On November 1, 2012, at 10 AM, in the Court of First Instance Skopje I, in Skopje, the new staged court process against Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid, against the Bishops Marko of Bregalnica and David of Stobi, against the priest-monks Mojsej and Irinej, abbess Kirana, prioress Olimpijada, nuns Magdalina and Pelagija and against another ten believers of the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric has begun.
The state persecution against Archbishop Jovan is reaching big proportions. Until now he has been imprisoned for “inciting national, racial and religious hatred”, for “evasion”, for “autarchy”, and among all these accusations, the latest one is being to the list, for alleged “money laundering”! The political tendency of all these convictions in the past ten years can be summarized in the recent statement of Metropolitan Amfilohij of Montenegro, during his visit in Skopje, that “if they could, the authorities of FYR Macedonia would pronounce a death sentence for Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid!”
The judicial Golgotha of Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid began in 2002, since when as soon as one court process against him is finished, in continuity, a new one is started, hence in the last ten years he has been imprisoned six times, and he has been serving prison sentences for five years. Archbishop Jovan indicated that the act of coming to the pan-orthodox unity with the Serbian Orthodox Church and with all topical Orthodox Churches is neither an act of treason, nor it is unpatriotic. On the contrary, that was the only way for the Macedonian Orthodox Church to be in unity with the other Orthodox Churches, which is being proven also today, and that he did that, as he said: “in order for my people and Church to not remain excluded from the Orthodox Churches”.
The prosecution accuses Archbishop Jovan that the funds which he has allegedly taken from the Macedonian Orthodox Church 14 years ago, were later distributed by him to his followers, who then used them to buy property for the Association for improvement of the civic and religious freedom “Anastasia”, having in mind that the state persecution is being manifested also in the fact that the court is persistently denying registration to the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric, rejecting in that way, the implementation of the new, European legislative.
Archbishop Jovan underlined that since he and his followers were evicted from the objects in which they had lived, with God’s help, they had barely managed to raise funds to buy a place for worship, and now the authorities are demonstrating envy for the “only sheep”, as mentioned in the Old Testament story of the prophet Nathan, told to King David, and therefore the authorities are giving all efforts to “legally” take from the Archbishopric the small property which it has.
In the verdict against Archbishop Jovan for “evasion” of the Court of First Instance in Veles, the essential statement is missing: has he gained the mentioned funds for himself, or has he only operated with them as if they were his own. Archbishop Jovan stated that it takes only a superficial overview of the expertise to confirm that it is not possible that he has gained for himself the funds of whole four year budgets, in the period between 1998 and 2002. Thus, Archbishop Jovan asked: “who could gain for himself the amount of four year budgets, and be discovered no sooner than four years afterwards? What was done in the dioceses with which I operated in those four years? Were they locked and closed? It is impossible to gain even one year budget, and not four!”
The authorities of FYR Macedonia for whole ten years are rejecting the requests for registration of the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric, and that is being done with one sole purpose – to have always, when needed, the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric to point towards, as an illegal entity before the laws. Due to the fact the authorities are refusing to register the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric, the members of the Archbishopric are forced to find ways to survive, of course, within the legal framework in FYR Macedonia.
The Archbishop highlighted that all of the accused undoubtedly state that they are members of the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric. And, undoubtedly, before the investigation court had stated that they wanted to help the Church they belong to, by their personal funds, as all believers worldwide are doing. Is FYR Macedonia the only place where such help by the believers for their own Church, with their personal funds is considered a criminal act?
Archbishop Jovan stated that his life path is bound to FYR Macedonia, and only a vicious mind could suggest that if he was eventually released from detention, he would flee from the country. Had he wished to leave his own homeland, it is well known to the public, that he could have chosen not to return to FYR Macedonia, at least until the prison sentence was outdated. But, as he said, he came back because he knew that God was with him, and that God was not abandoning him even in the prison. As he said, he knows that maybe to some people his acts seem as confronting to the authorities, he is not confronting the truth, and thus his conscience is clear. In political trials everything is decided “from above”, which renders useless all arguments.
Archbishop Jovan highlighted that he was obliged before the history to demonstrate that he had fought, and if it seems as if he were losing, that was not something that depends on him. Has not Christ – according to men’s criteria – lost, with His “weakness” on the Cross, and the suffering? But with that “weakness” he accomplished in this world that which is impossible to be imposed by force.
The staged court process against the members of the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric continues.