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The Catholic Church in North Macedonia is part of the worldwide Catholic Church, under the spiritual leadership of the Pope in Rome and is one of the major religious communities that exist on the territory of the Republic of North Macedonia. Catholic believers from North Macedonia mostly include Albanians, ethnic Macedonians and Croats and are most concentrated in the Skopje Statistical Region and the Southeastern Statistical Region of North Macedonia. There are around 20,000 Catholics in the country — around 1% of the total population.
Christianity in North Macedonia dates from the time of the Apostles, when the Paul the Apostle in 51, arrived in the broader Roman province of Macedonia on the territory of today's Greece. After all, while St. Paul was in Troas, Asia Minor, at night he had a dream where a Macedonian came to him and said: "Come over to Macedonia and help us" (Acts 16.9). For the second time Christianity began to spread in the 9th century during the Christianization of Bulgaria, when Clement of Ohrid and Saint Naum instituted the Ohrid Literary School. At the time of Western Bulgarian Tsardom there was a creation of the South Slavic parishes alignment with the Archbishopric of Ohrid whose autocephaly was maintained until 1767, when the Turks, influenced by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, suspend it. Since then, North Macedonia started a movement for liberation and independence of national and religious field.
Diocese of Skopje, under whose jurisdiction are believers of the Western or Roman rite is one of the oldest dioceses in the Balkans and its territory historically is not enough investigated. Many important historical facts and unsolved today. To a better overview, church history in these areas could be divided into three main periods.
See also Diocese of Skopje
The first period of the Christianity in North Macedonia begins with the appearance of Christianity in Europe. Paul the Apostle was missionary at this time. Christianity was present in these areas illustrated by the fact that the Council of Nicea (325), signed between the Assembly's fathers, and the Bishop of Dacosta Scupi (Skopje) was mentioned as bishop in charge of Dardania (Europe) province, whose capital is Skopje, and extends from Niš until Veles (city). The existence of the Diocese does not refer to a clearly defined religious organization in the province headed by Bishop and several bishops. This period is called the "golden period" for the province. Later writers' mention showed five dioceses within the province of Dardania. Pope Gelasius I sent a letter to the six Dardanian bishops of the time.
The second period is characterized by turbulent conditions and switch to the ends of these arms in the hands of various new rulers. With the arrival of the Turks a hard time for Christians in these areas arose. Five centuries of Ottoman slavery occasionated severe consequences in the diocese. But in a report in Rome dating from 1584, Skopje is mentioned as Catholic Center.
This period coincides with the founding of the Congregation de Propaganda Fide in 1622. In this period, the Catholic Church devoted more attention to these areas. The apostolic succession of the Catholic Archbishops of Skopje since Andrija Bogdani (1651-1656) until today is continuous. Generally all residential Catholic bishops of Skopje are residential, although many times were forced, because of the Turkish mischief, to change their place of residence, concealing in inaccessible places. Until 1914 Skopje bishops are titled "archbishops". But in a Concordat between Holy See and the Kingdom of Serbs the title of Archbishop was transferred to the bishop of the Archdiocese of Shkodër-Pult. Its last Archbishop was Lazër Mjeda in 1921 when was appointed Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Shkodër-Pult. In 1924, after the devastation of World War I, the archdiocese was downgraded to a diocese, and became a suffragan to the Archdiocese of Vrhbosna. In 2000 Pope John Paul II divided Skopje from Apostolic Administration of Prizren and today its jurisdiction extends throughout the territory of North Macedonia.
In North Macedonia there are Catholics of Byzantine-Catholic rite that fall under the jurisdiction of the Macedonian Apostolic Vicariate.
The movement for liberation and independence gets his swing in mid-19th century, when the whole of Europe is waking to a national consciousness. This movement takes North Macedonia. In the struggle for religious freedom from the Hellenic influence a national spirit in the Macedonian people are waking up and the spirit of ecclesiastical independence from Constantinople Patriarchate arose. Then, a failed request allegiance in various independent churches, trying to free from the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Constantinople ends in a compound of the local Bulgarians with the Catholic Church in 1859. The center of this movement was the town of Kilkis, what is known as "Union of Kukush". In 1861, Bulgarian Catholic Apostolic Vicariate of Constantinople was created for the Eastern-Catholic Bulgarians of the Byzantine Rite in European provinces of the Ottoman Empire, including the then region of Macedonia. In 1883 as its off-shoot was created a Macedonian Apostolic Vicariate of the Bulgarians based in Thessaloniki. Its first appointed Apostolic Vicar was Lazar Mladenov.
With the creation of the Apostolic Vicariate of the Bulgarians in North Macedonia, a legal structure of the Catholic Church of the Byzantine rite in North Macedonia was established. Bishop Mladenov indicates a clear direction for the development of the Catholic Church of Eastern Rite. But unfortunate circumstances affected this region: the Ilinden Uprising, the Balkan Wars and World War I reflects negatively to Catholics. After the First World War the Eastern rite Catholics were found in Vardar Macedonia and Strumica region, and the Pope place them under the care of the then Catholic Archbishop of Skopje. On October 19, 1923 with the provision of the Vatican they became an integral part of Eparchy of Križevci and remain as such until 2001.
Pope John Paul II on January 11, 2001 in Vatican signed a decree to establish an Apostolic Exarch for Catholics of the Eastern rite in North Macedonia. The first Apostolic Exarch appointed was Monsignor Joakim Herbut, bishop of the Diocese of Skopje. The seat of the exarchate is the city of Strumica, and the Assumption Church in this city holds the title of Cathedral.
Pope Francis on May 31, 2018 elevated the Apostolic Exarchate to the rank of an Eparchy as the Macedonian Catholic Eparchy of the Blessed Virgin Mary Assumed in Strumica-Skopje.
Both Catholic institutions in North Macedonia are under the leadership of one person, Kiro Stojanov, perhaps the only case in the world.