24 October 2006

Archbishop Jovan of Ochrid Subjected to Unusual Prison Conditions

KiM Info Newsletter 21-10-06
Archbishop Jovan of Ochrid subjected to psychological torture in Idrizovo Prison in Skoplje
Svetigora Press, SPC Info Service, October 2, 2006
His Beatitude Archbishop Jovan of Ochrid and Metropolitan of Skoplje has been imprisoned in Idrizovo Prison in Skoplje for almost two months now.
His Grace Bishop Marko of Bregalnica of the Autocephalous Archdiocese of Ochrid said that the condition of the imprisoned Archbishop Jovan remains unchanged. No one knows whether and when he will be issued a weekend pass to leave the prison let alone if he will be released. Bishop Marko says that the Archdiocese of Ochrid is hopeful that a change in the administration of Idrizovo Prison now in progress will result in improvement.
"We hope that the new administration replacing the current one will implement a more reasonable regime which will ease the living conditions of Archbishop Jovan, who is being subjected to a kind of psychological torture in this prison which, in my opinion, is being aimed solely at him. I think there is not one other prisoner in Idrizovo Prison who has not had at least one weekend pass in the past two months. Archbishop Jovan seems to be subject to special laws in the prison that apply only to him," said Bishop Marko.
He added that Archbishop Jovan periodically calls by telephone from prison - when he manages to take a turn because the entire prison has only one public phone. "The authorities only permit visits by immediate family members and they say we are not his family. A week ago he received a visit from his mother and she says that he has lost weight. However, the Archbishop is not complaining of his physical health, and he frequently says, 'God be praised, we are faced with challenges. They will pass,'" said Bishop Marko.
He emphasizes that the brotherhood manages, with some difficulty, to obtain the necessary medication for Archbishop Jovan, which is taken to him by his mother during visits. "Since the Archbishop is located in an enclosed section, there is a special search procedure during visits and all visitors, even children, are thoroughly searched. They even searched the children of Archbishop Jovan's sister before allowing them to visit their uncle," said the Bishop of Bregalnica.
Noting that everyone in the Archdiocese of Ochrid is pained by the present situation of Archbishop Jovan, the Bishop of Bregalnica said that they all take consolation in the words of the Holy Fathers that such difficulties are a blessing. "With the prayers of our brothers and sisters from other local (Orthodox) churches and most of all with the help of God, somehow we are struggling against these challenges. We will not yield because our strength comes from the knowledge that we are on the right path, and because we always see Christ before us. When Archbishop Jovan was imprisoned for the first time, he told us, 'now Christ will be your pastor, and He will lead you'. Remembering his words, we know we are in safe hands and we are not afraid of anything, although the challenges truly are serious. We have our joy in the Kingdom of God, which we hope to inherit by the grace of God," said Bishop Marko. He added that he does not doubt that Archbishop Jovan, too, will endure his present hardships.
"He is a great man, and the great ones of the Church only became so through trials and suffering. We hope and we believe that in the end this will be beneficial to the Church and to our people here, who are still in error. Most of them have been lost in this schism, some are neither here nor there and confused. But we hope that with God's help in the end we will succeed in all appearing together before the face of God," said His Grace Bishop Marko of Bregalnica.