The Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) informed the Macedonian Government that it will not allow a delegation led by Prime Minister Zoran Zaev to visit the St. Prohor Pcinjski monastery on Ilinden, to mark the anniversary of the 1944 ASNOM assembly in which Macedonian statehood was declared.
The Serbian Church has continuously banned Macedonia from celebrating the greatest Macedonian national holiday – Ilinden – in the monastery where the ASNOM assembly took place. Serbian Patriarch Irinej cited alleged poor treatment of Serbian priests in Macedonia as the reason. The monastery is now just across the border in Serbia and is managed by the Serbian church.
“As long as the position of SPC and its priests in Macedonia is not improved there will be no discussion about any visits of Macedonian delegations to a monastery in Serbia. Patriarch Irinej called on the Macedonian authorities to do something regarding the issue of Serbian priests in Macedonia, but always faced a wall from their institutions”, SPC sources told Serbian media outlets.
SPC refuses to recognize the Macedonian Orthodox Church – Ohrid Archbishopric as equal and has blocked the recognition of the Macedonian church among other Eastern Orthodox churches. SPC insists that a church led by a renegade former Macedonian bishop Zoran Vranishkovski is the legitimate church of Macedonia.
Macedonia celebrates the ASNOM assembly evenly with the 1903 Ilinden Uprising against the Ottomans, with both historic events organized on the same day – the feast of St. Elijah. Macedonia has allowed Serbia to commemorate historic events, such as the Battle of Kumanovo or the Battle of Kajmakcalan. Given the long term ban on celebrating ASNOM at the site where it was originally held, a memorial center was built on the Macedonian side of the border.