HISTORY OF THE BULGARIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH
Author: Kiril Dinkov
I. Conversion to Christianity of the Bulgarian people and foundation of the Bulgarian Church
The Bulgarian Orthodox Church has its origin in the flourishing Christian communities and churches, set up in the Balkan Peninsula as early as the first centuries of the Christian era. The incursions of the Slavs and Proto-Bulgarian in the Balkan lands (6th-7th century) damaged considerably the ecclesiastical organization and created difficulties for the mission of Christianization, but were not of a decisive significance for its further development.
Byzantine writers testify to many contacts of the Eastern Empire with the new settlers — Slavs and Proto-Bulgarians, as well as to the relations of the conquerors with the christianized native populations. The Christian religion infiltrated the population of Bulgarian Slavs (the ancestors of the Bulgarian people) as early as the 6th and 7th century. The continuous process of Christian influence gradually enfolded the Proto-Bulgarians, too (7th-9th century). The internal development and the international relations of the Slav-Bulgarian State (founded in 681 A.D.) favored the successful penetration of Christianity, which infiltrated even the Khan's court (9th century). The local population, the Bulgarian Slavs who had already adopted Christianity, the steady contacts with Byzantium, the exchange of prisoners of war, the use of the Greek language and other factors paved the way for the mission of christianization in the First Bulgarian State. Pope Nicholas I was informed that as early as the beginning of the 60s of the 9th century "a great majority of the Bulgarians were converted to Christianity". After the adoption of the Christian faith by Prince Boris I (865 A.D.), Christianity became the official religion in the Bulgarian State. Joseph Genesius wrote that "elect high clerics were sent from Constantinople to Bulgaria to consolidate the Christian faith there". The word of the Gospel yielded plenty of fruits.
Prince Boris was in favour of an enlightened and zealous clergy and an improved and autocephalous church, even with the status of a Patriarchate, witch would be in a position to meet the needs of the time: to help the unification of the people and to promote the cultural advancement of the State, to strengthen the new social order and the sovereignty and prestige of Bulgaria. Bearing all this in mind and using skillfully the historic situation, the favorable conditions and prospects, he started negotiations with Rome, which lasted for three years, then again renewed his old connections with the Byzantine Empire. From October 5, 869 to February 28, 870 an ecclesiastical council was held in Constantinople to discuss Patriarch Photius' question. Here came the Bulgarian envoys, who were welcomed very heartily and with due respect. At a special session (on March 4), with the participation of Rome's envoys and of representatives of the four Eastern Patriarchates, the council discussed the question of church jurisdiction in Bulgarian. After prolonged debates, which disclosed the deepening contradiction between Rome and Constantinople, it was decided that the Bulgarian nation was connected in church matters to the Christians East. That representative forum created on March 4, 870 a separate diocese and laid the foundations of the Bulgarian Church, which was thus bound forever with the Eastern Orthodox community. Chronologically it was the eighth one in succession (after the four Eastern Patriarchates: those of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem, and the three ancient archbishopric of Cyprus, of Sinai and of Georgia) in the then organic community of the Orthodox sister-churches. At the beginning the Bulgarian Church was an autonomous archbishopric under the jurisdiction of the Constantinople Patriarchate, from which it obtained its first primate, its clergy and theological books. It enjoyed, however, a full internal autonomy. The conditions were soon ripe for its flourishing and for its receiving an autocephalous status.
II. Bulgarian Orthodox Church in the middle ages (First and Second Kingdom of Bulgaria)
In 886 A.D. the most distinguished followers and disciples of the Holy Slav Educators Cyril and Methodius came to Bulgaria. Preslav and Ohrid became literary centers where schools were opened. As a result of their activities there ensued the so-called "Golden Age" of Old Bulgarian literature and learning. As early as the end of the 9th century the Bulgarian language became the official language of the Church and the State. The building of churches and monasteries promoted the development of Bulgarian art. From a thorny pagan corn-field, overgrown with weeds, Bulgaria turned into a true spiritual nursery and a mighty beacon of Slav culture. The Bulgarian Church already had its own hierarchy, it grew in strength and spiritual maturity, and successfully consolidated the Orthodox faith, piety and education and guided the people towards a creative upsurge.
In the 10th century the First Bulgarian State reached the summit of its development. Christianity gave an impetus to the progressive for that time process of feudalization and consolidation of the central state power. The Church made its contribution toward the external political stability of the State, towards the creation of a national, religious and spiritual unity, towards the cultural flourishment of the people and the homeland. After the victories at the battlefields at Acheloe (a river near Anchialus) and Katassyrti (near Constantinople), the Bulgarian ruler Prince Simeon proclaimed himself a king. The status of the Church had to correspond to that of the increased international prestige of the Bulgarian State. At the time the theory created in Byzantium predominated that a close relation should exist between Kingdom and Patriarchate: "Imperium sine Patriarcha non staret". By virtue of that concept, about 919 A.D., the Bulgarian Church was proclaimed autocephalous at an ecclesiastical and national council and was elevated to the rank of a Patriarchate. In 927 A.D., as a result of a treaty, the relation between Bulgaria and Byzantium improved. As can be seen from the historical source "Archbishops of Bulgaria" (the so-called Catalogue of Ducange), the autocephalous status of the Bulgarian Church was then recognized and its patriarchal dignity acknowledged.
During the second half of the 10th century, following some military and political development, the Bulgarian Patriarchal see was in succession moved from the capital Preslav to Dorostol, and then to Triaditsa (Sofia), Voden, Muglen, Prespa, and at the end to Ohrid, the capital of the Western Bulgaria State under King Samuil (976-1014).
After the fall of Bulgaria under Byzantium domination (1018), Emperor Basil II acknowledged the autocephalous status of the Archbishopric of Ohrid and by virtue of special charters (royal decrees) set up its boundaries, dioceses, property and other privileges, but deprived it of its Patriarchal title. The second charter of the Emperor and the catalogue of Ducange clearly show that the Archbishopric of Ohrid was the successor and continuator of the ancient Bulgarian Patriarchate. In spite of the fact that it had been under different political rules (those of Byzantium, of the Latin Empire, of Bulgarians, Serbs, Turks), its autocephalous status was respected for almost eight centuries — until its unlawful destruction in 1767. Despite of the fact that it passed along a road of serious trials and that for a long time it was guided by a foreign clergy, the Archbishopric of Ohrid successfully carried out its church mission, kept up the Slav liturgy, made its contribution towards the development of Slav literature and strengthened the political consciousness of its flock, and then later on it served as a banner to the fighter for independent Bulgarian Church.
As a results of the successful uprising led by the brothers Peter end Assen (1185-1186), the foundation of the Second Bulgarian State were laid with Tarnovo as its capital. Due to the bonds of continuity between the religious centers of Preslav and Ohrid and mainly to the principle of linking up the sovereignty of the State with the autocephality of the Church, both the clergy and the believing people in Bulgaria endeavored for the restoration of the Bulgarian Patriarchate. At the beginning an independent archbishopric was established in Tarnovo (1186). Soon steps were taken for its recognition, according to the existing canonical order, and for raising it to the rank of a Patriarchate. As a result of the connections of the Bulgarian King Kaloyan (1203-1204) with the Pope, which he had established mainly with a political purpose, the first Archbishop of Tarnovo, Vassili, was proclaimed Primate by Pope Innocent III. His title was "Primate and Archbishop of all Bulgaria and Wallachia".
The Church of Bulgaria consolidated its position both in external and internal affairs. Soon conditions were created for the general recognition of its autocephalous status and for elevating it to a Patriarchate. In 1235 a big Church Council was convened in the town of Lampsakos presided over by Patriarch Germanos II of Constantinople. Many Greek and Bulgarian church dignitaries, abbots of monasteries and monks from Mount Athos took part in it. With the consent of all Eastern Patriarchs the council confirmed the Patriarchal dignity of the Bulgarian Church. Headed by distinguished primates, it was well organized, had a large diocese, was active and has in general left behind a bright trace in history. Under the wing of the Bulgarian Patriarchate the Tarnovo literary and educational school was organized whose representatives were such outstanding men of learning and enlightenment as St. Theodosi of Tarnovo, St. Patriarch Euthymi and a host of other eminent scholars. Thus it became a zealous champion of the cause of the Ohrid and Preslav schools. Considerable upsurge was noted in the field of literature, architecture, painting, etc. Religious and theological literature flourished. The greatest writer and scholar, exemplary clergyman and ardent patriot was Patriarch Euthymi of Tarnovo (died ca. 1404).
After the fall of Tarnovo under Ottoman domination (1393) and Patriarch Euthymi's banishment into exile, the autocephalous church organization was destroyed once again. The Bulgarian diocese was subordinated to the Constantinople Patriarchate. The other Bulgarian religious center — the Ohrid archbishopric — managed to survive a few centuries longer (until 1767), as a stronghold of faith and piety.
III. Church as protector of the Bulgarian people during the five-centuries-long political and spiritual yoke
At the end of the 14th century the Bulgarian people lost its political and spiritual independence. The hard condition of this double subjugation hampered their cultural end political development. The suppression, the merciless exploitation and the atrocities compelled thousand of Bulgarians, along with the majority of the intelligentsia who survived, to emigrate to Wallachia, Moldavia, Russia, Serbia and Austria. Mass-scale emigration of Bulgarians from their motherland were frequent after several uprisings, and after each one of the Russian-Turkish Wars.
Many people were converted to Islam by force, banned from their home and killed by the Ottoman oppressors. Thus for instance, by order of the Grand Vizier Mehmed Kuprulu, the Chepino Bulgarians were Mohammedanized in 1657. Methodi Draginov, a priest of the village of Korova, informs that those who refused to accept the Islam were killed, while the houses of those who fled to the woods were burnt down. In the 16th and 17th centuries many Bulgarian from the districts of Lovech, Teteven, Svishtov, Nikopol and Tarnovo were Mohammedanized in the same way. The Deliorman region, which in the 16th century was still Bulgarian, after the 17th century acquired a Mohammedan aspect through colonization and forceful conversion of Christian population to the Islam. Thus the Christians merged with the dense Ottoman masses and lost their native language. During the 17th century many other Bulgarians from Razlog, Kroupnik and from the valley of the River Bregalnitsa suffered a similar fate. In the 18th century the population of the villages of Turnovtsi and Cherkovna in the Preslav District was also Mohammedanized.
Part of the Mohammedanized Bulgarians lost for ever their national consciousness and their native language. Another part, the so-called Pomaks or Bulgarian-Mohammedans, preserved their native Bulgarian language and customs, but lost for centuries the consciousness of being part of the Bulgarian people.
The conquerors did not spare even the Christian sanctuaries and the cultural monuments. In Tarnovo the Patriarchal Cathedral church of the Holy Ascension and the St. Petka Court Church were destroyed. The conquerors of Tarnovo razed to the ground 18 Boyar churches at the Trapesitsa Hill. The Church of the 40 Holy Martyrs was turned into a mosque, while the Church of the Holy Virgin in Tarnovo was reconstructed as a Turkish bath. In the Plovdiv diocese Chepino Pomaks destroyed 218 churches and 33 monasteries. In the town of Vidin the Cathedral Church of the Holy Virgin was destroyed. Many Churches in various parts of the country were turned into mosques.
The blow dealt on the Bulgarian church organization was also a heavy one, since it was made subordinate to the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The Greek clergy pursued an assimilatory policy. At the beginning the high Bulgarian clerics were replaced by Greek ones, who officiated the church and celebrated mass in the Greek language of which the Bulgarian population was completely ignorant. They opened Greek schools which conducted assimilatory activities. Such schools were organized in Tarnovo, Svishtov, Kotel, Sliven, Plovdiv, Andrianople, Strouga, Bitolya, Voden, Stroumitsa, Melnik, Seres and other towns.
The Ottoman conquerors granted extensive civic and judicial rights to the Patriarch of Constantinople. He became a high-ranking officer of the Sultan and the head of all Orthodox Christian in the Ottoman Empire. Civic and judicial function were also granted to the diocesan metropolitans, mostly of Greek origin, who imposed on the Bulgarian population heavy taxes which they collected by force with the help of the local authorities.
The tormented Bulgarian people were eager to have their own independent church and to enjoy political freedom for which they fought with might and main. During this hard time the Church proved to be the staunchest defender of the faith of the ancestors, the protector of the national spirit and the propagator of patriotism. Among those who took part in the first Tarnovo uprising, organized in 1598, were some high church dignitaries, such as Metropolitan Dionissi of Tarnovo and the bishops Theophan of Lovech, Jeremiah of Rouse, and Spiridon of Shoumen as well as 23 priests from Nikopol and 12 priests from Tarnovo.
In the second half of the 16th century Archbishop Athanassi of Ohrid was prominent as an organizer of the liberation movement.
During the 17th century the Roman-Catholic Priest Peter Parchevich organized an uprising against the Ottoman authorities.
In 1737 Metropolitan Simeon of Samokov was hanged for his patriotic activities.
The Church gave quite a numbers of martyrs for faith and kin. Stunning are the feats of St. Georgi of Kratovo (1515), St. Nikolai of Sofia (1515), Bishop Vissarion of Smolen (1670), Damaskin of Gabrovo (1771), St. Zlata of Muglen (1795), St. John the Bulgarian (1814), St. Ignati of Stara Zagora (1814), St. Onouphri of Gabrovo (1818) and of many others.
Monasteries played a great part in the preservation of the Orthodox faith and the national consciousness of the Bulgarian people during the year of foreign domination. Scattered all over the Bulgarian lands, the monasteries satisfied the religious demands of the people in places where there were neither churches nor priests. They preserved the Christian and national consciousness, they taught the population how to write and read in their schools, they trained the future priests, propagated piety and carried out literary and education activities. This was true especially of the monasteries of Zograph and of Hilendar on Mt. Athos, of the Rila Monastery, the Troyan, Etropole, Dryanovo and Cherepish Monasteries, as well as of the Kouklen Monastery near Assenovgrad, the Lessnovo, Glozhene, Dragalevtsi and other monasteries. Famous scholars of that epoch were Vladislav Grammatik (15th century), Dimiter Kantakouzin (15th century), Father Peyo (16th century), Mathei Grammatik (16th century), Father Todor of Vratsa (18th century) and others.
Besides them traveling monks (taxidiotes) toured the country, opened cell schools, taught the illiterate people how to read and write and carried out educative activities. They were the predecessors of the Bulgarian National Revival. An untiring taxidiote and scholar was Yossif Bradati "Joseph the Bearded" (18th century).
During the yoke primary school attached to churches and monasteries were opened in Tryavna, Elena, Vratsa, Gabrovo, Sofia, Plovdiv, Pirot, Skopie, Samokov, Kalofer, Sopot, Koprivshtitsa, in the villages of Strandja Mountain and elsewhere.
A series of uprisings against the oppressors were organized in the monasteries. The first ardent call for a national awakening came also from a monastery. St. Paissi of Hilendar (second half of the 18th century) was the first who headed the Bulgarian National Revival. The program for an independent church and political freedom he outlined in his "Slav-Bulgarian History". This wonderful book attracted other active workers for a national awakening. Among the followers of St. Paissi were the following clergymen — St. Sophroni of Vratsa (1739-1813), hieromonk Spiridon of Gabrovo (18th century), hieromonk Yoakim Kurchovski (d. 1820), hieromonk Kiril Peichinovich (d. 1845) and others. The power of resistance of the people was stirred to action. A struggle for religious and national independence began, which brought ultimately to the political liberation of the country.
IV. Bulgarian Exarchate (Third Kingdom of Bulgaria)
For several centuries the Bulgarian Church was under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The Greek Church organization, in which the Bulgarian were included, and the fact that the conquerors regarded as one the religion and the nationality of the Christians living in the Ottoman Empire, resulted in due time to an association of the Bulgarians with the Greek, so that they became to be known under the common name of "Roum-Millet", i.e. Greek people. Thus the Bulgarians gradually ceased to be considered a separate nation.
For five centuries the conquerors directed their principle attacks against the Orthodox-Christian faith of the subjugated population and tried to assimilate them. The firm abiding of the Bulgarian people by the faith of their ancestors helped them to preserve their nationality. The spiritual strain of this long period of firm resistance raised many people to the glory of sanctity. The Bulgarian people, linked in destiny and historic mission with the other Balkan nation, made their contribution towards arresting the Islamic invasion into Western Europe, which would have had unfavorable consequences for its development and would have delayed the Renaissance. That is why the part played by the Bulgarian people in this respect has an all-European and hence a world-wide cultural and historic significance.
In the second half of the 18th century, along with the economic revival of the Bulgarian people, the Bulgarian monk St. Paissi of Hilendar, laid the foundation of the Bulgarian National Revival with his book "Slav-Bulgarian History". St. Paissi pointed out that the restoration of the independent Bulgarian Church, which would mean the recognition of the Bulgarian population as a Bulgarian nationality and as a Bulgarian nation, separate from the Greeks, was the first and absolutely necessary prerequisite for the restoration of the independent Bulgarian State. The cultural and educative activities of Bishop Sophroni of Vratsa gave a mighty impetus to the realization of this idea. When all the strata of the Bulgarian people embraced the idea, the struggle broke out for the restoration of the independent Bulgarian Church and against the power of the Greek clergy. In the course of four decades the Bulgarian population of Moesia, Thrace and Macedonia united this struggle in one ethnic body with a well-defined national consciousness as a Bulgarian nation. In 1870, by a decree (firman) of the Sultan, the Ottoman government restored the once unlawfully destroyed Bulgarian Patriarchate under the name of "Bulgarian Exarchate". According to art. 10 of the firman, it included in its diocese all Bulgarian Regions. Thus the conquerors officially recognized before the world the Bulgarian nation and authoritatively determined their ethnic boundaries. The Bulgarian Church thus won the international juridical recognition of this nation before the world and consolidated it ethnically, spiritually, culturally, historically, territorially and, to a certain degree, also politically.
In 1871 a Council of the Church and the People took place with representatives of the dioceses in North Bulgaria, Thrace and Macedonia. A total of 12 clerics, among them 5 prelates, and 36 laymen took part in it. The Statute of the Bulgarian Exarchate was adopted. Both the Council and the Statute were profoundly penetrated by the synod principle. The Statute established two supreme organs for the central management of the Church — the Holy Synod, consisting only of prelates, with a competence in purely ecclesiastical affairs, and the Supreme Secular Exarchate Council, comprising of six laymen under the chairmanship of the Exarch, with a competence in the non-religious affairs; for the diocesan management — a prelate and a mixed council of three clerics and 5-7 laymen; for the vicariates (church country) — a vicar and a mixed council of three clerics and 5-7 laymen; for the parish — the parish priest aided by the entire church community. The Statute installed the electoral principle: the respective principle organs of church management were appointed to their posts only by the way of election (by the bishop, the clerics and the people). Beside their direct church work it entrusted these organs with school managing activities, with cultural and educational work and social-ethical activities, which they developed on a large scale.
Freed from outer dependence, the Bulgarian Exarchate devoted itself wholly to a useful service of the people. It gave, in fact, the first political education to the Bulgarian people in a spirit of profound patriotism. Its diocese became the criterion for the Great Powers in determining the ethical boundaries of the Bulgarian people immediately after the April Uprising (1876). Until 1913 it governed quite a number of dioceses, in Northern and Southern Bulgaria, in Macedonia and Adrianople Thrace. Only in Macedonia and in the Adrianople Region alone the Bulgarian Exarchate disposed of over seven dioceses with prelates and eight more with acting chairmen in charge, with 38 vicariates, 1218 parishes and 1212 parish priest, 64 monasteries and 202 chapels, as well as 1373 schools with 2266 teachers and 78 854 pupils.
After World War I, by virtue of the peace treaties, the Bulgarian Exarchate was deprived of its dioceses in Macedonia and Aegean Thrace. As early as 1913 Exarch Joseph I transferred his offices from Istanbul to Sofia. After his death (1915) the Church was for long time not in a position to elect its regular head. It occupied itself instead with its direct task to intensify its educational and social-ethical activities. Religious printed publications were issued regularly, the distribution of the Holy Bible and of theological literature was increased and the struggle against foreign religious propaganda was intensified.
V. Restoration of the Bulgarian Patriarchate (Republic of Bulgaria)
The establishment of the Bulgarian Exarchate (1870) represents a transitory historical stage leading to the restoration of the Bulgarian Patriarchate, which ceased to exist at the end of the 14th century.
As early as the National Revival period the Bulgarian clergy thought of realizing the idea of St. Paissi of Hilendar of a restoration of the Bulgarian Patriarchate. The dependence of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the difficulties caused by the foreign political domination and by other factors, compelled them to carry out the realization of this ideal of the National Revival step by step.
After the victory in Bulgaria from 1944 possibilities were created for the See of the Bulgarian Exarchate, which for 30 years was left without a regular primate, to have again its head. With the help of the Orthodox Sister-Churches (especially the Russian one), and thanks to the favorable attitude of the Bulgarian Government, on February 22, 1945 the schism was lifted, which for the several decades had impeded the normal inter-church relation of the Exarchate. The Patriarchate of Constantinople recognized the autocephaly of the Bulgarian Church with a special regulation.
In 1950, the Statute of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church was worked out, which further paved the way for the restoration of the Patriarchate. Already in the opening paragraph of the Stature (art. I) "the self-governing Bulgarian Orthodox Church" was called a "Patriarchate".
In its sessions on January 3, 1953 the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church decided to convene a Council of the Church and the People on May 8 the same year, with the aim to restore the Patriarchal dignity of the Church and to elect a Patriarch. All Orthodox Churches were informed about this decision and invited to send their representative for the ceremonies of enthronement of the newly-elected Patriarch.
Delegations of the following Orthodox Churches arrived in the capital city of Sofia for the great religious and national festivities: Russian, headed by Metropolitan Grigori of Leningrad (Saint-Petersburg) and Novgorod; Romanian, headed by Patriarch Justinian; Polish, headed by the Primate Metropolitan Makari; Czechoslovak, headed by the Primate Metropolitan Elevteri. Besides them the following Churches took part with their own representatives at the festivities or cabled their congratulations: the Church of Alexandria, of Antioch, of Jerusalem, of Georgia, of Serbia and the Church of Hellas.
The Third Council of the Church and the People convened according to the stipulation of the Statute (May 8-10), restored the Patriarchal Status of the Bulgarian Church and on May 10 elected His Grace Metropolitan Kiril of Plovdiv, Chairman of the Holy Synod and Chairman of the Council, as Patriarch of Bulgaria and Metropolitan of Sofia.
The enthronement took place immediately after the election in the Patriarchal Cathedral, the St. Alexander Nevski Memorial Church, in the presence of representatives of the Bulgarian Government, of figures active in cultural life, foreign delegation and a numerous congregation.
The newly-restored Bulgarian Patriarchate was recognized by all Orthodox Churches. Its Primate established close ties with them by means of fraternal messages and visits. With his religious, educational, peace promoting and scientific activities he won wide popularity with the Christian world, as well as with cultural spheres in Bulgaria and abroad. The prestige of the Bulgarian Church rose both among the Orthodox and other Christian Churches and organizations and among the general public in the world.
After the death of His Holiness Patriarch Kiril (March 7, 1971), at its session on May 19, 1971, and by virtue of Art. 16-23 of the Statute of the Bulgarian Church, the Holy Synod decided to carry out the election of a new Patriarch.
The Council of the Church and the People for the Election of a Patriarch, convened on July 4, 1971, unanimously elected His Grace Metropolitan Maxim of Lovech, then Deputy Chairman of the Holy Synod and Chairman of the Council, as Patriarch of Bulgaria and Metropolitan of Sofia.
Immediately after that the ceremonial enthronement of the new Patriarch took place in the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. Alexander Nevski in the presence of representatives of the Government and the Bulgarian public, foreign delegation and many worshippers.
The following Churches and inter-Christian organization took part in the festivities with their delegation or cabled their congratulation — the Ecumenical Patriarchate, headed by Metropolitan Spiridon of Rhodes; the Patriarchate of Alexandria, headed by Archbishop Imenios of Lydia; the Russian Orthodox Church, headed by Patriarch Pimen of Moscow and All-Russia; the Georgian Church, headed by the Patriarch-Catholicos Ephrem II; the Serbian Church, headed by Bishop Emilian of Slavonia; the Romanian Church, headed by Patriarch Justiniyan; the Church of Cyprus, headed by Chorbishop Chrysostomos of Constance; the Church of Hellas, headed by Metropolitan Stefan of Triphilia; the Polish Orthodox Church, headed by its Primate Metropolitan Vassili of Warsaw; the Czechoslovak Orthodox Church, headed by its Primate Metropolitan Dorothei; the Finnish Church, headed by Rev. Olli Bergman; the Russian Orthodox Church in the United States of America, headed by Archbishop John of Chicago and Minneapolis; the Japanese Orthodox Church, headed by Archbishop Vladimir; the Armenian Church, headed by Bishop Dirair Mardikyan; the World Council of Churches, headed by Pastor Jens Thomson, Assistant Secretary General; the Christian Peace Conference, headed by its Secretary General Dr. Janus Makovsky; the "Pax" organization, headed by Mieczislaw Stahura. Present were also representatives of the Bulgarian Dioceses of Akron and Detroit, headed by Protoierei Boris Vagnev.
The Bulgarian Orthodox Church is presented today in the person of His Holiness Patriarch Maxim, its father, who with profound faith and purity, with love, wisdom, will power, tenacity and farsightedness, guides it, with the help of the Holy Synod.
Addendum: We have already given some materials on the history of the Bulgarian Exarchate in modern times — viz., "Zina Markova. History of the Bulgarian Exarchate 1870-1879. Sofia, 1989" from the booklist. The work from K. Dinkov written in 1953, although insignificant at first glance, came after 30 years of schism for the Bulgarian Church. The reason for this canonical silence was that as early as 1913 Exarch Joseph I transferred his offices from Istanbul to Sofia. After his death in 1915 the ex-communicated Bulgarian Church stayed 30 years without a primate until 1953, when Patriarch Kiril was legally elect. Meanwhile, scholarly research to elucidate the role of the Church in the Middle ages compiled. More often than not, men in those distant times fought and killed one another for theological reasons, almost incomprehensible to us to-day. The greatest influence upon the people and the greatest fount of culture and education was the church, as exemplified in some historical works. Thus for Bulgaria came the magisterial two volume opus "History of the Ohrid Archbishopric" (1924, 1931), authored by Prof. Ivan Snegarov who was at that time secretary of the Holy Synod.
There are several contentions to make on the Bulgarian Church history in the Medieval times and most notoriously on the presence of Bulgarians in now-a-days Macedonian lands. These come not as resenting but rather as ramifications since Bulgarians brought much ferment in the Balkans throughout the Middle ages. They were known as the first barbarians having been Christianized and established a state structure in the region. Yet it is impracticable to apply the ideas of nationality to medieval states, since in the Middle ages patriotism, insofar as it existed, usually meant personal loyalty to a great leader, not infrequently differing in speech and blood from his followers but always of similar religious views.
So, what is the presence of the Bulgarian church in Macedonian lands, where the longest lived uninterrupted bulgarian diocese amalgamated from 927 to 1767. Here is a statement from a contemporary politician that fits well to the situation in Macedonia — notably, "... this is a place, that geographically belong to the Serbians, demographically it is a land of the Bulgarians and administratively it is ruled by the Greeks". How about that?
First Bulgarian contention: — The lands of the Morava-Vardar road and river systems have a difficult geography. Here pass two of the three main roads that connect Western Europe to the East: 1) the north-south road from Nish, Skopje, Ohrid, Strumitsa and Thessalonica; and, 2) the west-east road from the Adriatic through the Aegean and to Constantinople. The way it seems to the Bulgarians those transportation arteries offered much convenience to them and many wars were waged with Byzantium and Serbia for their possession. Finally, the Latin crusaders intermediated and the Turks overwhelmed the whole region.
Second Bulgarian contention: — On the demographic structure of the now-a-days Macedonian lands, with particular preponderance on the territory of FYROM. Historical sources unequivocally apply an Illyrian-Thracian substratum to this debated zone. Any other pretence from Slavs or ancient Macedonians are false. The Bulgarians as the largest cauldron on the Balkans provided constant outflow of population to its western neighbor, either migratory or seasonal. Those people found their villages and had their religious affiliation with the Bulgarian Orthodox Church as represented by the Ohrid Archbishopric and its dioceses. Many of them further migrated all over the world, but still consider themselves Macedonian Bulgarians.
Third Bulgarian contention: — The lands of the Eastern Roman Empire were ruled administratively by the Greeks. This is true and the territories of Macedonia gave homage to at least two great Byzantine emperors, Constantine the Great (i.e., born near Nish) and Justinian the Great (i.e., born near Skopje). The territories of the Ohrid Archbishopric were formerly included in the diocese Justiniana Prima, then demolished by the Slavs and afterwards annexed by the Bulgarians under Pressian. By the times of tsar Boris and tsar Simeon, the Ohrid lake was called "church lake" since there were located some 60 Christian monasteries. Then the region became Byzantine again, after that belonged to albanian Epirus and for a short term was Latin. The serbian tsar Dushan, who was half-bulgarian, created the largest conglomeration in the region since Pax Justiniana. He and his successors lost the battle for the Balkans at Kosovo Pole, ditto.
Copyright © 2009 by the author.