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BELGRADE — The Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) announced Tuesday its decision to bring ecclesiastical charges against Archbishop Stefan.
He is the head of the canonically unrecognized Macedonian Orthodox Church (MPC).
The Synod issued a statement saying that by “inveterate persistence in schism the MPC participates in un-Christian persecution of Archbishop Jovan, canonically recognized head of the autonomous Orthodox Archdiocese of Ohrid, and its priests, monks and believers.”
At the Holy Assembly in May, the SPC underlined that it is ready to start a dialogue “on establishing the canonical order, religious peace and brotherly love with the church in the neighboring and friendly Macedonia”, stressing that the condition for this is the release of the unjustly incarcerated Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid.
The Assembly noted that Archbishop Jovan was arrested on the demand of top dignitaries of the Macedonian church, which it considers as schismatic.
It also noted that the same message to the canonically unrecognized Macedonian Orthodox Church was also sent by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Patriarch Kyril I of Moscow.
In July this year, the Macedonian Appellate Court upheld the first instance ruling sentencing Archbishop of Ohrid and Metropolitan of Skopje Jovan Vraniskovski to three years in prison for the embezzlement of EUR 250,000.
SPC Archbishop Jovan received a three-year prison sentence on July 2, 2013 in Skopje. He appealed this judgment in November, but the second instance court dismissed the appeal as unfounded.
In his submission to the Skopje Appellate Court, Vraniskovski stated that “12 years since it was established, the Orthodox Archdiocese of Ohrid has been subjected to persecution by the Macedonian authorities who to this day deny its application to be entered in the court register, which would make it a legal religious organization”.
Since 2003, 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 Macedonian Orthodox Church (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.
He was last arrested on December 12, 2011, upon entering Macedonia from Greece, on charges of embezzlement of EUR 250,000.
He returned to the country to request a retrial, but he was arrested and brought to Idrizovo prison near Skopje, where he is still held, according to his lawyers, in difficult conditions.
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