Agreement Violated, Ink Remains
Authorized representatives of the Macedonian Orthodox Church signed an agreement in Nis in 2002 regarding the establishment of the Ohrid Autonomous Archbishopric; then, under pressure from the state, they changed their mind. The Serbian Orthodox Church, nevertheless, continued to work in the spirit of the Nis Agreement
by Jovan JANJIC
NIN, Belgrade, Serbia, Serbia-Montenegro, August 11, 2005
The Serbian Orthodox Church, especially since the collapse of Communism and the election of Patriarch Pavle, has been trying in every possible way to resolve the issue of schism with the dioceses in the Republic of Macedonia. It has sent appeals and asked for the help of other local [Eastern Orthodox] churches. Many meetings have been held - both in Serbia and Macedonia - with representatives of the schismatic dioceses.
These meetings led to an agreement that was signed in Nis on May 17, 2002. The agreement was supposed to resolve the schism and lead to the establishment of eucharistic unity between the Serbian Patriarchate and the Episcopate in the Republic of Macedonia.
According to this agreement, the Serbian Orthodox Church recognizes "the broadest Church autonomy" of the existing dioceses in the Republic of Macedonia. Only the most basic links presumed by autonomy were kept, two of which were both essential and symbolic: the election of the head of the Church in Macedonia was to be confirmed by the Serbian Patriarch, and the head of the Church in Macedonia is supposed to mention the Serbian Patriarch first during Liturgy.
It was even agreed that the present name of Macedonian Orthodox Church (MOC) be used in internal official communication between the two churches.
Despite a huge media campaign and protests by Macedonian state officials against the Nis Agreement, it was expected that the other side would accept it. All the more so because, in the meanwhile, five out of the seven Macedonian bishops had accepted it! However, by May 28 the members of the Macedonian Orthodox Church had organized a press conference where, obviously under pressure from state officials and media, they dismissed the importance of the draft agreement they had signed. Their explanation, as relayed by the media, was as follows: "A working document was signed in Nis according to which the MOC would accept autonomous status with a possible change in the name to the Ohrid Archdiocese; however, this agreement will only become final after being endorsed by the heads of the two churches."
The only one who subsequently adopted and signed the Nis Agreement was the Metropolitan of Veles and Povardarje, Jovan. His acceptance of the agreement led to his persecution in every way possible.
Although it was not accepted by the Macedonian side, the Serbian Orthodox Church continued to act in the spirit of the Nis Agreement.
After the hierarchs in the Republic of Macedonia continued to persist in schism, the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church at its regular May session in 2003 passed a decision on the constitution of the Holy Synod of the Ohrid Autonomous Archbishopric. On that occasion, two new bishops of the Ohrid Archbishopric were also elected: Joakim and Marko. At the same time, Metropolitan Kiril of Polog and Kumanovo, who spearheaded opposition to the Nis Agreement, was "placed under prohibition of conducting religious service, suspended from administering a Diocese and canonical proceedings were initiated against him" by the Assembly.
At the autumn session of the highest body of the Serbian Orthodox Church the same year, the Holy Assembly of Bishops annulled every act of the schismatic hierarchs in the Republic of Macedonia relating to the Patriarchal Exarch of the Ohrid Autonomous Archbishopric, Kyr Jovan, "passing other relevant decisions regarding the same issue in the spirit of catholic (universal) order of Orthodoxy".
Draft Agreement On Reestablishment Of Church Unity
Having in mind real spiritual and pastoral needs and the decisions of the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church numbers 47/1958, 6/1959 - transcript 57 dated June 17/1 1959, the Serbian Orthodox Church, i.e. the Pec Patriarchate recognizes the broad Church independence, i.e. the broadest ecclesiastical autonomy of the existing dioceses of the Orthodox Church in the Republic of Macedonia, leaving the issue of the final status, in accordance with the canonical and catholic (universal) order of the Orthodox Church, to a future all-Orthodox consensus by the fullness of the Church in the Holy Spirit.
Specifically this presumes the following:
- In its internal life and in its spiritual-pastoral activities, the aforementioned Orthodox Church has independence in accordance with generally accepted canonical norms. Accordingly, it has its own Holy Synod of Bishops and head.
- The aforementioned Church is governed on the basis of the generally accepted canonical order of the Orthodox Church and its own Constitution.
- The head of the Church represents his own Church before the Serbian Orthodox Church, and establishment of eucharistic community and canonical unity with the Serbian Orthodox Church attests to the Church unity with other Local Churches.
- The head of the Church is to be addressed with His Beatitude or Beatitudeness (Blazenjejsi) and wears a white hood with a diamond cross.
- The election of the head of the Church is confirmed by the Serbian Patriarch, by jointly serving the Holy Liturgy.
- The Serbian Patriarch or his envoy and one of the bishops of the aforementioned Church take part in the act of enthronement of a newly elected head of the Church.
- During Holy Liturgy, the head of the Church at the point, "Among the first mentioned" makes mention of the Serbian Patriarch, and at the Great Entrance he may make mention of the heads of other Local Churches as well. Local bishops of the dioceses and vicar bishops make mention of the name of the head [of the aforementioned Church].
- The head or his deputy take part in preparation and consecration of holy peace with the Serbian Patriarch as a sign of unity with the Holy Spirit.
- The Serbian Patriarch informs the Ecumenical Patriarchate and Local Churches about the election and enthronement of the head of the aforementioned Church. On his part, the head of the Church can also inform the Ecumenical Patriarchate and Local Churches about his election and enthronement.
- The establishment of new dioceses and redistribution of existing ones is to be decided by the Holy Synod of Bishops, which then officially informs the Serbian Patriarch.
- In the event that a bishop is tried or in another matter of similar weight when, according to the canonical order of the Orthodox Church, a council of no less than twelve bishops is to make a decision, the number of bishops necessary to meet this minimum number will be provided from the dioceses of the Serbian Orthodox Church.
- The bishops of the dioceses and their vicar bishops are elected by the Holy Synod of Bishops of the aforementioned Church.
- The head of the Church, upon concelebration with the Archbishop of Pec, Metropolitan of Belgrade and Karlovci, and Serbian Patriarch, stands to his right side.
- In accordance with ancient church tradition and historical practice, the aforementioned church will bear the name of the Ohrid Archbishopric. The Ohrid Archbishopric may, on the basis of a now decades-long practice, use the name it has used thus far in internal official communication with the Pec Patriarchate.
- For the same reasons, the head of the Church officially bears the title of Archbishop of Ohrid and Metropolitan of Skoplje; internally, he may use the title he has used thus far.
- The aforementioned Orthodox church will participate in all-Orthodox conferences, consultations and ceremonies and, with the acquiescence of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in meetings of the heads of autocephalous and autonomous Orthodox churches.
- In the spirit of these decisions it is necessary to harmonize the constitutional regulations relating to the agreement on establishment of canonical unity.
In Nis, on May 17, 2002
Metropolitan Petar of Australia (MOC)
Metropolitan Timotej of Debar and Kicevo (MOC)
Metropolitan Naum of Strumica (MOC)
Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro and the Littoral (SOC)
Bishop Irinej of Nis (SOC)
Bishop Irinej of Backa (SOC)
Bishop Pahomije of Vranje (SOC)
Autocephaly Vs. Autonomy
Autocephaly and autonomy are two difference forms of Church self-governance. Autonomy has some limits that autocephaly does not.
- the right of a Church to resolve all problems based on its own canonical authority, independently of all other Churches, and
- the right of the Church to appoint (elect and ordain, consecrate and install) its own bishops, including the head (primate) of the Church.
- autocephaly may be achieved only with consensus of the mother Church and in full canonical order of the Church.
- the right of the Church to resolve all problems, except perhaps as agreed otherwise with the mother Church; and
- the right to appoint (elect) its own bishops, including the head (primate) of the Church, except that the election of the primate only becomes valid after it is confirmed by the highest authority of the mother Church.
- historically in most of instances autocephaly is preceded by autonomous status.