The Bulgarian Orthodox Church’s governing body, the Holy Synod, voted on May 14 to refuse an invitation from Archbishop Stefan of the Macedonian Orthodox Church to attend celebrations of the 1000th anniversary of the Ohrid Archbishopric.
The decision is in contrast to the expectations that Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov will attend the church and state ceremonies on May 27 and 28.
It also is in contrast to the recent more cordial relations between the two churches, as evidenced, for instance, in the Bulgarian Orthodox Church delegation passing the “Holy Fire” to a delegation headed by Stefan this past Orthodox Christian Easter.
The May 14 decision comes as the Bulgarian church considers what to do next about the approach by the Macedonian Orthodox Church for the Bulgarian church to take on the role of its mother church.
No mainstream Orthodox Christian church recognises the Macedonian Orthodox Church as autocephalous. The church was founded at the time of the communist Yugoslavian state. Mainstream Orthodoxy sees it as schismatic from the Serbian Orthodox Church.
A number of Orthodox Christian churches, including the Serbian, Greek, Russian and the Ecumenical Patriarchate, are unhappy about the decision by the Bulgarian Orthodox Church to hold talks with other churches on the status of the church in the neighbouring former Yugoslav republic.
Church news website Dveri said that the Patriarch and Synod have received letters with various threats, including terminating communion over the issue. This could explain the May 14 decision, about which it was clear there were sharp divisions between two rival factions in the Holy Synod, the website said./IBNA