Protesting prelate: The fomenting messages of the bishop Agatangel

 

The entire speech of Bishop Agatangel, in which he formally delivered multiple untruths, seems baffling, considering he is a clergyman. His speech is diametrically opposed to the constitutional principles that guarantee the secularity of the state and clearly point out that the religious communities should not interfere with state’s affairs

 

Assessed by: Olivera Vojnovska

 

On 4 March 2017, during the protest organized by the civil initiative “For Joint Macedonia” that took place in Veles, the Macedonian Orthodox Church’s Metropolitan of Vardar, Agatangel, sent multiple political messages with instigative and fomenting content and tone: State’s unity to be preserved, the Macedonian national tissue to be united, a population census to be carried out, the diplomats to stop pressuring the President Gjorge Ivanov, who has been brought to this function by nobody else but God!

In such fomenting spirit, the bishop Agatangel said:

(1) Thanks to the civil movement in this holy Macedonian land, this week, the entire Macedonian people, the one who feels Macedonian, the one who wants to live in this Macedonia, requests Macedonia to remain unitary, independent, free Macedonian land (From 2:26 to 2:55 in the video)

First, nobody questions the state’s unity and independence. The fact that the ruling party VMRO-DPMNE creates such atmosphere due to the lucrative interests of people from the party’s leadership is a completely different story alltogether, to which, unfortunately, Bishop Agatangel in his speech in Veles added an ecclesiastical, religious narrative.

The protests, on the other hand, like the one in which Agatangel delivered his speech, are organized by the civil initiative “For Joint Macedonia”, steered by public figures widely perceived as close to the ruling party. Therefore, those gatherings cannot be considered, under no circumstances, an outburst of a nationwide revolt. Or, as the bishop said: the entire Macedonian people, the one who feels Macedonian, the one who wants to live in this Macedonia, requests Macedonia to remain unitary, independent, free…

As a clergyman, he is expected to preach love, understanding, unity and tolerance, but the Metropolitan of Vardar pledged for population census:

(2) Two weeks ago, on its regular session, the Holy Synod of the Macedonian Orthodox Church sent a press release to the public, in which the Synod, alongside with the clergy, the monks, and the loyal spiritual offspring of the Church request a new census. And only then when we will recount ourselves we would be able to see that those who demand bilingualism, those who demand cantonization, those who demand a bilingual coin, are not eligible even for those things they enjoy today, because they do not amount to even 20 percent, not even 18 percent, not even 15 percent (2:58-3:55 from the video)

So, prelate Agatangel requests population census which will nicely show to the Albanians that they are so little, percentage-wise, that they do not even deserve the rights they currently have. This behavior might be expected from a politician or a party official, but when these words are uttered by a bishop, they leave distasteful and malapropos impression.

As to the percentages Agatangel mentions, they are given as a lump. According to the official data of the last census, the one carried out in 2002, there are 1.297.981 Macedonians or 64.18%, whereas the number of Albanians is 506.083 or 25.17%. The 2011 census which started on 1 October 2011 was stopped after ten days, on 11 October 2011, when every member of the State Census Commission stepped down. This statistical operation was entirely terminated on 15 October 2011, when the ruling majority (VMRO-DPMNE and DUI) voted the Law on Termination of the Validity of the Law on Census. Nonetheless, it remained unclear how much money was spent out of the budget-approved 14 million euro for carrying out the census. Since then, the opposition has requested new census in several instances, but the government didn’t have the will to organize and carry it out. Therefore, in absence of new relevant statistic data on the population’s ethnicity, the arbitrary numbers uttered by the Metropolitan of Vardar just add fuel to the already boiling post-election atmosphere in the country.

And after he requested to “recount” ourselves, the bishop called us to “unite”, but Macedonians only, so he sent the following appeal:

(3) That’s why, my dear, let’s unite. From this spot, in front of Racin’s monument, I call the two biggest Macedonian parties to sit at a round table and to solve all of their misunderstandings. They should be seated behind closed doors, and they should come out with a clear attitude, even if they have to batter themselves, that we shall not divide Macedonia, that we will love Macedonia (from 4:00 to 4:44 in the video)

This call of his seems rather strange. On the one hand, Agatangel requests unification of the members of one ethnic and religious community – the Macedonians, and on the other hand he says “even if they have to batter themselves!” Is it even possible for such ecclesiastical dignitary to request battering from the believers?! Of course that such vocabulary does not suit a clergyman who is expected to disseminate God’s mercy and respect among people.

The last message of the bishop Agatangel was undoubtedly the strangest, and even silly, in which after he told us that both we and the state are in Ivanov’s hands and after the called the foreign diplomats to leave him alone, he told us that God has chosen him to lead us!

(4) I want all of us together to give great support to our President, Mr. Gjorge Ivanov, because the key for this state’s survival is in his hands. And to solicit the European leaders to stop pressuring him, but to leave him with his own head, and we know that he is a wise man, a man who loves this Macedonian land of ours just like everyone gathered here and like the ones who weren’t able to attend due to various reasons. To let leave him to decide as one true Macedonian is supposed to by loving our country. God chose him to be a President, God knows everything that’s going to happen, my dear, and that’s why God gave us his second term and we shall pray for him, if it’s God’s will, to remain our President in the future, because only with such statesmen we shall preserve this Macedonian land of ours. God bless Macedonia, God bless the Macedonian people, long live Macedonia (from 8:14 to 9:54 in the video)

We cannot know whether there has been or what was God’s influence regarding Ivanov’s presidency, as the bishop Agatangel claims. But we do know that Ivanov was elected a President of Macedonia for the first time on the presidential elections in 2009, as VMRO-DPMNE’s candidate. He took the office on 12 May 2009, and he got the second term on the presidential elections in 2014. SDSM, the biggest opposition party, does not acknowledge him as a President because according to the social democrats he is “elected in criminal, unfair and undemocratic elections.”

The entire speech of the bishop Agatangel, which formally includes multiple untruths, seems baffling, taking into account that he is a clergyman. His speech is contrary to the constitutional principles that guarantee the state’s secularity and clearly point out that religious communities should not interfere with state’s affairs. In this regard, the Article 19 of the Constitution clearly says:

The freedom of religious confession is guaranteed. The right to express one’s faith freely and publicly, individually or with others is guaranteed. The Macedonian Orthodox Church and other religious communities and groups are separate from the state and equal before the law. The Macedonian Orthodox Church and other religious communities and groups are free to establish schools and other social and charitable institutions, by way of a procedure regulated by law.

 

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This article was created within the framework of the Project to increase the accountability of the politicians and political parties Truthmeter implemented by Metamorphosis. The article is made possible by the generous support of the National Endowment for Democracy(NED) and The Balkan Trust for Democracy (BTD), a project of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, an initiative that supports democracy, good governance, and Euroatlantic integration in Southeastern Europe. The content is the responsibility of its author and does not necessarily reflect the views of Metamorphosis, National Endowment for Democracy, the Balkan Trust for Democracy, the German Marshall Fund of the United States, or its partners.

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