What’s in a name? – Ohrid Archdiocese

The applicant, the “Orthodox Ohrid Archdiocese”, since renamed the “Greek-Orthodox Ohrid Archdiocese of the Peć Patriarchy”, is a non-registered religious association. It complained about the national authorities’ refusal to register it.

In 2003, it constituted its own Holy Synod and appointed Bishop Vraniškovski, a former bishop of the Macedonian Orthodox Church, as its President. Bishop Vraniškovski, who had previously publicly announced that he was prepared for canonical union with the Serbian Orthodox Church, had been dismissed for violating his oath to safeguard the Macedonian Church’s unity and Constitution. The Serbian Orthodox Church then appointed him Exarch of the Peć Archbishop and the Patriarch of Serbia.

There ensued two sets of proceedings for registration of the applicant association, the first under the name “Orthodox Ohrid Archdiocese” and the second under the name “Greek-Orthodox Ohrid Archdiocese of the Peć Patriarchy”. The association specified in those proceedings that it would operate as an autonomous religious entity under the canonical jurisdiction of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

Both applications for registration were dismissed, essentially on formal grounds. The authorities also cited two other grounds, namely that the association had been set up by a foreign church or state, making it ineligible for registration, and that its intended names were too similar to that of the “Macedonian Orthodox-Ohrid Archdiocese” which had the “historical, religious, moral and substantive right” to use the name “Ohrid Archdiocese”. Lastly, the authorities concluded that the association intended, in reality, to become a parallel religious entity to the Macedonian Orthodox Church. The association’s appeals to the domestic courts on constitutional grounds were dismissed.

Relying on Article 11 (freedom of assembly and association) taken with Article 9 (freedom of thought, conscience, and religion), the association claimed that the refusal to register it prevented it from exercising its religious rights. It also claimed under Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) and Article 1 of Protocol No. 12 (general prohibition of discrimination) that its members were disadvantaged as compared with members of registered religious groups.

In “Orthodox Ohrid Archdiocese (Greek-Orthodox Ohrid Archdiocese of the Peć Patriarchy)” v The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia [2017] ECHR (No. 3532/07), the Court held that the refusal to register the Archdiocese had been a violation of Article 11 interpreted in the light of Article 9 and awarded EUR 4,500 for non-pecuniary damage and EUR 5,000 for costs and expenses. There was no need separately to examine the complaints under Article 14 of the Convention and Article 1 of Protocol No. 12.

We hope to post a full note on the judgment next week.

2 thoughts on “What’s in a name? – Ohrid Archdiocese

  1. Based on the headline, I was expecting a light and frivolous story on people being unhappy that the name of their Archdiocese suggested that it was ‘Orrid!

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