A church in Skopje | Photo by: Richard Schofield

The Holy Synod of the Macedonian Orthodox Church – the governing body of the main faith group in the country – is discussing whether priests should voluntarily undergo lustration tests.

The topic was opened at a session of the synod this week. However, the body of 13 clerics adopted no conclusion.

„The younger clerics – and some of the older ones – have been pushing this idea, mainly to ensure greater credibility among our clergy,“ a source close to the synod told BIRN.

The Church is by far the largest religious organization in the country.

Macedonia has followed in the steps of many former Communist states that have enacted similar lustration laws and processes as a way of addressing past injustices stemming from politically motivated judicial proceedings.

Macedonia passed a first lustration law in 2008. A second one followed in 2012 after the constitutional court scrapped many of the key provisions from the original legislation, narrowing the time span and the range of professions to be subjected to checks.

The first law envisaged checkups on the clergy, as a result of which most Orthodox clerics signed statements that they had not been police collaborators. These were deposited with the Lustration Commission.

However, checkups on clerics halted in 2012 and, while the new law allows for them, they are no longer obligatory for clergy.

If the synod decides on a general lustration process „they need to give us lists of employees in all the dioceses. After we do the checks, it will be up to the Church to decide what to do with our findings“, the spokesperson of the Lustration Commission, Predrag Dimitrovski, said.

The head of the Commission, Tome Adziev, recently said that, according to their knowledge, priests were among the spies of the old police force and that „prominent priests were feeding the secret police with information“.

Boban Mitevski, chef-de-cabinet for Archbishop Stefan of Skopje, said the Church’s top cleric had nothing to hide.

„More than a year ago, Archbishop Stefan along with the other priests from the Skopje diocese signed such statements, validated… and handed over to the commission,“ Mitevski was cited as saying in the daily newspaper Vecer.

In its first five years, the state-run body tasked with carrying out lustration combed over 29,000 personal files and discovered some 130 people who allegedly collaborated with the Yugoslav Communist-era police, or ordered surveillance of others for ideological reasons.

The process has been dogged with controversy, with critics accusing the government of misusing it to discredit opposition members and intellectuals known for their criticism of government policies.

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