, where Right Reverend Michail was elected the Head of the Macedonian Orthodox Church.
The autocephalous Macedonian Orthodox Church, during its years of independent existence has achieved impressive results in the organization of its spiritual, national and cultural activities. The Church has 300 monks, and organizes the administrative, educational, economic, financial and church legal services which help its personnel in the performance of its duties and its mission.
In this sense, the Macedonian Orthodox Church satisfies the spiritual and religious needs of its believers in more than 1.000 active churches in the country and in its two overseas eparchies.
Macedonia has a large number of Orthodox churches and cathedrals. According to the new records, prepared on the basis of the estate registry, the precise number of churches which existed will be determined, which were demolished or had mosques and other structures of Islamic cultures erected in their place.
In recent years there has been a growing process of reconstruction of the old Orthodox churches and construction of new ones.
On the ecumenical plane, the Macedonian Orthodox Church maintains contacts with many other Christian churches. The World Association of Churches has assisted in the printing of the Bible in the modern Macedonian literary language.
Each year, the Macedonian Orthodox Church offers up a prayer at the tomb of St. Cyril of Salonica in the basilica of St. Clement, the Pope of Rome. On that occasion, the state and church delegation of the Republic of Macedonia has an audience with the Pope as the supreme Head of the Catholic Church.
The Canado-American and Australian eparchies have been registered in those countries as Macedonian Orthodox eparchies and act as equal churches, with the same status as all other churches in those countries. In the holy cathedrals, churches and monasteries of the Macedonian Orthodox Church in overseas countries, religious services are performed in Macedonian as are all other activities. A Macedonian eparchy for Western Europe is in process of being established.
Since the restoration of the autocephaly of the Macedonian Orthodox Church, no other orthodox church apart the Serbian one has come out against its autocephalous status. The Head of the Macedonian Orthodox Church regularly exchanges greetings and messages on the occasion of the main orthodox holidays.
All this is a confirmation that in the Christian Orthodox world and on the broader ecumenical plane the Macedonian Orthodox Church has been treated as equal and respected owing to its contribution to the striving for better understanding and cooperation among the peoples nation of the world.