Bulgarian Church declines invitation to Macedonian celebration of 1000th anniversary of Ohrid Archbishopric

Sofia, May 21, 2018

Photo: romfea.gr Photo: romfea.gr

The Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church voted last week not to send any representatives to the schismatic Macedonian Orthodox Church’s upcoming celebrations for the 1000th anniversary of the founding of the Ohrid Archbishopric.

The Ohrid Archbishopric was established following the Byzantine conquest of the Bulgarian Empire in 1018 when the Bulgarian Patriarchate was reduced in rank. Ohrid is located in present-day Macedonia. The Serbian Orthodox Church has one canonical hierarch serving there, the much-persecuted Archbishop Jovan (Vraniskovski) of Ohrid.

In response to the invitation extended by Archbishop Stephanos of the unrecognized Macedonian Church, the Bulgarian Synod considered the proposal of His Eminence Metropolitan Nikolai of Plovdiv to send representatives to the May 27-28 celebrations, but voted 8-5 against doing so, according to the Bulgarian Church’s official website. The bishops also declared that Bulgarian priests must not engage in common prayer with Macedonian clergy at the grave of St. Cyril, the enlightener of the Slavs, on May 24 in Italy, reports EU Scoop.

Orthodox clergy and faithful are forbidden by canon law to hold joint prayers with or participate in the services of congregations outside the Orthodox Church.

The Synod instead resolved to instead celebrate the occasion with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy in Sofia’s Patriarchal Cathedral of St. Alexander Nevsky on June 10.

Asked in January if he would participate in millennial celebrations, His Holiness Patriarch Neofit of Bulgaria replied noncommittally, “We will try to think of how to mark this event… We will strive to serve the love and peace of Christ.”

The invitation came against the backdrop of ongoing cooperation between the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and the Macedonian Church, aimed at regularizing the Macedonian Church’s canonical status and bringing it back into communion with the 15 Local Orthodox Churches throughout the world.

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 Macedonians, a move which has also drawn serious criticism from the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Serbian and Greek Churches, which likely led to the Synod’s decision to refrain from joining in the Macedonian Church’s celebrations.

However, the Synod’s decision does not indicate a reverse in its course regarding the Macedonians. The bishops announced on May 18 that the committee for working through the Macedonian issue has not been dissolved and will continue its work. A meeting between representatives of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and the schismatic Macedonian Orthodox Church was first held in Sofia in late December.

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