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Wednesday, 21 May 2014

President of Macedonia gives Pope an image of Sts. Cyril and Methodius

Archbishop Stephen  of Ohrid (a see which historically was the patriarchate of the Bulgarian Empire, with which the See of Rome maintained semi-communion for the sake of the pastoral care of Byzantines in Southern Italy for over half a millennium after the supposed break with the Orthodox Churches after the so-called Great Schism of 1054)  and the Macedonian Orthodox Church are not recognised as canonical by the Russian, Serbian or Greek Orthodox Churches, or the Ecumenical Patriarchate. owing to the unilateral declaration of autocephaly from the Serbian Orthodox Church in place of autonomy within it, following repeated Serbian rejection of the Macedonian Metropolia's requests. This was at the time that Macedonia,  Serbia and Bosnia belonged to a single state - Yugoslavia. Since the disintegration of this entity and the subsequent civil wars,  the Macedonian Republic has pressed the Orthodox Church in its territory to be fully independent of all external jurisdictions, to reflect the Macedonian identification of itself as a distinct nation, in the face of Greek claims that Macedonians and the name for the territory are historically Greek, and Serbian assertions that they are of the same stock and language group. A 2002 compromise between the Serbian and plenipotentiary Macedonian church leaders was rejected by the government in Skopje and the Synod of the Macedonian Church, leaving one of their bishops, Metropolitan Jovan, isolated as one who maintained his commitment to the agreement. The Serbian Church in Macedonia, serving ethnic Serbs and some Macedonians in Macedonia, was granted its own autonomy and Metropolitan Jovan appointed its head as Metropolitan of Ohrid in accordance with the earlier agreement. Since then he has been denounced as a political traitor and repeatedly imprisoned, detained on new charges and threatened with fresh trials and convictions. He has been deemed by Amnesty International to be a Prisoner of Conscience. Metropolitan Stephen was evidently received by Pope Francis as part of the diplomatic delegation of President Ivanon, and greeted respectfully as a fellow bishop, not in the role of an ecumenical interlocutor - especially on the eve of the pilgrimage of Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople together to the Holy Land. This all presents the urgent need for prayer for reconciliation and mutual healing of memories.

Pope Francis welcomed the President of Macedonia, Gjorge Ivanon, at Casa Santa Marta. After a brief meeting behind closed doors, President Ivanon introduced his wife and members of his delegation, including several government ministers.

The delegation also included Stephen of Ohrid and Macedonia, the primate and leader of the Macedonian Orthodox Church. He and the Pope greeted each other affectionately.

The Balkan head of state gave the Pope an icon of Our Lady with the Child Jesus, as well as an engraved, wooden image of Saints Cyril and Methodius. For his part, the Pope gave the president a medallion of the Angel of Peace.

With the visit to the Vatican, the Macedonian delegation ended a three-day trip to Italy, to mark a series of events titled, "Macedonia honors St. Cyril.” 

President of Macedonia gives Pope an image of Sts. Cyril and Methodius

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