Autonomous Archdiocese of Ohrid

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Autonomous Archbishopric of Ohrid
Archbishopric of Ohrid
Founder(s) /
Autocephaly/Autonomy declared 2005
Autocephaly/Autonomy recognized 2005
Current primate Jovan VI (Vraniškovski), Archbishop of Ohrid and Metropolitan of Skopje
Headquarters Skopje, R. Macedonia
Primary territory R. Macedonia
Possessions abroad
Liturgical language(s) Macedonian, Church Slavonic
Musical tradition Byzantine Chant, Serbian chant
Calendar Julian Calendar
Population estimate N/A
Official website Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric

The Orthodox Archdiocese of Ohrid (Macedonian: Православна Охридска Архиепископија) is an autonomous Orthodox church whose primate is confirmed by the Church of Serbia. It was established in 2002 when Metropolitan Jovan of Veles and Povardarje, part of the canonically unrecognized Macedonian Orthodox Church, accepted the Niš agreement.[1]

On May 24, 2005, during the Feast of Ss. Cyril and Methodius, the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church granted autonomy to the archdiocese.

The Archdiocese of Ohrid is in full communion with all other Orthodox churches.

The current Archbishop of Ohrid and Metropolitan of Skopje is Jovan (Vraniškovski).

Holy Synod of bishops

The Holy Synod of Bishops of the autonomous Ohrid Archbishopric with the Patriarch Paul of Serbia, 2004

The Holy Synod of bishops was constituted on December 23, 2003 in the monastery "Saint John Chrysostom". The current members of the Synod are:

  • Jovan VI (Vraniškovski), Archbishop of Ohrid and Metropolitan of Skopje
  • Joakim, Bishop of Polog and Kumanovo and locum tenens of Debar and Kicevo
  • Marko, Bishop of Bregalnica and locum tenens of Bitola
  • David, Vicar Bishop of Stobi and locum tenens of Strumica


Short history

Upon entering in the canonical and ecclesiastical unity with the Serbian Orthodox Church, and through that with the whole community of Orthodox Churches, the Archbishop kyr kyr Jovan was illegally and brutally expelled by the police, without a court order, from his residence and cathedra in Veles on July 7, 2002.

In the same manner, illegally and without a court order, the monks of four monasteries, were expelled from their monasteries, i.e. homes, in January 2004, immediately after joining the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric.

The destruction church in the monastery "Saint John Chrysostom"

A fifth monastery, in the village Nizepole, was broken into by armed and masked men, who not finding the Archbishop Jovan they were after, harassed and threatened the nuns with machine-guns, cut their hair and set the monastery on fire, in February 2004. The police refused to investigate the case.

The declaratively secular state legalized its identification with a specific religious community – the Schismatic Macedonian Orthodox Church (MOC), through the Parliament’s "Declaration for support of the autocephaly of the MOC" reached on January 23, 2004;

The Church in the "Saint John Chrysostom" monastery was demolished by the state authorities in October 2004.

Archbishop Jovan was sentenced to 18 months of prison in June 2005 for "Instigation of ethnic, racial and religious hatred, discord and intolerance". The verdict stated the conviction relied on these three points:

  1. he agreed to be appointed as an Exarch of the Ohrid Archbishopric in Macedoina,
  2. he 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 served 220 days in prison before the Constitutional court declared the last two of the three points to be unconstitutional and his sentence was shortened to 8 months.

Archbishop Jovan was sentenced for the second time, on charges for "Embezzlement", and as a second defendant was sentenced to a higher prison term of 2 years than the first defendand (who was sentenced 1 year and 3 months) in 2006. He served 256 days before being released.

The chapel "St. Nectarios of Aegina", after being broken into and vandalized on several occasions, was at the end completely demolished in July 2005, before the eyes of the police.

The priest who served at that chapel, Fr. Borjan Vitanov, was beaten up twice. The police refused to investigate the case.

Bishop Marko was beaten up while serving at a public graveyard. The police again refused to investigate the case.

Current situation

The clergy of the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric is constantly being harassed at the border-crossings by the police.

The clergy of other orthodox churches is not allowed to enter the country.

The state, against the law, denies the official registration of the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric.

Archbishop Jovan has been put on trial for the third time, for a third case of "embezzelment". As his attorney was not able to attend a court hearing, having a greater priority court case at the same time, the Archbishop is sentenced detention.

Reactions of the Orthodox churches

Liturgy, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Archbishop of Ohrid Jovan

Ecumenical Patriarchate

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I sent a letter to the Prime Minister of FYROM requesting immediate release of Archbishop Jovan [1][2]

Russian Patriarchate

The Patriarch of Russia Alexei II sent a letter to the President of FYROM demanding immediate release of the Archbishop Jovan [3]

Church of Greece

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 [4]

Holy Mount Athos

The Holy Community of the Holy Mount Athos sent a letter of support, signed by all Representatives and Abbots who are in the common Assembly of the twenty Holy Monasteries of the Holy Mount Athos [5]

Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas

SCOBA Condemned the Imprisonment of Archbishop Jovan by FYROM and asked for his release [6]

Orthodox Church in America

Metropolitan Herman of OCA called for release of Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid [7]

Reactions of secular institutions and organizations

US State Department

The US Department of State constantly includes in its "Religious Freedom Report" and "Human Rights Report" information regarding the restrictions of the religious freedoms of the members of the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric, existence of religious prisoners, violation of freedom of movement, police terror and demolition of a monastery, prevention of OSCE from obtaining a copy of the decision upon which the demolition was carried out, police interrogations of the members of the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric etc. [8], [9], [10], [11], [12]

US Mission to the OSCE

The US Mission to the OSCE warned of Violation of freedom of religion and encouraged the authorities to apply the law fairly, advising the government should avoid involving in religious disputes, reminding that Article Nine of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 19 of the Macedonian Constitution as well as Macedonia’s OSCE commitments, and international norms, all guarantee his right to freedom of religion.[13]

Amnesty International

Amnesty International declared the Archbishop Jovan a prisoner of conscience. [14]

Helsinki Committee for Human Rights

The Helsinki Committee for Human Rights constantly reports about the violation of the religious freedoms and human rights of the members of the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric: The violation of several basic rights was the result of activities of a number of state institutions (especially the Ministry of the Interior) directed against not only the followers (monks of the MOC who were supporting Vraniskovski), but also against citizens who approve of him or had compassionate sentiments or attitude towards them. This can be illustrated by the following: problems upon entry and exit from the state, threats, police detention, lawsuits against citizens who have provided housing for the outcast monks, police ban in the exercise of the right to residence [15], [16], [17] etc.

European Commission

The European Commission pointed out that cases of violations of religious freedom exist and emphasized that the new law should provide more liberal procedure for registering religious communities[18]

Forum 18

Forum 18 reports that New Religion Law perpetuates discrimination [19]


  1. Draft Agreement On Reestablishment Of Church Unity ("Nis Agreement") 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) (Source)