Strumica, Macedonia, December 12, 2017
A hierarch of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church officially took part in a celebration of the schismatic Macedonian Orthodox Church recently. His Grace Bishop Sioni of Velichka, abbot of the Holy Dormition Troyan Monastery, did not liturgically celebrate with the hierarchs and clergy of the Macedonian congregation, but was formally received by them and read out a greeting from His Holiness Patriarch Neofit of Bulgaria, reports the site of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.
The visit comes on the heels of the Macedonian Church’s appeal to the Bulgarian Church to receive it as its Mother Church and to restore Eucharistic communion, and is the first such visit since the appeal. Meeting on November 27, the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church resolved that inasmuch as the Macedonian Church has expressed its willingness and desire to accept the Bulgarian Church as its Mother Church, the Bulgarian Church is prepared to take on the sacred duty of interceding and advocating for the Macedonian Church with the other Local Orthodox Churches throughout the world, taking every necessary step to establish its canonicity.
Bp. Sioni arrived to Strumica, Macedonia for yesterday’s celebration of the 15 Martyrs of Tiberiopolis (Strumica) at the invitation of Metropolitan Naum of Strumica of the Macedonian Church, and with the blessing of Pat. Neofit. He was very warmly received by Met. Naum, Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, and the multitude that filled the temple dedicated to the 15 Martyrs.
“On this festive day, our prayers to Almighty God are with you, with your whole enthusiastic parish, and with the Church in the Republic of Macedonia,” His Holiness Neofit stated in his greeting that was read out, noting his desire that Eucharistic communion be restored in the nearest future, should it please the Lord. Bp. Sioni read out the patriarch’s greeting to Met. Naum and the monastics and faithful of the Strumica Diocese of the Macedonian Church.
Pat. Neofit also wrote of the glorious example of the 15 Martyrs, who both Churches and nations, and the entire Orthodox world, hold in high regard and honor:
In the 2,000-year history of Christianity, the blood of martyrs has always turned into a blessed seed for the flourishing of faith in Christ the Savior, being a testimony to the futility of the persecution of the Lord and His universal Church. This is what happened after the sacrificial feat of the holy Martyrs of Tiberiopolis, whose example of faith continues to captivate thousands of people today to follow the saving path of the Gospel and Christ’s commandments to inherit the Kingdom of God and eternal life.
The festive Divine Liturgy was celebrated by several hierarchs and representatives of the clergy of the Macedonian Church. Following the Liturgy, the celebrating hierarchs cordially thanked Pat. Neofit for sending Bp. Sioni, and for his care, empathy, and effort which he is making towards the recognition of the canonicity and autocephaly of the Archbishopric of Ohrid.