SYOSSET, NY [OCA Communications] — In a letter dated December 1, 2006 and addressed to Nikola Gruevsky, Prime Minister of the Republic of Macedonia, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Herman, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, expressed his deepest concern for His Eminence, Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid, who recently was imprisoned for the second time.
In the 1960s, the Orthodox Church in the Macedonian Republic unilaterally declared itself autocephalous, thereby breaking communion with the Serbian Patriarchate and the world’s Orthodox sister Churches. The schismatic Macedonian Church has maintained a bitter dispute with the Serbian Church over the patriarchate’s presence in the republic.
The patriarchate’s Archbishop Jovan, who broke ties with the schismatic Church in Macedonia and returned to the patriarchate a several years ago, has been the target of anti-patriarchate parties and civil authorities. He was first arrested in July 2005 and sentenced to 18 months in prison in Skopje for allegedly “inciting national, racial, and religious hatred, schism, and intolerance.” He was subsequently released until his most recent imprisonment.
The text of Metropolitan Herman’s letter, a copy of which was also sent to His Holiness, Patriarch Pavle of Servia, reads as follows.
“Dear Mr. Prime Minister:
“My letter to you is motivated by deep respect for you and your office as Prime Minister and by feelings of good will for your nation of Macedonia and its citizens.
“As the Primate of The Orthodox Church in America I write to you in order to intercede on behalf of Archbishop Jovan, who is imprisoned for the second time. I appeal to you to extend your good offices to secure the reconsideration of the sentence imposed on Archbishop Jovan.
“That a hierarch is judged and imprisoned for speaking and acting in accordance with his conscience is a serious violation of both the freedom of conscience and the freedom of religious faith and practice. These freedoms represent the ideals of human rights characterizing the values of all civilized peoples. I encourage you to lead your government and nation in pursuing ways of settling disputed issues that are more appropriate than the imprisonment of religious leaders.
“We are also well aware that the Archbishop’s physical health is precarious, and we trust that he is receiving all the medical attention and care necessary for his condition.
“I urge you as the head of a government that has asserted its desire for all citizens of Macedonia to be free and equal citizens to adhere to the international standards of human rights and religious freedom. By doing what is honorable and just in the case of Archbishop Jovan you will reveal before the international community that you stand by these principles in practice.
“The prayers of the hierarchs, clergy, monastics, and faithful of The Orthodox Church in America are offered to God for the health, well-being, and release of Archbishop Jovan. We hope that our prayers for you and your nation will guide your government to a just resolution of the most grievous situation of Archbishop Jovan—a situation which is grievous not only for him, but also for the Republic of Macedonia.”