"Russian Church wants to mediate in SPC-MPC dispute"

Metropolitan Ilarion Alfeyev has said that Moscow wants to mediate in the church dispute between Belgrade and Skopje.

Source: Tanjug

This is according to the Religious Information Agency (VIA), which referred to him as "the second most senior official" of the Russian Orthodox Church.

The Russian Orthodox Church cannot recognize the Macedonian Orthodox Church (MPC) unilaterally - that should be done based on an all-Orthodox solution, and we are ready to be the mediators, the agency quoted the metropolitan of the Russian Orthodox Church, who is in charge of foreign affairs, as saying in a statement to Bulgarian media.

He has recently visited Sofia, as well as Skopje, where he met with Archbishop Stefan, the head of the canonically unrecognised Macedonian church, and Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov.

Metropolitan Ilarion also spoke to Archbishop Jovan Vraniskovski of Ohrid, who is serving a prison sentence for allegedly misappropriating EUR 250,000.

The MPC has defrocked Bishop Jovan, and the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) has appointed him as the Serbian exarch in Macedonia.

The SPC believes that Archbishop Jovan is a victim of rigged political trials because of his opposition to the schism, while Amnesty International and Freedom House have said that he is a prisoner of conscience.

On December 21, while on a visit to Macedonia, Metropolitan Ilarion, who is in charge of foreign affairs at the Moscow Patriarchate, requested that Archbishop Jovan be pardoned.

Meanwhile, the MPC has conveyed the request for Vraniskovski to be pardoned to the head of state, but there has been no response so far, the VIA - established in Belgrade as part of the endowment founded by religious analyst Zivica Tucic, that bears the name of the Russian Grand Duchess and saint Elizabeth Feodorovna - reported quoting unnamed sources.

Metropolitan Ilarion's visit has sparked a debate in Skopje, which is sceptical about his intentions and capabilities, the agency said, adding that some have raised the issue of what the return favour for Vraniskovski's release would be, since autocephaly is not being offered and some circles consider anything short of that as worthless.

Skopje might be offered "self-government" such as the one that exists in Moscow's ecclesiastical relations with Kiev, as well as with Moldova, Estonia and Latvia, the agency said.

In that case, the MPC would have the broadest autonomy, and the election of the Macedonian patriarch would be subject to approval by the patriarch in Belgrade, the VIA said.

The MPC is canonically unrecognized, and the SPC considers it schismatic since it declared autocephaly unilaterally in 1967.

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