The Holy Synod of the Greek Orthodox Church of Greece has come out against Athens agreeing to Skopje using the word Macedonia in the name of country.

It may be recalled that the Church of Greece led the charge in 1992, when 100,000 Greeks in Australia demonstrated against use of the name, and there were hugely massive protests in Thessaloniki, with hundreds of thousands of people from all over the country in attendance.

Since then, however, nearly 140 states have recognised the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), as it is known in international organisations and in Greece. The issue no longer stirs such passions nationwide, but the interest of the population of the Greek prefecture of Macedonia, and in northern Greece more generally remains intense.

“The Church has borne witness, with the words and blood of the clergy and laity, to the Greekness of Macedonia, and that is why it cannot accept assigning the name “Macedonia” or any derivative thereof, as a constituent element in the name of any other state,” the 12-member Permanent Holy Synod, the day-to-day executive organ of the Church wrote.

The Synod’s statement came straight on the heels of Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece said that the Church of Greece will not remain indifferent or silent on the naming issue.

The church’s intervention comes amidst feverish diplomatic efforts to resolve the name dispute, and many believe the moderate FYROM government of Zoran Zaev offers the best chance in years to achieve a settlement that will not be a total capitulation for Athens.

George Gilson

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