Holy Synod of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church
Nr. 1120 - September 9, 2014, Belgrade
To His Eminence Stefan, Archbishop of Ohrid in schism
Subject: Your letter and Our reaction to it
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. (more…)
Filed under: General — September 23, 2014 @ 11:46 am
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.
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.
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 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:
Immediate release of Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid, who already passed two years in imprisonment, in the Idrizovo prison, in Skopje.
The authorities should leave freedom to the Church, so that she fulfills its spiritual goals.
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.
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.”
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.”
Filed under: General — December 17, 2013 @ 1:38 pm
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.
Filed under: General — November 17, 2013 @ 10:46 am
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!
Filed under: General — November 14, 2013 @ 6:12 pm
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.
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 FYR 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 FYR 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!
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.”
Filed under: General — September 22, 2013 @ 7:08 am
The first President of the pluralistic Assembly of FYR Macedonia, Mr Stojan Andov is one more renowned FYR Macedonian politician who indicates to the domestic public that Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid is a political prisoner!
In his article for the weekly magazine “Fokus” (issue 935, 06.09.2013), Mr Stojan Andov stresses that serious warnings are being sent by the international community in regard to the political prisoners in FYR Macedonia, amongst which Mr Stojan Andov is highlighting the name of Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid.
It is not the first time that some distinguished FYR Macedonian politician, as is Mr Stojan Andov, who was on three terms the President of the Assembly of FYR Macedonia, publicizes that Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid is a political prisoner.
The former Prime minister of FYR Macedonia, Mr Ljubco Georgievski, in an interview also underlined that for him it was an undisputable fact that Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid was a political prisoner (“Fokus”, issue 891/892, 27.07.2012) and that the church issues in FYR Macedonia should not be solved by persecutions and imprisonments of Bishops, monastics and faithful people of the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric (A1on, 30.05.2012).
In the last 11 years, the proverbial Macedonian judiciary has for the seventh (7) time placed Archbishop Jovan behind bars! He is today in the Idrizovo prison, with visibly deteriorated health!
In the passed years, in FYR Macedonia the respecting of the religious freedoms is being seriously violated, and the government is continuing to protect the monopoly of one church, on the account of the others, which distances it from the standards of the advanced democracies.
Absence of state persecution on religious basis and full respect of the religious freedoms of all citizens equally – that is the required condition for FYR Macedonia to join the societies with high civilizational achievements!
On December 12, 2011, His Beatitude Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid and Metropolitan of Skopje was imprisoned in the Idrizovo prison, near Skopje.
After one year and almost nine months in a prison cell, Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid was for the first time given the opportunity for a one-time visit of his brothers Bishops of the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric, in the visiting area of the Idrizovo prison.
On August 23, 2013, Their Graces, Bishop Joakim of Polog and Kumanovo and Administrator of Debar and Kicevo, Bishop Marko of Bregalnica and Administrator of Bitola and Bishop David of Stobi and Administrator of Strumica, visited His Beatitude Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid and Metropolitan of Skopje, and had brief conversation with him, conveying to him the love, but also the plead of the faithful people, for his blessing and prayers.
Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid ensured the Bishops that he was feeling slightly better with his health, and he sends to all members of the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric his archpastoral blessing, encouraging them to keep their joy always, in the various life circumstances.