Nuns Abused and Monastery near Bitolj Set Aflame; Bishops Jovan, Marko And Joachim Escape Assassination Attempt

The mad campaign organized by official institutions in Skopje against His Eminence Metropolitan Jovan of Veles and Povardarje, the clergy and faithful people of the Ochrid Archdiocese and waged by local media through legal means culminated in Friday night's torching of the Monastery of St. John Chrysostom in the village of Nizhepolje near Bitolj, the physical mistreatment of two nuns, whose hair was cut off in the process and the removal of church vessels, liturgical books and other church items. For whom were these church items stolen and who will use the liturgical books to pray to "God" is our question to those who received the items from these terrorists. This act of terrorism was carried out by a group of masked men armed with automatic rifles who are, of course, "not known to police".

Immediately prior to the attack, His Eminence Metropolitan Jovan and Bishops Joachim and Marko left the Monastery of St. John Chrysostom upon conclusion of a meeting of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Ochrid Archdiocese; consequently, it is almost certain that the real target of the attackers was not only the monastery building, the nuns and church vessels but also apparently the intent to carry out the physical liquidation of all canonical bishops in this region. Coincidentally, Metropolitan Jovan's cell phone stopped functioning for "inexplicable" reasons just before the attack; immediately after the attack, the problem fixed unexpectedly and inexplicably fixed itself and the phone resumed working normally...

That this was a planned attempt is also borne out by countless threats upon the lives directed not only to the bishops of the Ochrid Archdiocese but to His Holiness Serbian Patriarch Pavle himself and other senior officials of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

In recent months, at the same time that the bishops, monks and nuns of the Ochrid Archdiocese have been prosecuted by the courts, arrested and otherwise mistreated, official institutions in Skoplje and the schismatic clergy loyal to them have organized a large number of public protests modeled on those of their ideological and physical parents from the time of the so-called National Front, some of them before the building where Metropolitan Jovan lives. The Skoplje authorities have maintained, and continue to maintain, that all this is legal and represents no violation of religious or human rights, nor conventions and best practices in the civilized world. Many "letters of support from adherents of the Macedonian Orthodox Church" have also been published, reminding of previous practices seen so many times before in the difficult decades of the past.

Legal proceedings against Metropolitan Jovan on grounds of "provoking national, religious and racial hatred and religious division" were marked by absurd testimony as reported by the Skoplje media that "a building is a special institution where people cannot do whatever they like, which is governed by special rules". One of the members of the schismatic Skoplje Synod announced in January: "Jovan got what he asked for". A few days later, police launched a search for weapons to prove that the spiritual head of the Ochrid Archdiocese could represent a physical danger to someone. Of course, the search yielded no results.

Protests by the spiritual leaders of the Orthodox Churches, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Amnesty International and many of others, as well as the impossibility of keeping Metropolitan Jovan imprisoned before God's justice and under the eyes of the entire world, forced the institutions in Skoplje to resort to other solutions.

On the first page of newspapers and in Skopje electronic media an atmosphere has been created to provide an alibi for certain people whose task in carrying out the prepared plan was to inflict the final blow and literally behead the Orthodox Church in this region. Whether the "unknown perpetrators" were late in arriving on the scene in the village of Nizhopolje or whether this represents a "final warning" to Metropolitan Jovan, his clergy and faithful is known only to those who came up with the diabolic plan. What is certain is that in the coming days we will hear words condemning violence, expressing support for a state ruled by law, guaranteeing human rights, an independent judiciary and so on and so forth.

Nevertheless, we will reiterate: the direct involvement of state authorities in affairs of the Church, such as the declaration of the Skoplje Parliament expressing support for "the autocephalous Macedonian Orthodox Church" (!), such as the statement of the prime minister of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia upon his visit to Podgorica and all other similar moves by officials of the Skopje government lead only to further terrorism and distancing of the Orthodox people in that country from both the Orthodox Church and European integration processes. Like other civilized countries, this one must also respect the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, especially Article 9(1) of that document which explicitly stipulates: "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance." In Article 14 of the Convention, states are prohibited from discriminating against citizens with respect to the enjoyment of these rights on any grounds, including "religion, political or other opinion".

Events of this sort have not occurred in Europe since the time of Stalin, Hitler and Khrushchev and, in our own region, since the earliest period of Titoism. Today the "Macedonian model" of democracy seems to represent nothing less than a planetary precedent.

O tempora, o mores! O Lord, save Your faithful people, and open the eyes that have gone blind from antitheism and hearts that have frozen with hatred toward those close to them!