Jovan VI (Vraniškovski) of Ohrid

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Archbishop Jovan with the Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilus serve Divine Liturgy at Christ's grave, Pascha 2008

His Grace Jovan VI (Vraniškovski) is the Archbishop of Ohrid and Metropolitan of Skopje.

Contents

Life

Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid - a 21st Century Confessor

He was born on February 28, 1966, in Bitola, Yugoslavia, and baptized as an Orthodox Christian named Zoran. He completed his primary school and mathematical high school in his native town, receiving many awards for achievements in the fields of science and sports. In 1985, after having served his military obligation in Sarajevo, he began studies at the Faculty of Civil Engineering in Skopje, graduating in 1990.

Later in 1990, he enrolled the Faculty of Theology in Belgrade while working as a civil engineer with the Metropolitanate of Bitola. While employed by the metropolis, he established its library in collaboration with the local University Library of Bitola, while serving also as the new library's first librarian. During his two and half years in this position the young Zoran gave a series of lectures.

In 1993, he left Bitola for Belgrade to continue his studies in theology, graduating in June 1995. Immediately, he began his master's studies at the Department of Systematic Theology (Dogmatics). At the end of 1995, he moved to Thessalonica in Greece to learn Greek and enroll for postgraduate studies. In Thessalonica, he worked on his doctorate and a dissertation entitled: The Unity of the Church and the Contemporary Ecclesiological Problem.

On February 7, 1998, he took monastic vows, was tonsured a monk with the name Jovan (John), and was ordained a deacon. The following day, February 8, he was ordained to the priesthood, becoming a hieromonk. On July 19, 1998, Fr. John was consecrated a bishop with the title of Bishop of Dremvica and assigned as vicar to the Bishop of Prespa and Pelagonia. In this position, and in addition to taking part in theological consultations, Bp. John led the effort for reconstruction of the Cathedral Church of St. Great Martyr Demetrius in Bitola. In March 2000, he was assigned as administrator of the Metropolitanate of Bregalnica. In November 2000, Bp. John was elected Bishop of Veles and Vardar Valley and enthroned on December 4, 2000.

Overcoming the Schism

Leading the Holy Metropolitanate of Veles and Vardar Valley, on June 22, 2002, Metr. John responded to the summons for liturgical and canonical unity with the Patriarchate of Peć by the Patriarch of Serbia, Pavle. Together with all his clergy and faithful of his Metropolitanate, Metr. John was the only bishop of the schismatic Macedonian Orthodox Church who responded positively.

A few days later, he was expelled from the seat of the Metropolitanate together with the monastic community living with him. This was done illegally and without a court warrant by the Police of the Republic of Macedonia.

On September 23, 2002, Metr. John was appointed Exarch of all the territories of the Ohrid Archdiocese by the Assembly of the Serbian Orthodox Church. On December 25, 2003, he was elected Chairman of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Ohrid Archdiocese, after it had been constituted.

On May 24, 2005, on the Feast of Ss. Cyril and Methodius, he was confirmed by his Holiness, the Archbishop of Peć, Metropolitan of Belgrade and Karlovci, and Patriarch of Serbia, Pavle, to be Archbishop of Ohrid and Metropolitan of Skopje in accordance with the Niš Agreement. On the same day, there was an announcement of the Patriarchal and the Assembly's Tomos for Autonomy of the Ohrid Archdiocese, with Metr. John as the Chairman of the Holy Synod of Bishops.

Testimonies for the faith

Archbishop Jovan under arrest

Since joining the canonical orthodox church, the persecution began, initially with the illegal expelling from his residence. He is persecued by the state, FYRO Macedonia, was imprisoned several times, and Amnesty International declared him a prisoner of conscience[1].

While in prison, he was not allowed visitors, apart from his closest family - his parents and his sister. [2]

Also, he was not allowed to take communion in the prison, the priests who came with the Sacraments were not allowed to meet him.

Detentions

He was detained under custody many times by the authorities of the Republic of Macedonia.

He was sentenced to a suspended punishment one year of imprisonment for the criminal offense of "performing unauthorized activities" because he had entered a church to baptize a female infant in 2004.

First Imprisonment

The Court of Appeal in Bitola sentenced him to eighteen months of imprisonment in 2005 as judgment for a criminal offense of "incitement of ethnic and religious hatred, discord and intolerance." The verdict stated the conviction relied on these three points[3]:

  1. he wrote a text in a religious calendar in which he slanders the Macedonian Orthodox Church
  2. he agreed to be appointed as an Exarch of the Ohrid Archbishopric in Macedonia and participated in the ordination of the bishops Joachim and Marko and
  3. he officiated at a religious service in an apartment owned by his parents.

He was imprisoned on July 26, 2005 and served 220 days in prison before the Constitutional court declared the last two of these three points to be unconstitutional and his sentence was shortened to 8 months.

Second Imprisonment

He was sentenced for the second time, on charges raised by the schismatic Macedonian Orthodox Church for "Embezzlement" of a donation of 57.000 Euro - money he never touched nor used and which was timely handed over to the court of first instance in Veles, in the first moment when this was requested by the donor, who later testified before the court that Archbishop Jovan is innocent. Based on the donor's testimony the Archbishop was twice liberated, and the third time, after a severe political pressure, he was sentenced to imprisonment.

As a second defendant he was sentenced to a higher prison term (2 years) than the first defendand (who was sentenced 1 year and 3 months) in 2006.

He was imprisoned on August 8, 2006 and served 256 days before being released.

Third trial

A third trial for "Embezzlement" is in process, also upon charges of the schismatic Macedonian Orthodox Church. He was already found not guilty on the charges twice, but the Court of Appeal has rejected these verdicts.

Reactions of the Orthodox Churches

The orthodox churches reacted upon the imprisonment of Archbishop Jovan and appealed for his release.

  • Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I sent a letter to the Prime Minister of FYROM requesting immediate release of Archbishop Jovan [4][5]
  • The Patriarch of Russia Alexei II sent a letter to the President of FYROM demanding immediate release of the Archbishop Jovan [6]
  • Holy Synod Of Hierarchs Of The Church of Greece expressed a severe protest for an emergent release of Archbishop Jovan from prison, and for respect of religious freedom in FYROM [7]
  • The Holy Community of the Holy Mount Athos sent a letter of support to the Archbishop Jovan, signed by all Representatives and Abbots who are in the common Assembly of the twenty Holy Monasteries of the Holy Mount Athos [8]
  • SCOBA Condemned the Imprisonment of Archbishop Jovan by FYROM and asked for his release [9]
  • Metropolitan Herman of OCA called for release of Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid [10]

Books

  • A Short History of the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric (Ohrid, 2007)
  • The Freedom in the Prison (Skopje, 2007)

Studies and Articles

  • Ecclesiological Heresis of the Schismatical Organization in R. Macedonia
  • Contribution of the Church in the Prisons
  • Theological and Historical Aspects of the Church Schism in R. Macedonia and its Overcoming
  • The Educational Character of Orthodox Christianity
  • Theology and Ecology
  • The Theology of St. Theophylact of Ohrid in His Commentaries on the Gospel of Matthew
  • The Holy Relics - A Seal of a Sanctified Life
  • Baptism and Chrismation
  • The One and Many Through an Ecclesiological Aspect
  • The Crisis is to Unite the Christians
  • A Witness
  • A Verdict for the Communism
  • The Church is One
  • Autonomy or Autocephaly

Sources

See also

Православие и мир - Современные гонения на православных в Македонии

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