Integral version of Metropolitan Joseph’s interview for “Dnevnik” newspaper published 09.09.2014

"Integral version of Metropolitan Joseph’s interview for “Dnevnik” newspaper published 09.09.2014"

Were you surprised by the prefiguration made of SOC regarding the ecclesiastical accusation against the Primate of the MOC-OA, k.k. Stephen? What is your stance on this issue, what do you consider to be the background of this act?

Were we to tell you that we’re surprised by this decision of the Holy Hierarchical Synod of the SOC, we would not be telling the truth, sadly. However, it must be stressed that we’re gravely saddened by it. The process of taking ecclesiastical actions against His Grace, the Archbishop of Ohrid and Macedonia, k.k. Stephen, is a step toward mutual decline in the relations between the two sister Churches. We’re now one step closer to the abyss out of which, are we to approach it too close, there is no going back.

The “Case of Vranishkovski” and his imprisonment are often used as an argument. What is your stance on this issue?

Neither can the Church imprison someone in a civilian prison, nor does it want to keep someone arrested. The accusations against the MOC-OA about her alleged guilt for someone’s imprisonment, are nothing more than an excuse for blocking the process of her ecclesiastical recognition. Toward the same direction lead the messages that we have been unofficially receiving, claiming that the independence of RM in 1991 was a mistake that should not have been made, and in accordance with this, the very existence of MOC-OA should not have been allowed.

The attempt to install a parallel hierarchy in the Republic of Macedonia back in 2002 is not at all a naïve mistake made by the SOC, since it was not circumstantially made right after the armed conflict in our country. On the other hand, the decision for breaking of communion with the faithful from Macedonia in 2005 was a desperate attempt to justify the decision in order to introduce it as a right one, but also to wash their hands of any future responsibility, like Pilate once did. However, the most recent decision for taking ecclesiastical accusations against the Prelate of the MOC-OA has no alibi and is a culmination of the desire to spiritually humiliate and enslave the Macedonian people, forcibly pushing it in the realm of SOC. The sound of Gamaliel’s prudent “Vonmem” before the perdition of theomachy appears to be very distant.

Some of the Metropolitans, i.e. k. Timothy and k. Poemen, spoke out that he should be amnested in order to continue the dialogue. What is your personal point of view regarding this?

In respect to this question we have previously pointed to the Macedonian positive law: the goal of granting dismissal of an accusation can be reached in two ways. The first one, to plead guilty and ask for amnesty, and the second one – to prove one’s innocence in a Court of Law. We think this is now clear to everyone.

The idea of possible dissension in the Holy Synod of MOC-OA regarding the ecclesiastical trial against the Archbishop Stephen is topic that is being discussed in the Serbian media, as quoted by “sources from SOC”. Is this scenario possible?

Today, more than ever before, our thoughts are imperturbable seeing the reality of the christophillic sense and spiritual struggle of our people. Macedonian Orthodox Church – Ohrid Archbishopric is a reality and her Prelate is the Blessed Archbishop k.k. Stephen. MOC-OA with joy and thankfulness testifies and is sacramentally built in the hearts of the faithful across this expanse. This is being proven by the numerous faithful worshipers on the Liturgy, around the Body and the Blood of Christ, in the family of the Only-begotten.

Talking about the possible dissension, we should at least take moment to look back in the history. Since the abolition of the Ohrid Archbishopric by the Ottoman authorities in 1767, a decision heavily advocated by the Ecumenical Patriarchate,, the wolves in sheep’s clothing have been trying to scourge our spiritual flock which, paradoxically and by the protection of the God’s right hand, turned out to be even stronger and more faithful after every defeat. The challenges and trials that the Church across this expanse has faced over the time, the most brutal and perfidious assimilation by the ones who claimed to have ecclesiastical jurisdiction by the law of this world have not succeeded to break the spirit of the people. The commencement of the WWII is not that long time ago, when according to the Gospel, “he that is an hireling careth not for the sheep” fled away from Macedonia, leaving the faithful in the lurch. Therefore, passing through this personal and communal Golgotha, Macedonian people did not allow hand of an hireling to work on God’s husbandry, and besought God for shepherds who are willing to give theirs for the lives of the people that God entrusted them in their hands.

Having this experience, today we are unanimous more than ever before, and we can assure you that things are going to proceed this way in the future.

Can SOC start ecclesiastical accusations against the rest of the hierarchs of MOC-OA, including yourself? Can this be avoided?

It should be known that SOC does not have canonical jurisdiction over the territory of the Republic of Macedonia. The Synod of SOC in 1959 passed judgement and agreed that the dioceses in RM are not submitted under the ecclesiastical authority of SOC. Moreover, SOC has not in any way participated the election of the Prelate or any other hierarch of the MOC-OA, and therefore can not pass judgements regarding their deposement.

Regarding the question about the possibility for avoidance of the emergent situation, we would give a positive answer, adding that this would be possible only if the other side revokes the decision they made on their last session. A dialogue is possible merely in an atmosphere of mutual respect and regard. Yet watching the moves that SOC made these last ten years regarding MOC-OA, we suspect that there will be any change. On the contrary, we sorrowfully find it clear that SOC is going to radicalize even more regarding MOC-OA.

In case of deposement of the Prelate k.k. Stephen by the SOC, is it worth negotiating with SOC? In that case, what is going to happen with our pledge for recognition of the autocephality of the MOC-OA? Is it time for reciprocal response?

The eventual noncanonical decision for deposement of the Prelate of MOC-OA would be an attempt for unscrupulous and hegemonic spiritual condemnation of an entire nation, act for which one will have to give answer to the Incorruptible Judge Who will judge the world, and Whom the world convicted. After such decisions by the SOC, the possibility for any kind of dialogue between the two parties is virtually none. It is impossible and pointless for the talks to continue in the shadows of such decisions. But we must stress that up until this moment a minimal possibility for discussion existed, in order the desired solution to be reached jointly, for the joy of the pleroma of the Church.

True, at first sight one is tempted to think that MOC-OA should make a reciprocal response, but what seems logical not always proves to be beneficial. If we are to make reciprocal responses, we would reinstate the Old Testament Law of “An eye for an eye”, depriving the world of the enlightenment that came by the New Testament. Therefore, MOC-OA will always be guided by the teaching of the Gospel that says that Christ’s followers will be known by their love and deeds. And because of this, no matter the indignation caused by these actions that deepen the wounds in the Body of Christ, we despair not. Rather, the love for our brethren in faith grows even more.

Link to the online-edition of “Dnevnik” [Macedonian] – НА СПЦ, КОЈА САКА ДУХОВНО ДА ГИ ПОТЧИНИ МАКЕДОНЦИТЕ, ЌЕ ОДГОВОРИМЕ СО ЉУБОВ