The Bulgarian Orthodox Church held its own celebration of the 1000th anniversary of the founding of the Ohrid Archbishopric on June 10, having turned down an invitation to attend the Macedonian Orthodox Church’s celebration on May 27 and 28.
On the occasion, which was marked with a liturgy at Sofia’s landmark Alexander Nevsky cathedral with the presence of Bulgarian Orthodox Church Patriarch Neofit, the Holy Synod issued a lengthy statement outlining its stance on relations with the church in the neighbouring former Yugoslav republic.
The Holy Synod’s statement said that in the past more than half a year, the attention of the church and the public in Bulgaria had been particularly focused on the neighbouring country and the status of the Orthodox Church there “which, unfortunately, for decades has resided outside of communion with the family of local Orthodox churches”.
The statement noted that the Macedonian Orthodox Church had asked the Bulgarian Orthodox Church to accept the role of its mother church, adding that there had been unambiguously negative reaction from some Orthodox churches that had openly declared their disagreement.
“Part of the major problem for the status of the Orthodox Church in the present-day Republic of Macedonia is the question of the historical fate of the Bulgarian Archbishopric of Ohrid, which was founded 1000 years. There have been and will be celebrations of this important anniversary, which are another testimony to the depth of the division among the fraternal Orthodox Churches on this issue,” the Bulgarian Orthodox Church’s Holy Synod said.
The statement said that there had been “unjustified reproaches” to the Holy Synod about its decision not to take part in the May 27-28 celebrations.
The statement underlined that according to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church’s statute, adopted at its assembly of clergy and lay people in 2008, the church was the successor to “the Pliska Archbishopric, the Preslav Patriarchate, the Archbishopric of Ohrid, the Tarnovo Patriarchate and the Bulgarian Exarchate. It is united and indivisible”.
“Such was, according to the will of God, the historical destiny of our native Orthodox Church, the facts of the millennial but also revolutionary Bulgarian history, and they can not be changed and distorted regardless of the day’s circumstances.”
After expounding at further length on episodes in church history over the past millennium, the statement said: “Today, in the Balkans, the state and church realities are quite different from the past”.
“As a result of various socio-political processes in the region, new states and new local Orthodox churches, successors of one or another former church jurisdiction, have been established over the years. What, however, continues to unify all of us today – without exception – is our Christ Jesus entrusted to us by the saving Orthodox Christian faith.”
The statement said that this was why the Holy Synod had accepted the role of mediator in the issue of the “Macedonian Orthodox Church” and the other Orthodox churches, none of which recognises it.
“As Bishops set up by the Lord in His Church, we are ready today to do all that is in our power and in accordance with the sacred canons of the holy Church to help our Orthodox brothers in today’s Macedonia – in agreement with the explicit and clear the will of the other fraternal Orthodox churches.
“However, we also have the duty to keep true not only the truths and sacred canons of the Holy Orthodoxy, but also the memory of this world Church, which the Lord God has entrusted us with spiritual care today – its history, its continuity, and for her present and future,” the Holy Synod’s statement said…. / IBNA