Serbian Orthodox Church Quietly 'Renames' Macedonia

Serbian Orthodox Church quietly corrected the press release issued on its web site on Tuesday, regarding the visit of Russian Bishop Illarion to Macedonia, and his initiative to re-open talks between the Macedonian and the Serbian Church.

The press release still calls the Macedonian Church "self-declared" and "outside of the Church canon laws", but it now refers to Macedonia as R. Macedonia. The original press release, signed by the spokesman of the Serbian Church Bishop Irinej called the country FYR Macedonia, a name considered a slur by Macedonians because of its ties to the interim reference name imposed as part of the name dispute with Greece. 

Serbia recognizes Macedonia as the Republic of Macedonia, and this is why the press release of the Serbian Church and the way it referred to the country caused reactions in the Macedonian public. Both sides are treading lightly following the visit of Bishop Illarion, who heads the foreign relations department of the Russian Orthodox Church. He met with the Macedonian Archbishop Stefan, as well as with President Gjorge Ivanov and Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski. Shortly after, the Holy Synod of the Macedonian Orthodox Church - Ohrid Archbishopric (MPC - OA) issued a statement calling for clemency for Zoran Vraniskovski, former bishop of MPC - OA, who is sentenced for fraud and embezzlement of church funds. Vraniskovski switched allegiance to the Serbian Church in 2002, deepening the rift between the two churches. 

The Serbian Church has refused to recognize the Macedonian Church since its re-establishment in the 1960s and has blocked its acceptance by other Eastern Orthodox Churches. On top of the call for clemency for Vraniskovski, who has spent the last three years in prison, part of the mission of the Russian bishop is to restart negotiations between the two sides about the future status of the Macedonian Church. The feud is further complicated by the tradition influence of the Greek Church in the Eastern Orthodox Christianity which is one of the loudest voices in Greece against improving Greek relations with Macedonia.


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