Archbishop to be released after Russian mediation

A court in Skopje has ruled that the head of the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric, Jovan Vraniskovski, will be granted conditional release on January 19.

Source: Tanjug
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Meanwhile the canonically unrecognized Macedonian Orthodox Church (MPC) expects a dialogue with the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) on its status to begin afterwards, with mediation from the Russian Orthodox Church (RPC), Tanjug reported.

The decision on this will most likely be taken by the Synod of the MPC, Metropolitan Petar of Prespa and Pelagonija, who is also the administrator for Australia and New Zealand, announced in an interview with TV Sunce.

He said that the MPC expects a positive response from the Russian Orthodox Church (RPC), which has been called to mediate in the dispute over the status of the MPC, Skopje media reported.

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

Following "insistence" from the RPC, Archbishop Jovan is set to be released conditionally after spending three years in prison.

Visiting Macedonia on December 21, Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, in charge of foreign affairs at the Moscow Patriarchate, urged Vraniskovski's provisional release.

Metropolitan Hilarion made the request during meetings with the head of the MPC - the Archbishopric of Ohrid, Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and President Gjorge Ivanov - who has the constitutional power of pardon - and also met with Vraniskovski.

Since 2003, the Macedonian authorities have arrested Archbishop Jovan Vraniskovski six times on different charges, including public disorder when he tried to conduct a baptism ceremony in a church the MPC sees as its own.

He has also been charged with "inciting ethnic and religious hatred" for having "slandered the MPC" and spent a total of almost 18 months in prison.

Vraniskovski was last arrested on December 12, 2011, upon entering Macedonia from Greece, on charges of having misappropriated EUR 250,000.

He returned to the country to request a retrial, only to be arrested and taken to the Idrizovo prison near Skopje, where he remains to this day.

The MPC has defrocked Archbishop Jovan and the SPC has appointed him as 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.

The stated position of the Russian Orthodox Church is that "it will be unable to assist in the Macedonian-Serbian church dispute for as long as Vraniskovski remains in prison," Tanjug reported.

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