Constantinople, February 20, 2018
In the communiqué of the regular session of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, held from February 7 to 9, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has declared that it considers the actions of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church regarding the schismatic and unrecognized Macedonian Orthodox Church to be un-canonical, reports Sedmitza.
The Macedonian Orthodox Church, which formed as a schism from the Serbian Orthodox Church, appealed to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church in November, to take on the role of its “Mother Church” and to intercede on its behalf to the other autocephalous Local Orthodox Churches to bring it back into communion with the Orthodox Church. The Bulgarian Church resolved on November 27 to help the Macedonian Church, a move which has also drawn serious criticism from the Serbian and Greek Churches.
His Holiness Patriarch Neofit of Bulgaria was present in Constantinople in late January for the ceremonial reopening of the city’s famous Bulgarian Iron Church. He met personally with the Ecumenical Patriarch, presumably discussing, among other things, the matter of the Macedonian Church.
However, Pat. Neofit has said that there is a consensus within the hierarchy of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church about how to proceed with helping the Macedonian Church, and that they are hopeful for the future. A bishop of the Bulgarian Church was an official guest at the Macedonian Church’s celebration of the 15 Martyrs of Tiberiopolis (Strumica) in December, and a meeting between representatives of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and the schismatic Macedonian Orthodox Church was held in Sofia later that month.
On Saturday, Metropolitan Nicholas of Filippopol of the Bulgarian Church accompanied Bulgarian President Rumen Radev to visit one of the monasteries of the Macedonian Church, where they were both warmly welcomed.
An unnamed hierarch of the Patriarchate of Constantinople told the Romfea news agency, in response to this most recent event, “Unfortunately, the Buglarians show that they have no Church consciousness.”
The situation regarding the Macedonian Church is complicated by the fact that it came into existence by schisming from the Serbian Orthodox Church, and thus the normal canonical procedure would be to return to the Serbian Church. Moreover, the Serbian Church has one canonical bishop, Archbishop Jovan (Vraniskovski) of Ohrid serving in Macedonia. He has endured many years of persecution there, including imprisonment, for his fidelity to the Serbian Church.