METROPOLITAN HERMAN DENOUNCES IMPRISONMENT OF ARCHBISHOP JOVAN OF OCHRID AS “A BLATANT AND SHOCKING ASSAULT ON FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE”
SYOSSET, NY [OCA Communications] In a letter addressed to His Holiness, Patriarch Pavle of Serbia, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Herman, expressed shock over the arrest and imprisonment of His Eminence, Archbishop Jovan of Ochrid in the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia.
The Orthodox Church in the Macedonian Republic unilaterally declared itself autocephalous and broke ties with the Serbian Patriarchate some four decades ago. As such, it is not in communion with the world’s Orthodox sister Churches and has maintained a bitter dispute with the Serbian Church over the Patriarchate’s presence in the republic. The Patriarchate’s Archbishop Jovan, who broke ties with the schismatic Church in Macedonia and returned to the Patriarchate a few years ago, has been the target of anti-Patriarchate parties and civil authorities. He was arrested during the last week of July 2005 and sentenced to 18 months in prison in Skopje for allegedly “inciting national, racial, and religious hatred, schism, and intolerance.”
The text of Metropolitan Herman’s letter reads as follows.
“The recent sentencing and imprisonment of His Eminence, Archbishop Jovan of Ochrid by the government of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia causes me to write this letter of solidarity with Your Holiness and with Archbishop Jovan. That a hierarch is judged and imprisoned for speaking and acting in accordance with his conscience is a blatant and shocking assault on freedom of conscience and on freedom of religious faith and practice.
” We are publicly announcing our dismay at the action of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Although the disputes and disagreements with regard to the canonical status of most of the Orthodox hierarchy, clergy, and laity in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia are painful and real, the intervention of civil authorities into the dispute does not and cannot lead to reconciliation.
“We take our stand alongside the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church in asking that all possible moral and legal actions be undertaken to secure the freedom of Archbishop Jovan.
“The prayers of the hierarchs, clergy, monastics and faithful of The Orthodox Church in America most certainly continue to be offered to God in hope and expectation of the healing of the schism which separates so many of the Orthodox people of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia from the Serbian Patriarchate and all the other canonical Orthodox Churches.”