Father David is very critical of the current situation in the Macedonian Orthodox Church. In his opinion, insistence on the quality of spiritual life, cultivation of our spirit, surpassing the ghetto psychology and our feeling of inferiority, are priorities for church life.
DNEVNIK: The Macedonian Orthodox Church (MPC) has been fighting for many years to be accepted as an autocephalous church. In your opinion, what impassable obstacles stand on that path?
FATHER DAVID: Autocephaly is not of primary importance. It should be a consequence of spiritual life of a church. Only under that condition it will never be brought into question. And I'm not sure about the quality of spiritual life in our church. Just ask people what they think about most of our clergy and what efforts they have made to educate the faithful about the mystic theology of the Eastern Orthodox spirituality while suffocating them with meaningless customs, which have nothing to do with Christianity. Ignorance that usually stems from unarticulated human freedom is a big sin, a big mutual misunderstanding. We should cultivate our spirit, because, after all, religion is not a shop. The impassable obstacle is our ghetto psychology. It seems we prefer to live in a ghetto. Let me make a comparison. We all remember how the Republic of Macedonia initiated the process of international affirmation with an unconstitutional name. Now, imagine where Macedonia would be today if she were fenced off with a Chinese Wall the way our church is. The Church will get the name the state manages to win for herself and no one has the right to exploit the church to resolve the political issue of the name of the country, except if the church wants to be exploited. As long as that does not change, it will never emancipate into a church.
What is your opinion regarding the defrocked bishop Jovan, and creation of the parallel "Synod of the autonomous Ohrid Archbishopric" by the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC)?
This question deserves a longer answer. But, briefly - the Orthodox spirituality teaches us that we should always seek faults in our own actions. It is easy to blame others for everything. I care for our bishops, but I care for the truth even more. The bishops signed in Nis the agreement that Jovan, at the time one of them, is now implementing. Only if we soberly examine the truth, without lies, we can find a solution for problems. Therefore, whether we like it or not, that parallel synod has legitimacy as an Eastern Orthodox church everywhere in the Eastern Orthodox world. They can travel and conduct services in Macedonian language wherever they want, unlike our bishops. That synod, unlike us, is an independent church. Now, one has to wonder who is a true representative of Macedonia? And due to attacks it has experienced, and that will hopefully not be repeated, it has earned sympathies of the Eastern Orthodox Churches, while our standing with the international religious and political public has fallen even lower.
It seems to me that there are a lot of issues that myself and You, who create public opinion, and most of my collocutors among monks and people I meet on a daily basis, do not like in connection with this question. But, who cares about our opinion?
I don't have anything against the Strumicka eparchy, but I do not like their proposal at all. Why? Because that proposal implies lack of elementary church consciousness [sic]. It indicates our inferiority and a syndrome of a Makedonche [little Macedonian] as opposed to a true Macedonian. If we accept that we stop being a church, we become a sect. Against whom would that alliance be? That would be an alliance against the single, holly, ecumenical and apostolic church. The church is not a political party so that it can be organized in that manner. The church is a body of Christ and solutions should be sought in the Gospels, even when someone is acting non-evangelically against us.
One gets the impression that the upsurge in monasticism in the Macedonian Orthodox Church has resulted in a conflict between conservative and liberal structures in the church. What is the basis of that conflict?
The past period of quiet of monasticism and influence of anthropocentric factions has created fallow furrows in the consciousness of the people, even in the church. The spiritual and intellectual stake of monasticism in the church obviously does not correspond to that consciousness and stale customs. Consequently, there have been, there are and there will be constructions and persecution of the Bolshevik type against monasticism, plotted even by the church. If we articulate our freedom and stop to shoot at each other with golden bullets, the damnation of self-destruction that has been tailing us as a nation for a while will be transformed into a history whose roots will not rot here in the soil, because they are in the future.
Do you believe that perhaps we should pursue closer relations with the Roman Catholic Church, perhaps going so far as to accept a union with the Rome?
There is only one truth. It cannot be changed. The moment it is changed, it stops being the truth. There can be no two truths. Christ is the absolute and unchangeable truth. The Eastern Orthodox Church has been trusted with protecting that truth. It is well known that the Rome with its heresy abandoned that truth in 1054.
Today, due to their inability to obtain education at some of Eastern Orthodox educational institutions, in our church we have people, even clergy with Latin quasi-religious consciousness. For whose interests are they working? Those who advocate union with the Catholic Church betray God, therefore the Truth, and those who betray God, if you like, immediately become Judas' not only of their own nation, but also of the mother gave them birth. If they are so eager to become heretics, why don't they convert to Catholicism on their own, instead of advocating collective conversion. I am convinced that first of all the people would reject conversion to Catholicism, since we know that the very moment that happens we shall definitely lose our own spiritual legacy and become a different nation, without identity.
Let me speak self-critically about the situation "in the field". If they are keeping you away, for their personal interest, from the only and always modern Christ, therefore if they are keeping you away from the communion, or as is the case here, unprecedented, if they demand a written permission for communion, then that cannot be modern in any sense of the word. Therefore, we are sinking and we have legalized the bottom.
We shall become modern when some bishops stop being "factories of conflict" and be paid handsomely for that, when they stop poisoning people with obsolete politics, when they start speaking somewhat more openly about spiritual subjects; about confession, communion, against seers, against abortion. It is not enough just to be a bishop, something needs to be done... When they become visionaries and heavenly politicians, when the church brings back traditional religious teaching of Macedonian monks - abbot Kiril Pejcinovic, and hieromonk Joakim Krcovski, when we finally free ourselves from frustrations that someone will turn us into Greeks, Bulgarians, Serbs, as supposedly we are just one step from disappearing and exploiting that to keep us away form God, when they stop with schizophrenic demands, on the one hand demanding independence from the Serb church, while on the other hand teaching Serb religious singing at the theological seminary and performing it in the churches, when... Only then we shall become modern.
Can the MPC hope for a privileged status even though several confessions and religious groups are active in the country?
It cannot be denied that the church has played the most important role in the preservation of the spiritual and national identity of the Macedonian nation. But, if, for example, some Eastern Orthodox African man lives according to the teachings of the holy fathers, only he shall have the right to call himself the true follower of Saint Kliment of Ohrid, in comparison with the ethnic Macedonian who does not live like an Eastern Orthodox faithful, or is, on the other hand a traditionalist. The church today finds itself in totally different historical circumstances from before. Our youth already mock the church and dismiss it as a relict from the past. Therefore, I think it's time to prove ourselves.
That type of decisions within the MPC is based on non-spiritual interests. In some mitropolijas nepotism is the lord. Can you imagine what would happen in a company if it worked that way for years? But, we are witnesses that companies and our country as a whole have counterparts with whom they can cooperate and compare themselves to. The MPC has no one. Perhaps someone likes it that way, hiding under the cloak of cheap nationalism.
It cannot be denied that a successful outcome of negotiations also depends on the quality of negotiators. Lacking success, we immediately must question the credibility of negotiators. But anyone even a little bit knowledgeable about the situation in our church knows very well which negotiating team was much better. Christ says: new wine in new vessels. We, acting against that advice, ended up in a dead end street. We must pour some of that new wine, that new fresh spiritual capital, that will provide us with a vision for future actions.
by B.G. and M.P.
The defectors are led by monks David and Maksim, who yesterday morning served liturgy together with defrocked bishop Jovan in his apartment in Bitola. During the liturgy they declared their allegiance to the "Ohrid Archbishopric". We have learned that they are supported by a few more spiritual leaders of Macedonian monasteries, as well as professors at the theological high school and the theological seminary "Saint Kliment of Ohrid".
"We have left the schismatic MPC, which in 1957 rebelled and defected from the Serbian Orthodox Church. In the future we shall be active within the Ohrid Archbishopric. It is the only legitimate church," the announcement states.
According to the information obtained by Dnevnik, two male and two female monasteries have broken their vows of obedience to the MPC, "Saint Dimitry", the so-called Marko's monastery near Skopje, whose leader is father maksim, "Holy Mother of God" from Treskavac near Prilep, whose spiritual leader is father Sofronij, "Ressurection of the Holy mother of God" from Jankovec, whose spiritual leader is monk David, and female monastery "Saint Prophet Ilija" located in the village of Cardak on the Skopje Crna Gora [Black Mountain]. The brotherhoods and sisterhoods of these monasteries on Christmas day reached the decision to join the "Ohrid Archbishopric" within the framework of the Serbian Orthodox Church. They, practically constitute one third of all monks and nuns in Macedonian monasteries.
Spokesperson of the MPC, bishop Timotej, yesterday stated that very soon all of them will be defrocked and removed from their offices.
"As individuals they can go wherever they like, but churches and monasteries belong to the MPC. No one has the right to join them to a different church or some organization. The competent bishops will take measures and I expect that [the defectors] will be removed," Kyr Timotej said.
According to him, if the monks refuse to leave monasteries after defrocking, state assistance will be sought in their removal.
Sources of Dnevnik claim that father Sofronij, spiritual leader of two monasteries in the villages of Slepce and Zurce, near Prilep, and Stefan Sandzakovski, professor of the theological seminary in Skopje, will soon join the defectors. It has been rumored that father Metodij Zlatanov, head of the church "Holly Succor" in Skopje and professor of theological high school will also join them.
The VMRO-DPMNE yesterday called on the government to urgently meet and to propose changes of the Religious Communities Act and put the stop to all threats against the Macedonian Orthodox Church.