Serbian Patriarch Irinej Gavrilović said that the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) “will joyfully accept talks with the non-canonical Macedonian Orthodox Church (MPC)”. On Monday, however, he specified in a statement for Tanjug that this is possible “only in line with the canons and previous agreements”. The most important agreement was signed in Niš in 2002. Patriarch Irinej said, “We wish to hold talks, but only in line with the canons, which we must observe, and in line with earlier agreements”.
On Friday, the Presidents of Serbia and Macedonia, Tomislav Nikolić and Gjorge Ivanov respectively, stated that the SPC and the MPC should resolve the dispute between them through dialogue, and added that they, as presidents of these two countries, would help the process be successful. Nikolić and Ivanov agreed that many things, but primarily, the Church issue, depended on good relations between the two countries.
Patriarch Irinej, who was at the time the bishop of Niš, hosted a meeting in Niš on 17 May 2002, and was one of the signatories of the agreement on establishment of the Autonomous Archbishopric of Ohrid, and on overcoming the schism between the canonical SPC and the uncanonical MPC. The agreement implied recognition of broad church autonomy for the dioceses in the Republic of Macedonia, whilst, in return, the Archbishopric of Ohrid was to be part of the SPC formally, and the SPC Patriarch would confirm the election of the First Hierarch of the Macedonian Church.
Five out of seven Macedonian bishops accepted the draft agreement. However, on 28 May, they dismissed the importance of the agreement they had signed in Niš, and told the Macedonian public that it was only a working document, with no binding character. The only bishop who subsequently accepted and signed the Niš agreement was Metropolitan Jovan of Veles and Povardarie, appointed by the SPC Holy Synod as head of the Autonomous Archbishopric of Ohrid in May 2003, which according to the SPC, is still in force. The non-canonical MPC unilaterally declared its autocephaly in the summer of 1967; it’s headed at present by Archbishop Stefan Veljanovski of Ohrid and Macedonia, but the SPC doesn’t recognise it.
29 October 2012