Bulgarian Orthodox Church Patriarch: ‘Macedonia’ church issue to await settlement on name

The Bulgarian Orthodox Church will address the question of the autocephaly of the Macedonian Orthodox Church after the process of the new name of the country has been completed, Patriarch Neofit told reporters on January 21.
“Work is still being done on the name of the state Macedonia. When the details have been clarified, the church question will certainly follow,” the head of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church said.

Parliament in Skopje has voted its approval of the constitutional changes that will open the way for the country to be renamed “Republic of North Macedonia”, in terms of the Prespa Agreement, and the legislature in Athens is also to debate and vote on the matter. This latter process is to get underway this week.

At the end of 2017, the Macedonian Orthodox Church made overtures to have the Bulgarian Orthodox Church recognised as its mother church. In 2018, the Bulgarian church formed a commission to examine the issue, which is a highly divisive one in the world of Orthodox Christianity.

In a symbolic gesture, in April 2018 the delegation from the Bulgarian Orthodox Church that went to Jerusalem at Easter to fetch the “Holy Fire” in turn passed the flame on to a group from the Macedonian Orthodox Church.

However, the following month the Bulgarian Holy Synod declined to accept an invitation from Archbishop Stefan of the Macedonian Orthodox Church to send a delegation to the celebrations of the 1000th anniversary of the Ohrid Archbishopric.

Patriarch Neofit, also asked on January 21 about the question of the Bulgarian church’s stance on the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church said that this was an important matter that would be on the agenda and would be discussed.

The Bulgarian church has opposed convening a Pan-Orthodox Council to discuss the Ukrainian question, a proposal made by Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill.

While Russia vehemently opposes the Ukrainian Orthodox Church being recognised as autocephalous, on January 5 Ecumenical Patriarch Bartolomeos I has signed the “tomos” document declaring it as such./IBNA